Around this time, she also got fitted for a neoprene hand brace to wear on her right hand. We tried having her wear it under her goalie catching glove and it worked for a while to keep it on more consistently, but she eventually said it was not as comfortable with the hand brace so she stopped wearing it.
In the final weekends of the hockey season, Mia got to play goalie for both of her hockey teams, the highlight of her season! As her mom and one of the assistant coaches for her over the past five seasons, it’s been a joy to witness her development, focus, self advocacy, and passion for this position as goalie. While I played hockey through college, I was not a goalie and was never drawn to the position.
Mia started to play hockey when she was four, see Preparing for First Hockey Season. The previous winter, she had skating lessons. Mia’s Skating, Play Detective with Me shows her early skating progress. Pretty early on, in her first season of house league hockey when she was five, Mia started to ask to play goalie whenever she could. Since she’s left handed with a smaller and less functional right hand due to a stroke at birth, we figured out that she needed to hold the goalie stick in her left hand. There was not any beginner equipment in the league locker for this opposite side glove/blocker, “full right”, or if we found it, it was way too big. So, Mia played goalie in her regular hockey gloves.
Mia is incredibly persistent when she wants something so she started to ask for me to buy goalie gloves for her. By December 2015, she was successful in persuading me. I still had my doubts but didn’t voice them to her. Instead, I delighted in that grin, got out some tennis balls and started tossing them at her.
Pretty soon, she got a chance to wear the new gloves on the ice
The following season, when Mia was seven, she had an opportunity to play on a 10-and-under girts team that actually had players ranging in age from 7 to 12. Mia was the youngest. They played full-ice hockey, 6 vs. 6, including a goalie. Undaunted, when the regular goalie was away, Mia volunteered to play in net. She attended a few goalie clinics that the league offered throughout the season.
Mia kept working on her glove skills for goalie, off-ice. When she attended a week-long constraint therapy camp where they cast her left arm and she focuses on improving functioning with her right arm, her chosen goal was to improve her catching ability with that glove.
This 2017-2018 season, Mia played on two teams, a coed Mite A team with just two girls, and an all-girls 8-and-under team. She asked to play goalie whenever she could, though both teams rotated the goalie position among all teammates. In a recent tournament, Mia was picked to play goalie for her girls’ team. And, they got into the playoff round of the tournament due to her lower goals-against total.
Our local hockey program offers to pay half of the cost for private goalie lessons, 30 minute lessons once a week for 20 weeks, and so I signed Mia up for that. The first goalie coach suggested a new helmet and a bigger stick so we went shopping again. Mia’s chest protector is a hand-me-down and her leg pads are on loan from our hockey program. I’ve done surgery on the catching glove multiple times to help Mia get a better fit. Still, several times each practice or game, she comes over to ask me to help put it back on which is a two-person job since she has less strength and dexterity with righty. She’s learned a decent butterfly move.
Initially, the coach we were assigned was a poor fit. He yelled at the Mia and coached 8-year-olds as if they were at a much higher level. He was not making any accommodations for Mia’s limited use of her right hand. It took me a while to sort this out as Mia was getting a ride to these afternoon lessons mostly with our au pair. Then, I went to a lesson and saw Mia in tears. She said she didn’t want to do the private goalie lessons anymore. With her permission, I wrote to the head goalie coach to express my concerns, and we took a break before trying again with a new goalie coach who was thankfully a much better fit. He immediately saw what Mia could and could not do, and gave her homework to watch YouTube videos of Connor Hellebuyck, an NHL player who catches in a nontraditional way. Mia learned a new way to catch, and continues to refine this. She has been so thrilled to catch pucks in games.
Here is Mia in action in some games. She ended the season loving goalie more than ever and tried out for next season to play goalie full time. I’ll still make sure she practices her skating without all the pads but her heart is in goal. She’ll play on a U10 all-girls team, seeing time in net every game.