I started playing hockey at 40. I think it was a mid-life crisis. A few women in Sandy Hill (a neighbourhood in downtown Ottawa) who were tired of just watching their kids have fun playing hockey, decided to secure the outdoor rink once a week, for an hour, for a women's only scrimmage.
We equipped ourselves with soccer knee pads, our white figure skates and our husband's hockey sticks and helmets. It was fun - slightly pathetic - but fun. We've come a long way, baby.
Fast forward fourteen years. A woman over 40 playing hockey is no longer a novelty. There are well over 100 women in my small community (the Kennebecasis Valley) that play hockey now, on a few teams that have formed since my arrival in 2003. I'm on the Moms in Gear team. We were one of the first to form - we just celebrated our 10th Anniversary last year.
I think the median age of our players is 52. Yes, we have players in their 60's and a few newbies closer to 40. These are, for the most part, women who have stepped into the game for the first time in their life. Some have actually had to learn how to skate! But we can all agree on one thing. It's soooooooooooooo fun!
Women's hockey is different than men's hockey. In pretty much every way it can be. I'm talking about OUR "older women's" hockey. Women stop skating mid-game when someone falls down. We help you get back up. Women often apologize to the goalie when they score against them, or at a minimum, we tap them on the helmet. (and say sorry) We giggle on the bench. We smile at our opponents at the faceoff.
We congratulate the other team when they score. There is so much joy in the change room and on the ice. But there is one ritual that has puzzled me since my first day on the ice. The incredibly complicated process of dividing ourselves into two teams before starting a scrimmage. (oh, and actually starting the game on time)
This ritual occurs a few times a week. The banter in the change room is lively. Not many are looking at the clock. By the time most of the players are on the ice, skating around slowly, chatting about the kids or the weekend plans or having a quick stretch, someone usually attempts to herd the cats. First there is a count. Ok, we have fifteen. How many are still in the change room? Who can remember that?
There are five in black jerseys, three in white, four in blue, three in red. Ok, let's go black & white vs. blue and red. Does that work? Wait, here come three more from the change room. Ok, two in black and one in pink. Someone is asked if they have a different colour jersey they could change into.
We get rolling about ten minutes into our ice time. And it takes another ten minutes to figure out which team you're on. (was it black & red vs. blue & white?)
I think most hockey players just dump all their hockey sticks in the centre of the ice and have someone divide them into two teams. Go find your stick, and you find your team. Maybe they just remember who their team mates are, no matter the colour of their jersey. We've tried that, but it works best with hockey players who can actually recognize their own stick in a pile. (no, seriously)
Some people are ok with this process, some have very little patience for it.
Where do you draw the line?
In business, like in hockey, there are things you do that you simply don't sweat. And in other areas of your business, you stick to hard and fast rules. I believe you have to decide on the lines you will and will not cross in your business.
Over time, in my small business, I have adopted the lines I will not cross. Here are my top three:
First, after working for many years at advertising agencies and in industry, selling everything from cell phone chips to facial tissue, I decided that I would only do marketing for good and not evil. What does that mean? It's a dramatic way to say I won't work with clients that have a product or service that I don't believe in or that I don't like or use.
Secondly, and this may sound a little unusual, but I won't work long term with a client that I don't enjoy. If we aren't having fun, it's just not going to work out. Don't get me wrong, I'm very serious about our business goals, content and results but if you can't have fun in the process, well, life is too short!
And last but not least, I invoice once a month. If an invoice is unpaid, I stop working until it's paid. I've had people advise me to get paid in advance for the work I do but I've never found that to be necessary. My clients pay their invoices so I've barely ever had to even think about this.
Have you established some lines you will not cross in your business? (or on the hockey rink?) (tell me in the comments!)
Fortunately for me, I don't care what time our hockey scrimmages start, so I'm happy to go along with the curious process of splitting into teams. Others, however, may look for another group of people to play hockey with - you know - organized, efficient leagues with a good set of pinnies and a quick process. (yawn, so boring!)
And I'm happy to report that this season, we are now dividing up into 2 teams in the change room, in advance of hitting the ice - every second person is handed a black jersey. We arrive on the ice ready to play. No need to draw the line on these hockey scrimmages now!
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The Small Business Guide
Kim Houlahan is a marketing consultant who loves helping small business owners improve their marketing.
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Where do you Draw the Line?
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