By Charle Dumba
“Can you believe that we got to skate with Matt Dumba?”
Hearing the guys I play rec hockey with speak those words always makes me shake my head in awe. Matt Dumba. My son. An NHL player.
Last summer Matt surprised me on my birthday and came out to play with my rec team. The two of us showed everyone up for a bit, then decided we couldn’t do that all game, the guys would be too mad. So he played with everyone on the team, which was a thrill for them, and me.
I will never get tired of watching him play. After all, I was his first coach. I grew up playing hockey and at the highest level, I got to the Juvenile level, which is now considered Junior B, but at the time it was called Juvenile. So after I had my sons, Matt and his younger brother Kyle, I built a backyard rink and taught them both how to skate and play the game of hockey that I love so much.
As a father of a pro hockey player, I get asked a lot of questions about raising an NHL player. I am always happy to share my experiences, but I do want to caution parents reading this. It’s not one thing that will make it happen, sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, they are going to do their own thing.
I remember my neighbor once told Matt when it came to early morning games or practices; he should get up two hours early so that his body would be awake. Matt thought it was a great idea until he had six am games and Friday morning practices at six-thirty am. All I am saying is to take my knowledge and use it where it makes sense for your young athlete.
The question I get asked more than anything else, is did I realize Matt had more talent or skill than other kids?
The short answer is no. I think it’s easier to see it in someone else’s kids, than your own. Maybe it’s not true for everyone, but it was true for me. When he was 14 or 15, I started to see it, but I thought it was just with his friends or maybe just in Calgary. At the end of the day, all I ever wanted was for him was to play the game he loved and maybe pay for his education. If he could do that, it would be a win. We never dreamed that he would become an NHL player.
When we, my wife Trena and I, look back we are proud of the lessons we taught our boys. They were important lessons when they were young and remain important today. The key ones we think are helpful for youth athletes are:
Do not compare yourself to someone else
When Matt was younger, his best friends used to skate circles around him. At the time it was challenging for him, but we never compared him to other players or said why don’t you be like him. No, we wanted him to be the best he could be.
Compete to the best of your ability
At the end of the games, we would ask our boys, did you do your best? And if they said yes, then we were good. We left it at that and tried to just focus on competing instead of comparing.
Hockey is a team sport, but do not blame others
Hockey is a team sport but you cannot blame someone else on your team for a loss. All you can do is control your own compete level. You’re in a game where you’re supposed to do your best. If you do your best, it doesn’t matter how hard the person beside you plays, you just do your best.
Matt and I remain close; we talk regularly, usually after games and mostly when they lose not when they win. Win or lose, we are always proud of him. I am proud of both my boys. In sport it doesn’t matter where you’re from, all that matters and all that you can control is your compete. So as parents we just listened to their dreams and were there to support what they wanted to do. And if I were to go back and do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing, for what a ride it has been.
From one parent to another,