by Janet Schultz, NY Hockey OnLine Magazine
The loss of a parent is hard no matter what age you are. As an adult many times we are responsible for their affairs, deal with the personal grief and comfort our immediate family.
For a teen, losing a parent is even more devastating.
First, children feel their parents will live forever. Teens are especially at risk because many times they want to be the strong family member, they want to help the surviving spouse, and often they just “shut down.” This can go on for a long period of time undiagnosed as depression. It’s during these times that teens can change the path they are taking and end up on the wrong one.
Buffalo Beauts Associate Head Coach Rhea Coad understands all of that. She went through it. Now she want to help teens through the tough times, not just the death of a parent but now a pandemic that takes away school and athletics and can also lead the youth down a sorted road.
Coad started Buffalo Believes last season, and even with COVID she plan to keep it going this season.
The program gives teens someone to talk to who has been there and can give guidance and support when they most needed. The program is based on Coad’s own experiences.
Coad’s mother died of cancer when she was 16 years old. She admits that she was the strong one. She knew exactly what her mother wanted for a funeral and Coad made sure that was exactly what happened. Working on those arrangements gave her an escape, something to do, a way to not deal with the grief. Or so she thought.
“I didn’t cry at all, not at the funeral and not after,” said Coad. “I felt stuck.”
However, she didn’t realize all this until seven years later.
Coad was playing hockey in Buffalo and twos months after her mothers death she decided to head off to the Ontario Hockey Academy. Not a bad choice for a hockey player, but now she realizes she was running away from her situation.
Coad admits that she grew up in a family where her mother did everything for her. She admits to her mother actually putting the toothpaste on her toothbrush. So imagine heading off to school on your own with not having to wash your clothes, make you bed, tidy your room and having room checks to make sure those things were done. Coad had to learn a lot more than hockey and academics!
“Not only that but I was in another country,” she adds.
“It was a real awaking,” she says. “I went from 16 years to 20 years really fast.”
“My Dad worked really hard to pay for that training and drove eight hours to watch me play,” said Coad.
But even her father didn’t see what was really happening.
“Even to this day I think he still sees me as that 16 year old, who took charge and went off to pursue her hockey career” said Coad. “Parents often get caught in seeing their children at a certain age.”
Following the OHA she went off to play four years at Canton University and then took the coaching job at Nazareth in Rochester to be closer to home. This was part of the healing process.
Now with the Buffalo Beauts she sees Buffalo as her home once again.
That is what Buffalo Believes is all about.
Coad will help teens work through all those emotions she went through without a lot of help.
“You grow up so quick when something like this happens,” she continues. “This is where you need help from someone who has gone through it and can help guide you down the right path.”
“We will help you learn how to work through it.”
“I learned it a little late, but luckily before I veered down a wrong path,” she said.
Buffalo Believes will work with the teen to guide them through the deep depression, teach them how to love themselves and gain confidence to help them understand things will be alright.
“A coach once told me that you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else,” she explained. “I didn’t believe it when I heard it but I have learned how true that is.”
“The most important is that you will never get over losing a parent, but you will learn how to live with it.”
Last season Coad made contact with two sixteen year olds that lost their mother. The stories were so similar to hers she knew she could help.
First they provided the teens with ticket to a game, provided them the opportunity to get autographs after the game, along with all fans, and then Coad gave them a tour of the facility. Following that they sat down and talked. From that point they exchanged telephone numbers and Coad made it clear they could call her at any time to talk.
“That first day was the beginning of a long-standing relationship,” said Coad. “These girls are still in touch with me.”
The teens had the opportunity to open up to someone who had the experience, had the same interest–hockey, and saw Coad as a role model. Not only because she lost her mother, but she was a student, a hockey player and now a coach.
This season, with no fans in the stands, Coad wasn’t sure how Buffalo Believes would work. She knew there was a way and with the help of the NWHL she will connect via ZOOM. Not only her, but she has enlisted the help of other teammates on the Beauts and the other NWHL teams who will work with teens in their areas.
“We can now add more people to the mix,” said Coad.
Not only that but with the Pandemic teens are facing another situation that they have no control over and can’t even be told what the future holds.
“Sports and school define our children,” explains Coad. “Without that there is a cause for concern. They don’t know how to handle it.”
“I had hockey taken away for a year due to academics,” said Coad. “It was awful, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt lost.”
Buffalo Believes will work with teens who are in need of help dealing with the changes caused by the pandemic.
Buffalo Believes is a program that gives teens a chance to talk to someone who has been there, who knows how they feel about what is happening to them and in an arena they are familiar with–hockey!
Once again, the hockey family is there to help each other.
(NYHOL and the Buffalo Beauts will release ZOOM information shortly.)