Seth first stepped on the hockey rink at the age of nine. Later, he told me he was, "fully dressed and ready for practice, except for my skates. Mom and Dad had to tie those." He grew up playing every sport he could get his hands, foot, bat, stick, or glove on. It wasn't until he found the fast paced, physical, and challenging sport of hockey that he fell in love. When a friend's dad signed up to coach his son in hockey, Seth thought he'd tag along. Little did we know that the small boy with a crooked-smile who kicked around a ball would become the devoted, competitive, determined hockey player and man he is today.
Seth is my big-little brother; though I am older, he towers over me. At eighteen, Seth has played hockey nearly half his life, and we have watched his love and passion for the sport only grow stronger. Currently, he is the assistant captain on the AAA hockey team in Utah, which is quite a feat for anyone in this highly competitive sport. However, Seth has had some extra challenges along the way that made his success more difficult to achieve.
"Money issues have been and are the most frequent challenges I’ve had to overcome," Seth revealed. In 2010, the average family of four had an income of $81,354 (The United States Department of Justice), while our family of six had an income of $19,532. This financial issue has resurfaced time and time again in not only every day life, but on the rink as well. Seth was around eleven, and he sat in the locker room upset because he broke his hockey stick in a game. A teammate asked him what the big deal was. Why didn't his mom just buy him a new one? Seth explained that he had to buy most of his gear himself. His teammate shrugged, said that sucked, and walked off. Hockey is a very expensive sport. A decent hockey stick runs around $150 -- that's just decent and not even a good one. And a hockey stick is one of the cheaper pieces of equipment.
In his early years, Seth spent many weekends fundraising; he constantly fought financially to stay on the ice, but he never gave up. When he was old enough to work, it was nearly impossible to find a job that would allow for school and his demanding hockey schedule. Our family made many sacrifices to keep his dream alive. It wasn't always easy, and Seth felt very guilty about using family money. "The money has been the hardest. Hockey is a very expensive sport. Luckily, I have a great family who has helped me through it and always found a way for me to play." Somehow we were always able to figure it out, whether it meant going without something, or someone outside of our family saw the need and wrote a check. One time, his skates were two sizes too small. When my parents found out, they were upset because they had no money to replace them. A woman Seth didn't even know felt God told her to buy Seth new skates. Things like this happened more than once. It's amazing all the ways God has provided to keep Seth on the ice.
After years of struggling financially, the biggest hurdle was yet to come. At the age of 17, Seth faced an even bigger challenge than money. "I had two fairly serious hip surgeries that kept me out for a whole season with ten months of physical therapy." This meant no hockey his senior year in highschool, the best time to be scouted for higher level play. In his junior year, he had not progressed as far as everyone expected. Coaches said his stick handling and ability to see the plays on the whole rink were amazing, but something about his skating didn't match up.
After years of being told he needed to kick his skating up a notch, he found out why he never was able to skate as well as people thought he should. His hips were misshapen. His junior year, he had gone through months of physical therapy for what we thought was a pulled groin, but when it wasn't improving he was referred to a sport medicine specialist. This therapist wondered if he had hip impingements, a rare problem she'd recently learned about. She sent him to Dr. White, a specialist in hips, to get his opinion.
Once the x-rays were taken, the worst was confirmed, and he needed surgery. The bone in the socket that is supposed to be round had a large bump on it, not only on one hip, but both. This restricted his range of movement and control of his legs, as well as destroyed the cartilage and ripped the tissue around the socket. Dr. White told him that without the surgery, he would need hip replacements by the age of 25. He wouldn't be able to play with his kids or run, much less play hockey, without repair.
This was some of the worst news a serious athlete could get. "I was shocked, devastated, scared, and frustrated." His emotions were deeply shared by the family and everyone else who had watched him struggle and grow though the years. It was heartbreaking. The news came mid-March, and they pushed to get the first surgery done the beginning of April. Dr. White was one of few surgeons in the world who knew how to do the procedure Seth needed. It was not going to be cheap. My mom asked if insurance would cover it. Dr. White responded that it wouldn't because the procedure was too new, but he was touched by Seth's story and was not going to charge us. Dr. White assembled a whole team willing to donate time to help this young man continue in his dream. My parents never received a single bill.
Once again, Seth was given a miracle. He went through the two grueling surgeries only two months apart. Following were weeks of constant icing, motion machines, pain killers, and sleepless nights for the whole house. Seth doesn't sit well for ten minutes without moving, much less for the ten months he spent in physical therapy, unable to run or skate. The hours he spent in physical therapy were his life-line.The physical therapist knew our story and told us to pay what we could when we could. At the end of the 10 months we ended up paying about 1/3 of what they would normally charge. Everyone involved has such a huge heart, I pray that they know how much God has used them in not only our lives, but the many others they they come in contact with every day.
After surgery, he was crushed when he couldn't make his old team, but he didn't let that stop him. He found a team in Utah that wanted him and moved out there for the season. Money was again a barrier, but friends and family pulled together a huge garage sale and sent him on his way.
The hockey season ends next month, and Seth will return from Utah. He called today so he and my dad could research places to try-out for a junior team in order to keep pursuing his dream. Facing challenges at every turn, Seth continues to persevere and never let fear, questions, or struggles out of his control get the best of him and shut out his dream. If there's one thing the world can learn from my little brother, it's to follow your dreams and never give up.