2016 National Championships: Divide and Conquer

Families With Multiple Players Split Up To Cover More Ground At Nationals

Corrine McCool // Tier I 14U  Blaine, Minn.Corrine McCool // Tier I 14U Blaine, Minn.

Bill Wilbert is one of those rare people who looks forward to Mondays. It’s not that he doesn’t work hard as a software engineer with a hospital pharmacy automation company, but after chasing his kids around all weekend, this father of quadruplets relishes the chance to sit in one place for more than 20 minutes.
His three sons, Alex, Drew and Eric, play for the Pittsburgh Predators, while his daughter Katie is a goalie with the Steel City Selects. And Wilbert coaches both teams.

“I love being with my kids and I love coaching hockey, but sometimes Mondays can be a day of rest for me,” said Wilbert, who recently coached seven games in two different cities over the course of a weekend leading up to the 2016 Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships.

Bill and his wife Janet have become masters of the “divide and conquer“ strategy that is essential when families have multiple kids playing hockey. They put those skills to the test during Nationals week as Bill was with his daughter in Burlington, Vt., the site of the Girls’ Tier II tournament, while Jan headed to Charlotte, N.C., to cheer on her boys at the Tier II 14 & Under event.

Jack  McCool // Tier I 18U  San Jose, Calif.Jack McCool // Tier I 18U San Jose, Calif.

“I’m kind of torn with both teams playing on the same weekend and wanting to see both of them play,” Wilbert said.

Like most families, the Wilberts are grateful for the advances in technology that allow them to follow games when they can’t be there. From games streamed live online to the constant text messages from those standing rinkside, it’s the next best thing to being there.

“They’ve been trying to watch us, we’ve been trying to watch them. That makes life a little easier,” Bill said while watching his sons play on the FASTHockey feed.

If you think the Wilberts have a challenge, it’s nothing compared to the McCool family out of West Roxbury, Mass. Steve and Tricia have five kids playing hockey, and three participating at different Nationals locations.

To cover their bases, they had to enlist the services of Steve’s father to accompany their daughter Corinne’s team, the East Coast Wizards, at the Girls’ Tier I tournament in Blaine, Minn. Steve headed up to Anchorage with their son, Steven, and the Boston Jr. Eagles for the Tier I 14 & Under tournament, while Tricia headed to San Jose for the Tier I 18 & Under event with their son Jack, who plays with the Cape Cod Whalers.
Like any hockey parent, Tricia McCool needs the planning prowess of an Army general and the calm demeanor of a surgeon to get through the season. Those skills were put to the test in the week leading into Nationals.

“Sometimes my organizational skills are better than others, but this week they better be pretty good because it’s hard to getting seven people out of the house and heading in different directions,” she said leading up to Nationals week.

Tricia took their youngest kids, Jimmy (11) and Catherine (6) with her to San Jose, which created the additional challenge of keeping them entertained after being cooped up in the rink all day and the hotel all evening.

Steven McCool // Tier I 14U  AnchorageSteven McCool // Tier I 14U Anchorage

“You’re kind of caught between the fact that this is Nationals and it’s a big tournament so you want to focus on the hockey, but you want to be able to do and see things and enjoy the experience,” she said.

“You need to find a balance between the two.”
For families with multiple kids playing at the same time, it helps to have friends and family to lean on. The

Wilberts have been blessed to be in associations where everyone pitches in to help one another.

“Any time you have multiple kids, it’s great any time people can help you out. We wouldn’t trade the people that we’re around for anybody,” Wilbert said.

As championship teams were crowned at sites around the country, it was a bittersweet time as players and parents said goodbye to friends and teammates as they prepared to move on to other sports or get ready to play for other teams. Like most families, the long plane ride back to Boston allowed the McCools a chance to reflect on the ups and downs of a long season.

“We do get a break in the summer but after a week or so you kind of miss it. I know it sounds crazy but you miss the chaos,” McCool said.

“But it’s also nice to sit down and have a nice family dinner.”



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