The Longest Day

By Stevie

20130905_172127Thursdays start early and end late. Jordan has hockey school at Southpointe after school- which is kind of a hike for us.

If Jordan takes the bus home from school, there is no way I make it to Southpointe in time because I will hit all of the traffic in the world. So I am picking him up from school and heading out. Dinner is being eaten in the car (PBJ, banana, crackers). We’re making it to the rink almost an hour early, but that half hour pocket between when school lets out and he comes home on the bus would absolutely kill the trip. Don’t mess with the intersection of 51 and 88. If you live in Pittsburgh, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s a really long day for a 5 year old. He was complaining when we got to the rink that he was tired, but once he got inside and remembered that he is playing on the same ice that the Penguins practice on, he got excited.

There are two boys that he took ice skating lessons with attending the camp, other than that, it is all new kids. We’re in the next county over, so I kind of expected that we wouldn’t know anyone.

I have nothing but glowing things to say about this program if day one is any indication of things to come. If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know that I am not a fan of the hockey school at Mt. Lebanon ice rink. There are 2 coaches, they are really young, high school or college kids, and there aren’t enough of them to give the kids individual attention.

There were 5 coaches on the ice at this clinic. Three middle aged adults, and two younger guys-probably college age. The kids got changed in the open area next to the rink. The coaches all walked around and said hello to everyone and put names on helmets. They were talking to parents and seemed to be very open and friendly. I loved that. I want to see that with coaches.

The practice was incredibly organized. The coaches started off taking warm up laps with the kids- 3 times one way around the rink, 3 times other direction, and one lap backwards. (It was more like half a lap backwards since most of the kids can’t skate backwards that well yet.)

They gathered the kids and talked to them about some rules for practices about how they are using their whistles to signal them and that when a coach raises his hand, all of the kids are to be quiet and raise their hand until all talking has stopped (just like in school).

The drills on day one were very basic, probably to get an idea of what skill levels they are working with. They practiced skating with one hand on their stick, going three kids at a time from one cone to another- one at the top of each circle and in the middle. They took three times going forward, and then one going backwards.

Little man on the big ice!

Little man on the big ice!

Next, they split into groups and the coaches worked to help the kids with proper stance and stopping. They also did something I had yet to see in any of the camps Jordan has done: recovering quickly from falling. He’s learned out to stand up when he falls, but this was different. I could hear the coach explaining to the kids how it is very important to learn to stand up quickly from a fall because if you can’t recover, you can’t play. He would blow the whistle and each kid had to drop to his/her knees and pop back up immediately.

From what I could hear from where I was sitting, the coaches did a great job communicating with the kids. They were firm and didn’t baby talk them, but they spoke in a way the kids could understand and mitigated distraction by making sure the kids were standing in line far enough apart that they couldn’t touch one another. They kept everyone focused, and repeatedly showed the skills that they were practicing, working more with kids who were not as experienced.

I have a really good feeling about the program and have heard wonderful things about Richard Hoff, who runs the hockey school. I could see a huge smile on Jordy’s face as he skated around the rink and he told everyone at home all about the things that he learned. I think this is going to be a fantastic experience for him and will prepare him better than the other camps for joining a team. I’m blown away by the professionalism and organization of the coaching staff.

The biggest road block we have with the program is making sure that Jordan is well rested enough to make it through such an intense day. It will take a few weeks, but by week 10, we should be pros!

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