Being Prepared

By Stevie

You can only prepare your child so much to participate in team sports for the first time. Most of what they learn, they will learn “in the field.” You pick it up as you go.

Hockey, though, is a bit of a different beast. Ice skating is not  a skill that I personally think the average person has- at any level. It’s a niche activity. Not everyone ice skates regularly or can even stand on the ice. I know plenty of hockey fans whom have never laced up and taken so much as a lap around a community rink.

But skating is imperitive to your survival in hockey if you are playing ice and not dek (or roller).

Yesterday, my son had his first practice in our school district’s developmental program. He is still practicing at Southpointe as well on Thursdays, but for a few weeks, he may be juggling two programs. That isn’t a bad thing. Being on the ice more is important, especially because it is so hard for us to get to public skating a lot of the time.

He has now participated in 3 levels of ice skating lessons, two sessions of the hockey school at Mount Lebanon, Little Pens, and is about to complete his time at Southepointe. This is on top of 3 seasons of dek hockey.

What I can say about every program thus far for the hockey schools, is that the first question they ask when you sign up is if your child can skate. If they cannot skate, they will tell you that they recommend your child completing a beginner level ice skating course. You can get skating lessons at just about every community rink for a pretty decent price.

Once your child gets to a hockey school or development program, there will be a strong emphasis on skating skills. The skills they teach the children though are specific to helping them become strong hockey skaters. They are learning to use their edges, to skate with their stick, carry the puck, fall and recover quickly, skate backwards, and do cross overs.

Last night, the kids were split up into 3 groups by their age level for what type of team they would play on (mite, squirt, etc). Jordan is a mite or a mini-mite. He is in the group with the least experienced children, but all of them could skate and pretty well at that. Jord certainly isn’t the strongest skater out there, but he holds his own and is improving all the time. He can skate well enough to do what he needs to and he is good at controlling his stick while skating.

One of the parents sent their child onto the ice- for the first time. Ever.

Here is why this annoyed me.

There were 2 coaches per group of children. This was managable for each group because there were enough coaches to help give the kids some individual attention when needed. There were a few times that Jordan honestly could have used some extra pointers yesterday and he didn’t get that. Why? Because one of his group’s coaches spent the ENTIRE 1 hour and 20 minutes of practice giving a child his first skating lesson, while the other coach was left to care for double the amount of kids that he should have been handling.

The amount of coaches to kid ratio was my biggest complaint about the Mount Lebo program. There weren’t enough coaches to give any of the kids the attention they needed to be successful if they were struggling with a skill.

It was unfair that the kids were down a coach for many reasons, not just that my son wasn’t getting the attention that I’m paying for him to get.

This was unfair to all of the kids who weren’t getting enough supervision. It was unfair to the coach who had to give impromptu skating lessons. And honestly, it was unfair to the child who didn’t know how to skate that he is in a program that he isn’t equipped for. I’m sure he was excited yesterday to learn to play hockey, but he spent half an hour pushing a folding chair across the ice because he cannot stand on skates. (And is it really conducive or even safe to the learning environment to have one child pushing a chair in the same area as children flying around cones with sticks and pucks?)

My point here, is be fair to your child and the other children. The parents who signed him up did their son a disservice by not placing him in skating lessons first as recommended. I have yet to come across a hockey program (Little Pens included), that does not stipulate that your child should complete at least beginner level skating prior to participating in the program. This is for your child’s benefit. This is to set them up for success- as well as the other children.

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but it was truly annoying to watch and I felt bad for the kid. He didn’t look happy or like he was having fun. He spent a lot of time sitting and just watching the other kids when he would need a  break. I’m also not so certain that it was right for the coach to take that time to try and catch him up on beginner level skating. Would it have been better for him to talk to the parents and tell them that their child should be in skating lessons and sign up for the next class? I don’t believe that it is wrong if he isn’t prepared.

The program is to learn to play hockey, not learn to skate.

Do not do your child a disservice by sending them out unprepared for the task before them. There is no shame in putting off an activity until they are ready to tackle it with the skills and tools necessary.

It will make for a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

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