Grade 8 and 9 students were on the ice mid day last Friday fine-tuning their hockey skills.
The hockey exploration option, offered at École Mother Teresa School, teaches 14 students different hockey skills, two of those students being girls.
The majority of these children have played competitive hockey this season. Being on the ice during school time has helped these children to be better players on their different teams, some in town, some in Red Deer.
Teacher of the program Jordan Koopmans said the students really enjoy it.
His aim was to offer a variety of activities on and off the ice to help his students develop into whole athletes.
“The on ice focuses on their individual skills like skating, stick handling and shooting,” Koopmans said. “The off ice is offering the yoga, dry land training, breaking down game clips and specific skills – they develop as a whole athlete.”
Students also do other assignments where they analyze hockey to see the whole picture, not just on the ice.
It is Koopmans aim to develop the students into not just hockey players but into whole student athletes.
This includes putting a high focus on school.
“If they are falling behind in class or if they are missing assignments, that does take precedence,” Koopmans said.
The students are also learn leadership and time management skills.
“It’s a short period of time to get changed and get onto the ice,” Koopmans said. “They are making sure they have all their equipment, getting changed quickly and they are completing all their work.”
This is the first semester the program has run and it has been highly successful.
Koopmans said he has had a lot of great feedback from parents and students.
Zach Jurak, 14, is one of the boys in the program.
He played on the Sylvan Lake Bantam ‘A’ Lakers this season.
He said it is really fun getting some extra ice time in, adding they’ve learned a lot and they get to do yoga – which he finds really fun.
“I’ve learned how to properly stretch, properly eat on game days and proper nutrition,” he said. “Out here I am becoming an all around better player.”
Jurak has learned about carbohydrates, protein and how long it takes for foods to digest. He also learned how not to have undigested food in his stomach while playing as well a show to get the most energy out of the food he eats.
The reason why players don’t want to have undigested food in their stomachs during a game is because they don’t have anything to build energy off of. The food just sits in their stomach as extra weight.
During on ice training Jurak said they practice their shooting, passing, skating and other skills they might use in a game.
“My skating has gotten better, my shooting is harder, passing is better, getting more assists and more points,” he said.
Elizabeth Fonda, 14, played on the West Central Wildcats this year and said she has had a great experience in the program.
“It’s a great opportunity, you get to mix with everybody else,” she said. “I am on a girls team, but I like playing with the boys more than the girls.”
She said she loves the competitiveness of hockey and that it can be a rough sport to play.
“I have learned different drills, different techniques and more shots,” she said. “I have gotten better on my slap shot. It has given me more confidence. When I am on a breakaway I know what I can do and all my options.”
Principal of the school Jodi Smith said the Hockey Exploratory option is about not only gaining new skills but also about being a part of a community and looking at all of the aspects of being a great athlete.
“We look at creating a well rounded athlete,” Smith said. “You also have to be well rounded and know other sports as well. Jordan has done a great job about making it more than just on ice time.”
A sports psychologist was also brought in to talk about the mental game and the reality of any sport.
The students have also learned to be a good sport when they are gifted at something and not to be arrogant about it.
“These are gifts from God,” Smith said. “We are blessed with the gifts that we have and it’s about being humble and also being really helpful.”
With the success of this program hopes are to expand the program to Grades 6 to 9 in the fall and winter semesters next year.