To the editor:
Outside of playing hockey for my school, I enjoy giving back to my community, especially in the sport that I love.
I remember when I was in Squirts and PeeWees, my friend’s older brother would come to help our team. I thought it would be lots of fun to give back to youth hockey like he did.
For the past six years, I have helped out hockey players at various levels including Mites, Squirts, and PeeWees. Over this time, I enjoyed working with the younger players, demonstrating drills, and leading them in pre-game warmups.
This winter, I volunteer my time every weekend coaching Mini Mite 1 hockey for the Burnsville-Apple Valley Firehawks Association where I teach players skating and hockey skills. Our practices are divided into six stations, each comprised of a basic fundamental drill or game. Whenever the skaters perform the drill correctly, I congratulate and praise them.
Recently, I have noticed these kindergarten and first-grade skaters seek me out during open skate to play with me and give me hugs. Before the holidays, I attached my dog’s Santa hat to the top of my helmet for decoration. When I was helping the kids step onto the ice, a player asked me, “Santa, are you the one who brings us presents every year?” I smiled and responded playfully, “Every year.” I think the players enjoy seeing someone from the high school team coming to help out, even though they eventually concluded I wasn’t the real Santa Claus.
I find this experience of giving back to the community rewarding because I have made many connections with players in our hockey association through spending time with them on the ice. After coaching for such a long time, I have gained confidence in working with youth players. Over the years, I have learned that I enjoy coaching skaters and seeing them develop throughout the season ... and I plan to continue coaching for many years to come.
I encourage other high school players to get involved with their youth hockey associations because giving back is an amazing experience to help others learn to love this sport.
Editor’s note: The author is a junior and plays junior varsity and varsity hockey for Apple Valley High School.