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.

letter oase

Apple Valley High School player Thor Oase coaches young people through the local youth hockey program.

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.

Thor Oase

Apple Valley

Editor’s note: The author is a junior and plays junior varsity and varsity hockey for Apple Valley High School.

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