Combining school work with hockey is something many college and university students do on a regular basis but some middle school students are following the same program in Red Deer.
The St. Patrick’s Hockey Academy operates out of the Dawe Arena which is right down the hallway from the Red Deer Catholic School district facility.
It’s been around for a few years and is starting to see some growth with 18 boys and girls from the school signed up for the tri-semester program.
“A lot of skill development, a lot of basic stuff and then progress them through to doing a lot of small area games and applying the skills they learned in game-like situations,” said Brandin Cote, a Grade 6 teacher at St. Patrick’s and the academy’s instructor said about what is taught on ice.
The target over the summer was to get graduating Grade 5’s interested in the program, keep them involved for their time at middle school and when they graduate to high school a similar program awaits them at Notre Dame.
“They can just move right into the Notre Dame one and not miss a beat when they’re there,” he said.
Grade 9 student Seth Stratton, currently a member of the Bantam AAA Rebels Black team, has been with the academy since Grade 7.
“I got involved because I love playing hockey and I just want to play it more,” he said.
It’s a good mix for the students who get an education in the classroom as well as on the ice. “Just meeting new people and learning new skills that Mr. Cote’s teaching us and just making me a better hockey player,” said Stratton.
Grade 6 student Brady Stange, who plays Peewee A in the City, is of the same mind set as Seth, wanting to be a better player and learn from Cote’s experience.
“I’ll learn how to stick handle, I’ll learn how to skate more and learn more balance,” he said. It also doesn’t bother him one bit that he’s out on the ice working with players older than him.
“It’s more of a challenge so I can push myself a little bit more,” he said.
Cote says the majority of players are already involved in some level of hockey ranging from pond hockey players to the more elite programs in the City, both male and female.
“There’s a wide range of skill levels and ability levels but our main focus is on allowing the kids to continue to enjoy and progress in their skills and development,” he said, which in his mind is the important part about playing the game of hockey.
“It’s not just playing the game, it’s also the cooperation skills, the team work skills, all that type of stuff that goes along with the game, we can relate it back to what we’re doing in the classroom.”
It’s always nice to get a break from what you’re doing for work during your time at the office but Cote says he’s got the best of both worlds to be able to walk out of that classroom and head down the hallway with his hockey bag .
“I still get to do the classroom stuff but I get a break in the afternoons on Tuesdays and Thursdays to come and play some hockey so it’s not a bad gig.”