Pass the Puck MAG

December 19, 2011
By Andrew Tomai BRONZE, West Bloomfield, Michigan
Andrew Tomai BRONZE, West Bloomfield, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The words you usually hear from teens are: I, me, and my. As a group, we seem to be focused only on our own universe. Even when barraged with incentives, we still manage to evade volunteer work. After all, what's in it for us? Based on my experience, my peers are missing out on the rewards that come with giving back. Volunteer work doesn't have to be tedious. For me, it's been about sharing my own passion: hockey.

Since the age of three, I have been skating and holding a stick on the ice. Hockey is practically a religion in my family. I am lucky to have a dad who never turns down an opportunity to skate with me. My dad's passion and pure joy for hockey is a gift he passed on to me. He spent countless hours teaching me everything from shooting the puck to game strategies. I realized how powerful his coaching had been when I started volunteering to coach kids.

I help out at the ice arena where I've skated most of my life. This arena regularly hosts clinics for young kids. Kids borrow the necessary equipment and hit the ice to learn the basics. This allows them to try out the sport before making the huge financial investment that it requires.

My job begins when they enter the locker room. I help them put on the cumbersome pads that weigh down even seasoned players. The kids don't seem to notice; they are either too nervous or too excited. This is the first place I begin to teach them and gain their trust (as well as the trust of their parents). Each of the 16 pads has a precise place and function. Parents place a lot of trust in me, since putting pads on incorrectly can lead to injury.

When we finally get on the ice, the real fun begins. The kids cautiously step out, at first taking slow and deliberate steps. By the end of the warm up, I can already see them progressing from baby steps to hockey skating strides. Since the clinics are meant to promote hockey, we do fun drills, including “The Superman,” where kids slide on their stomachs with their arms outstretched. It is cool to see the kids transform from being nervous to completely thrilled. It doesn't even matter if they fall down, because we all just laugh and help them back up.

During the second half, we teach stick handling by free skating around the ice. The kids try to shoot pucks against the wall. By this time, their excitement has skyrocketed. I pass them a puck so they can take it down the ice and try to score. After every goal, the kids jump up and down and throw their sticks in the air. By the end of the time, they are always reluctant to get off the ice.

When each clinic ends and I watch the sweaty, red-faced kids lumber awkwardly back to the locker room, I can tell which ones have been inspired. I know that by sharing my love for this sport, I have given a small but priceless gift to others.

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