Tuesday, March 22, 2011

G.O.A.L. Ice Hockey Program

Ready for some Ice Hockey

When I first heard about the Get Out And Learn (G.O.A.L.) hockey program that the Nashville Predators sponsor, I knew it would be perfect for my son.  He went to his first Nashville Predator hockey game when he was 2 years old and has been begging us to play "real hockey" for the past year and a half.  Here's the description of the G.O.A.L. program from the Predator's website:

"The Nashville Predators have introduced Get Out And Learn! (G.O.A.L!), a FREE on-ice youth hockey program, in association with Centennial Sportsplex and A-Game Sportsplex as part of the Predators commitment to the development of youth hockey.

G.O.A.L! has been created to offer youngsters the opportunity to experience the excitement of hockey without the cost of purchasing equipment.  Designed for boys and girls ages 4 to 8 years old with no prior hockey or skating experience, this free four-week ice hockey program will introduce the exciting sport of hockey to kids while teaching life experiences of teamwork, sportsmanship and self-confidence as a child develops through athletic participation.

My husband registered L for the program the second the online registration was open, and we got confirmation the following day that he'd been accepted.  L was super excited.  In fact, when we picked up all of L's gear the following week, I was afraid he was going to want to sleep in it all.
Monday was his first lesson.  We had practiced dressing at home, so by the time we got to the rink we were pros at putting on all of his "gear" (shin-guards, pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, helmet, mouth-guard, gloves, and hockey stick).  He was ready in about 5-10 minutes (ice skates and all) and then we had to sit and wait for about 30 minutes.  He was pretty quiet while we waited, but when I asked him if he was excited, he would whisper, "yeah."


When it was finally time to get on the ice, all the kids lined up at the gate and entered the ice one at a time.  It seemed like the first 30 kids took one step and fell b/c within minutes, there were kids crawling all over the place.  One lady behind me said it looked like a bunch of puppies out on the ice.  The coaches were literally dragging kids out of the way of the door so that the other kids could attempt standing/walking/skating on the ice too.  When L's turn came though, he stepped out onto the ice and away he skated (in the opposite direction from all the "bodies").  He kind of looked back over his shoulder a couple times like he was thinking to himself, "why are you guys all laying there?"  His pants kept falling down and he kept adjusting them, but he skated perfectly.  He's not a super fast skater yet, but he certainly can keep his balance.

Skating in the Open Ice

For the first 10 minutes, he just skated around observing all the others.  He had a look of complete contentment on his face.  It was as though he'd been waiting for this day all his life.  A few times a coach would stop to help him tie his pants up tighter (without any luck), but other than that, the first 10 minutes or so he just skated past the others. 

Pulling his Pants Back Up

At some point, one of the coaches blew a whistle and called for everyone to come down to one end of the ice and sit down.  L was one of the last ones to get over there (too interested in skating around on the open ice), but he sat for the couple of minutes.  Then, the coaches divided them into groups according to skill level by placing a red, yellow, or green sticker on their helmet.  The first thing they taught L's group (yellow) to do, was to fall down and then get back up again.  L didn't like the falling down part, and half the time he just stood there as other kids knelt (he was the same height, so no one noticed).  When he did lay down or kneel he'd do what he later called, "knee skating" to get to the blocks in the middle of the ice to help him up.  I only saw him get up from standing by himself a couple times, so he does have one skill to work on.

Laying Down with his Group

A lot of skating later, and one of the coaches brought out a bucket full of pucks.  I could see his eyes light up when he saw them.  He immediately stuck his tongue out and skated as fast as his little legs could go to get to one.  He loved skating after a puck and shooting it towards anything or anyone he saw.  The only time I saw him fall, was when he was going after a puck that another child had and they both fell on each other.  He told me later, "it was like a hockey tackle.  Maybe they have tackling in hockey too." 

Skating with a Puck

All in all, he had a fantastic time.  After one week I would HIGHLY recommend the program if your child is a budding athlete.  The whole way out to the car, and on the way home, he was telling us all about it.  He kept saying, "it was amazing." or "it was fantastic." I can't wait until next week….

One Happy Boy!