Published: September 21, 2016
BY JENNIFER PARSONS
Grunts and groans followed by enthusiastic cheers echoed around the Red Lake Madsen Public School (RLMPS) gymnasium on Sept. 16 as students got their first taste of Hockey Canada Skills Academy.
Earlier this month the sports program launched in the Red Lake and Ear Falls district and Coach Josh Myles says the enthusiasm for the program has been contagious.
“It’s only been three weeks – I don’t know who is more excited to show up every day, the kids or myself,” he told the Northern Sun News after class at RLMPS last week that consisted of stick handling drills, strength building exercises and a fun game of soccer.
Myles is a graduate of Beaver Brae High School and obtained his Bachelors of Education from Lakehead University before moving back to Kenora to work on the Skills Academy program. He moved to Red Lake earlier this year after being hired as the coach and coordinator for the new program.
He says there is a misconception among the students that the program will be just about hockey.
“I have a lot of kids at every school asking ‘why aren’t we playing hockey?’…a lot of it is about character building and getting them to feel a part of a team, seeing the leadership qualities come out of the kids,” noting there is an inclusive factor to all sports that drives the foundation of the program.
Hockey Academy has operated in Kenora and Dryden previously and was opened to area students from grade 1-12 starting this school year. Over 160 public school students are registered for the program with 81 of those coming from Ear Falls Public School. Red Lake District High School boasts 21 students.
Myles splits his day between the schools visiting each public school twice a week and the high school almost daily. Grades 4-12 are an accredited program and students receive off-ice conditioning, hockey knowledge – anything that can apply to the game. High school programming includes structured work out routines and a focus on healthy eating habits. Students in the lower grades are in an initiation program that involves introducing the concept of hockey and training. This group makes up 40 per cent of the overall enrollment the coach notes.
Dry-land training will continue at each school until students can get on the ice in Cochenour and Ear Falls next month. Myles says although in its infancy here in the district, Hockey Canada Skills Academy has been received well.
“Hockey is the most popular sport in the country. It is a hugely popular sport in this area and for a lot of kids it is live and breathe.”