Patrick Fogarty runs Hockey Canada Skills Academy for Grade 9 and 10 students
Dave Dawson/The Packet & Times To help students better understand skating technique, instructors Dave Pellarin and Jeff Hopkins had their Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School students skate with bent knees, holding a hockey stick, one handed, behind their backs. The drill is part of the school’s Hockey Canada Skills Academy program.
Last week, in the classroom, physical education teachers Dave Pellarin and Jeff Hopkins showed their Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School students instructional videos about proper skating posture.
On Wednesday morning at Rotary Place, their 30 pupils were on the ice, ready to take what they learned at school and to apply it in the hockey arena. For many, it was an eye-opening experience to think about - and put into practise - tried and true techniques that allow an athlete to elevate their game.
And that's the idea behind the Hockey Canada Skills Academy that Patrick Fogarty offers. "What we are able to do, because we have the specialized training and the time, is to really concentrate on fundamental elements of the game," said Pellarin. "For example, today I will spend almost the entire morning on skating posture...that's just something you would never have time to do properly at a house league hockey practice or even a hockey camp."
Pellarin and Hopkins supervised up-tempo drills that brought the videos to life. They had the Grade 9 and 10 students participate in some traditional skating and passing drills before changing things up. The students, for example, had to skate, sans stick, lofting a medicine ball in the air. Then, they had to skate holding their stick, one-handed, behind their back, while they did a circuit.
Those unique drills helped the instructors emphasize the importance of blade positioning, being balanced, and developing a stride that maximizes power and speed while minimizing strain. They also integrated how to properly receive a pass, how to keep arms from flailing while skating - among other things. "I think for the students, it's a great way to really learn the fundamentals of skating and hockey," said Hopkins. "It's very focused learning."
This is the second year Patrick Fogarty has offered the intense semester-long program. The unique skills-development regimen, sanctioned by Hockey Canada, is offered to schools in just 16 communities across Ontario.
"We are at capacity with 30 students and that includes two goaltenders," said Pellarin, noting there is a blend of both males and females participating this year. "We had more than 45 students apply...so the interest is certainly there."
This year, the program is being offered to students in Grade 9 and 10. Those students are on the ice at Rotary Place at least twice a week and also have regular in-classroom sessions where they learn about nutrition, how the body works, self-esteem, accountability and leadership. Students who graduate from the innovative program earn two physical education credits.
The program, said Pellarin, is not just for elite-level hockey players. "We have a range of skill levels here and that's by design," he said. "The idea is to help them develop. Some may develop into elite players, some may use this training to become a qualified coach or maybe, for some, it will just help them when they become parents and their kids take up hockey. Either way, it's great training."
The idea for the Hockey Canada Skills Academy arose from the 1999 Molson Open Ice Summit, aimed at developing and improving hockey skills across the country. One of the recommendations suggested promoting co-operative efforts between school boards, local hockey associations and others to make use of available ice time at arenas and open up opportunities for male and female students to enhance their hockey skills.
"It is a fantastic program and a great opportunity for our students to improve their skating and hockey skills," said Pellarin. "The kids really love it and if you can get kids excited to come to school, that's a great thing."