Developing proper hockey skills is the goal of any hockey school. Creating smart academic players is the goal of the Lloydminster Public School Division’s hockey academy, and for its 70 student-athletes who participate in the program, the in classroom work is just as important as what the students learn on the ice. Probably even more.
For the past four years, students have been able to apply for the hockey academy program, which has the same curriculum as every other regular student in the LPSD. The exception is, their fitness education is done on the ice with highly trained instructors, with the focus on developing individual hockey skills in younger players.
“We have the kids on the ice anywhere from 60 to 70 times on the ice in a year,” said lead instructor and former NHLer, Lance Ward. “From an instructional standpoint, it gives me lots of time to develop a relationship with students, find out what their goals are, what their expectations are for themselves and then we have enough hours on the ice to make long lasting changes.”
Every day students are bussed from Bishop Lloyd Middle School and Barr Colony School to take part in the academy at the Servus Sports Centre. The students then either take part in on-ice training with Ward and other instructors, or they are using other facilities to play different sports, in order to round out their athletic abilities.
But hockey development is the focus of the athletic portion of the academy, and considering most minor hockey players only get around two hours a week of on-ice practice, the LPSD hockey academy is a way to get more instruction in order to develop into a better player.
See “Hockey academy,” Page 31
“Anybody who does any kind of development knows two hours of practice, truthfully isn’t a whole lot of practice time,” said Ward. “At the academy we focus on a lot of individual skills for the kids. We are kind of getting into a point now where there is a lot more small area games and working on some hockey IQ. We develop some different programs and periodize things so we are not overlapping with the minor hockey schedule.”
Being part of the hockey academy doesn’t except students for completing normal course work. Studies in math, science and language are still on the curriculum and players involved in the hockey academy are expected to keep their grade levels high, as more is expected of them in the classroom.
“We hold the kids to a pretty high standard,” said Shawn Coulter, a teacher at Barr Colony School and head coach of the Lloydminster Heat bantam hockey team. “We expect a lot of their education, just as LPSD does in every other school. We expect them to be preforming at school and to be good citizens, especially when they are going from school to the rink every day. It’s a great balance of school and being on the ice, but they know that their expectations at school kind of results in whether they get to compete that day or not.”
Coulter, who teaches a class of 22 students in the hockey academy, said the group he has has achieved higher or just as high in the classroom compared to any class he has had before. So far LPSD hasn’t had issues of students marks dropping drastically from the hockey academy, because as Coulter said, the students are aware of the expectations of them to perform in the classroom just as well as they do on the ice.
If anything, the discipline and competition on the ice has had a direct reflect into the classroom. For Coulter’s classroom, all involved in the hockey academy, it has brought the group all together, sparking friendly competition amongst each other, as well as respect while students are learning.
“They develop those bonds and joking styles and they have a good relationship with me,” said Coulter. “We are able to joke and laugh back and forth, but at serious times and when we are getting down to academic business and tests, they really get down to the grind and know what it is time to joke around and time to do work as well. It’s really great to create that learning environment. They have such talented abilities on the ice but in school it is the same way.”
For the players, the combination of school and hockey as been a perfect pairing. Grades have improved as well as skill level, and for some students, the balance between the two hasn’t been overly difficult, and being a part of the academy has paid off in the skill development.
“It doesn’t bother me, because I enjoy the sport and love it,” said academy member Ethan Bulitzudell. “I find the day goes quicker and it is more entertaining and you just can’t wait to get on the ice.”
Players are also seeing an improvement in their skills on the ice, which has helped their regular minor hockey clubs out.
“Going through three years of hockey academy, I definitely have seen some improvement,” said Kelsey, a Grade 7 student and member of the Lloydminster Bantam Ice Cats. “It’s a privilage to be in hockey academy. You got to keep your academics up and you got to just work hard (on the ice).”