For the past three days, Avi has been attending a special hockey clinic at Ice Castle Arena (Go ahead, click on that link. I dare you.) with Pittsburgh Penguins Skating Consultant Marianne Watkins and Robert Morris University Men’s Varsity Coach Derek Schooley.
I have nothing but amazing things to say about the coaches and assistants, including several of Coach Schooley’s players, who worked with the kids. We saw tangible improvement each and every day – sometimes even mid-session. The facility is great and not at all as far away as I’d feared. I am so SO glad we decided to let Avi do the clinic, even though it was completely on a whim. He was definitely one of the youngest kids out there, and quite likely the least experienced. Without the encouragement and attention from the coaches, he would not have had the awesome successes we saw.
But I was particularly blown away by the leadership and heart of a young girl in Avi’s group who had absolutely dominated most of the previous drills. As I learned later, she is eight years old and started figure skating at age four, giving her a significant advantage over most of the other kids in that department. Towards the end of the second session today, Avi was tired and struggling. He had been frustrated with a jumping drill, and his feet were hurting him (more on that in a bit). Through the incredible patience, encouragement and guidance of the adults on the ice, he had powered through a couple rough spots to get to the games at the end. One of those adults, a friend who had been looking out for him throughout the clinic, asked the girl to help Avi during the final activities.
It’s not often that you see a kid that young rise up to the occasion like we witnessed. Not only did she “help” Avi, she completely took him under her wing, literally protecting him from the obstacles being lobbed at them as they skated from one end of the ice to the other in the first activity. She actually took a “hit” for him, letting him get safely to the base, and then continued to protect him as the games continued. More than once he lagged behind and she waited with him, her arm on his. When the games switched, she stayed by his side. It was awesome. I really don’t have any other word to describe it. So. Awesome. Sportsmanship, conduct and playing ability? Get that girl a trophy.
Avi came off the ice, beaming, his new friend by his side. I managed to talk to her and thank her before she found her dad, and then I thanked him while she was in the locker room because I didn’t want to embarrass her. Sure, one of the coaches asked her to help out, but she could have easily done it with a fraction of the heart she displayed today. I wanted her – and her father – to know how much we appreciated it.
Oh! And the feet hurting? Yeah…turns out there was a really good reason for that. After the clinic ended, we took Avi to get new skates and learned the ones he’s had for the past year and a half are now TWO SIZES TOO SMALL. He only very recently (like, last week) has been complaining about them, so we honestly had no clue they were that bad. Silly boy. That jumping drill will probably be cake next time.