INNISFAIL – Tomorrow’s future hockey stars are learning the grand old Canadian sport today.
The Innisfail Eaglets have hit the ice for another season.
“We practise every Friday at 5 p.m. Our regular schedule throughout the year starts right after Remembrance Day and goes until the second week in March,” said Bernie Vanderham, head coach.
About 21 Eaglets have joined the ranks this season, both boys and girls, noted Vanderham, adding all players are four years of age.
“We got five or six girls and we had seven last year, so there’s lots of girls in the program.
“Everybody is starting to get it going now. At the start we’re mostly upside down rather than right side up and it’s our job as coaches to get them right side up,” he said, adding they have made progress with skating forward but need some work on stopping.
Volunteer coaches and parents, including Vanderham’s son Logan, play a big role in the Innisfail Eaglets, he added.
On the ice, Eaglets participate in fun sessions that teach skills, including skating, puck handling and balance, noted Vanderham.
“We try to keep it upbeat and positive,” said Vanderham. “The kids have to get up and try again. The more we fall down, the more you get up and the better person you are. We try to keep some life skills with (the Eaglets) and with the life skills (they) learn hard work, dedication, don’t quit and learn to skate and play hockey at the same time,” he added.
Vanderham has been coaching Eaglets for more than a decade and it's something he always enjoys.
“It’s something my son and I can do together and share our love for the game,” said Vanderham. “If we can get them loving the game at four, they can play it for a lifetime.
“This is where it starts. Get out there, get a smile on your face and away you go.”
For more than 10 years, Vanderham has been joined by his 29-year-old son Logan, a physical education teacher and an assistant coach with the Eaglets.
“We get to do this together and share our love of hockey with the kids in the community and the families and that’s really great,” said Logan Vanderham, noting the most rewarding aspect of the program.
“Just seeing the families so delighted to see their child or their grandchild having fun and excelling. The kids want to do their best for their parents and grandparents and they work really hard,” said Vanderham. “These kids improve so much. It’s really awesome to see.”
For more on the Eaglets program go to www.innisfailminorhockey.com