On Ice / Learn to Play Hockey training sessions available for kids

Parents looking to give their children a chance to learn how to play hockey for a relatively inexpensive price of just $5 a session can look no further than the Hamilton Community Center and Ice Arena.

Columbus hockey coach Eric Howe and a collection of about 15 other coaches throughout the year head the Learn to Play Hockey sessions that take place at the Hamilton Center. The current summer session has been going on Saturdays since July 21 and will continue from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. Saturdays through Aug. 25.

The targeted ages are from 4 to 10. That age range can fluctuate some, especially for girls. The program is pushing for more girls to try hockey, so it will take girls at any age, Howe said.

South Decatur first-grader Madison Vann’s first time on an ice rink was Saturday’s Learn to Play session, and she said playing hockey is something that she thinks she is going to continue. Her favorite part was the skating.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Howe’s third-grade son Gabe has been playing soccer for four years and he also has enjoyed his time on the ice during the Learn to Play sessions. His favorite part about playing hockey is being on offense.

“You get to skate more, and you get to shoot,” he said. “We get to play a lot, and it’s fun.”

Parents don’t have to worry about spending money on expensive equipment, either. Hamilton Community Center and Ice Arena manager Carleen Fry said hockey is perceived by many to be an expensive sport, and the Learn to Play Hockey program helps kids try a new sport without parents having to break the bank.

“They don’t have to invest a whole lot of time and money in it just to try it,” Fry said. “If they want to try hockey, and they got the equipment for free, it’s not a big expense for them. If they decide they really don’t like hockey, they can return it, but it’s not a big expense or time commitment.”

The first thing that Howe and the other coaches try to do is to teach the kids how to fall. Howe said one of the hardest things to do is to get new players into the habit of falling forward on their knees instead of backwards. The next milestone is teaching them how to take a few steps, fall down and dive. They call it the superman dive.

“It’s a lot of falling and getting up the first day,” Howe said. “We jokingly tell the kids it’s a lot like ‘Toy Story’. You’re going to learn how to fall with style if you’re Buzz Lightyear.”

After learning some of the basic fundamentals of hockey, aspiring athletes have the option to join the Hamilton Center house league if they’d like. The most recent house league season begins on the last week of October and runs through December. The second season starts in January and ends in February.

However, the Learn to Play Hockey sessions are not a competitive atmosphere. The main focus is to give as many kids a chance to try out the sport with no emphasis on winning, just fundamentals.

“It gets them out on the ice, lets them try to learn to skate (and) learn to play, “Howe said. “(It) gives kids a great opportunity to try it, have equipment on, not get hurt and have a really enjoyable time. It’s cheap, and the kids have a blast, so it works really well.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: Learn to Play Hockey 

When: 4:15-5:15 p.m. Saturdays through Aug. 25

Where: Hamilton Community Center and Ice Arena

Cost: $5 (equipment is free)