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Mythbuster: Too Late to Try Hockey?

By Derek Ricke, Minnesota Hockey, 08/25/15, 9:00AM CDT

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One of the most exciting and challenging tasks a person can face is trying a new sport, especially at a later age.

I can still remember the first time I tried tennis. I was 17 or 18 at the time and was visiting a friend who happened to play tennis throughout high school. When I asked him if he wanted to play, he gave me a wide smirk that said two things: 1.) Are you kidding me? 2.) This is going to be ugly!

It was a good thing that my main motivation was to get some good exercise that day because he was right about it being ugly. If we were playing on an outdoor court, I probably would have launched half a dozen tennis balls over the fence with how high and inaccurate my return shots were at first. I improved though, and we were able to have some decent volleys (even if it required him taking it a little easy on me) towards the end.

Today, I’m far from Roger Federer. In fact, I would be willing to bet there is 5th or 6th graders out there that could outplay me with ease, but that doesn’t stop me. I really enjoy playing, and every time I step on the court I have an opportunity to get great exercise while facing a new challenge.

There seems to be a self-imposed barrier in our culture that you have start at an early age in order to play a sport. Part of that may come from this deep rooted norm where we think we have to be good at something to enjoy it.

Neither of those is true.

Take hockey for instance. While it’s true many players start playing hockey at the ages of 4-9, youth hockey associations, combined with the Minnesota Hockey Recreation League, can provide an environment for older kids to get started playing as well.

Perhaps even more impressive, there are now a number of beginner schools that are designed to offer adults who have never played before with the opportunity to try hockey.  The Adult Hockey Association (AHA) provides a Co-Ed Beginner School and a Women’s Beginner School each spring and fall. In addition, the Women’s Hockey Association of Minnesota offers try hockey events and a series of Hockey 101 sessions specifically for women.

AHA’s Fall Beginner School has become so popular over the past three years that they are now considering adding a second session at the same time in order to keep up with demand.

“We take them from very beginners to being fairly competitive hockey players in just 20 weeks,” said lead instructor Dan Herrick. “It may be not be a real high skill level, but it looks like a hockey game. They really enjoy that progression, and we get a lot of referrals because of it.”

The program offers new hockey players ranging from early 20’s to people in their 60’s the opportunity to start playing in an environment where everyone is starting at the same stage. Over the course of the first 10 weeks, they are exposed to a variety of skating skills such as the basic stride, inside and outside edges, crossovers and backwards skating, as well as passing, shooting and stick handling.

After learning basic hockey skills, classroom sessions are added to begin teaching players hockey concepts. Then, the final 10 weeks are spent playing games.

“What I tell each of these groups at the beginning is that our goal is to have them learn enough of the basic hockey skills that they can have a blast playing this great game,” said Herrick.

While watching each player develop over the course of beginner school will always be a highlight, Herrick takes particular enjoyment in hearing the background stories that led to each player deciding to sign up.

There have been players who were always interested in hockey but never had organized hockey in their community growing up. Other adults have chosen to get involved because their kids play, and they want to be able to share in that experience. He’s also seen parents who have been asked to help coach choose the beginner school so that they can in turn provide better instruction to their own players.  There has even been a player who literally moved from Detroit to Minneapolis with the primary intent of participating in their program and learning how to play hockey.

With people of so many ages and backgrounds choosing to start hockey, the question becomes…. When are you going to try hockey?

For more details on adult beginner schools through AHA, click here. For information on a try hockey event specifically for women, click here

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One of the most exciting and challenging tasks a person can face is trying a new sport, especially at a later age.

I can still remember the first time I tried tennis. I was 17 or 18 at the time and was visiting a friend who happened to play tennis throughout high school. When I asked him if he wanted to play, he gave me a wide smirk that said two things: 1.) Are you kidding me? 2.) This is going to be ugly!

It was a good thing that my main motivation was to get some good exercise that day because he was right about it being ugly. If we were playing on an outdoor court, I probably would have launched half a dozen tennis balls over the fence with how high and inaccurate my return shots were at first. I improved though, and we were able to have some decent volleys (even if it required him taking it a little easy on me) towards the end.

Today, I’m far from Roger Federer. In fact, I would be willing to bet there is 5th or 6th graders out there that could outplay me with ease, but that doesn’t stop me. I really enjoy playing, and every time I step on the court I have an opportunity to get great exercise while facing a new challenge.

There seems to be a self-imposed barrier in our culture that you have start at an early age in order to play a sport. Part of that may come from this deep rooted norm where we think we have to be good at something to enjoy it.

Neither of those is true.

Take hockey for instance. While it’s true many players start playing hockey at the ages of 4-9, youth hockey associations, combined with the Minnesota Hockey Recreation League, can provide an environment for older kids to get started playing as well.

Perhaps even more impressive, there are now a number of beginner schools that are designed to offer adults who have never played before with the opportunity to try hockey.  The Adult Hockey Association (AHA) provides a Co-Ed Beginner School and a Women’s Beginner School each spring and fall. In addition, the Women’s Hockey Association of Minnesota offers try hockey events and a series of Hockey 101 sessions specifically for women.

AHA’s Fall Beginner School has become so popular over the past three years that they are now considering adding a second session at the same time in order to keep up with demand.

“We take them from very beginners to being fairly competitive hockey players in just 20 weeks,” said lead instructor Dan Herrick. “It may be not be a real high skill level, but it looks like a hockey game. They really enjoy that progression, and we get a lot of referrals because of it.”

The program offers new hockey players ranging from early 20’s to people in their 60’s the opportunity to start playing in an environment where everyone is starting at the same stage. Over the course of the first 10 weeks, they are exposed to a variety of skating skills such as the basic stride, inside and outside edges, crossovers and backwards skating, as well as passing, shooting and stick handling.

After learning basic hockey skills, classroom sessions are added to begin teaching players hockey concepts. Then, the final 10 weeks are spent playing games.

“What I tell each of these groups at the beginning is that our goal is to have them learn enough of the basic hockey skills that they can have a blast playing this great game,” said Herrick.

While watching each player develop over the course of beginner school will always be a highlight, Herrick takes particular enjoyment in hearing the background stories that led to each player deciding to sign up.

There have been players who were always interested in hockey but never had organized hockey in their community growing up. Other adults have chosen to get involved because their kids play, and they want to be able to share in that experience. He’s also seen parents who have been asked to help coach choose the beginner school so that they can in turn provide better instruction to their own players.  There has even been a player who literally moved from Detroit to Minneapolis with the primary intent of participating in their program and learning how to play hockey.

With people of so many ages and backgrounds choosing to start hockey, the question becomes…. When are you going to try hockey?

For more details on adult beginner schools through AHA, click here. For information on a try hockey event specifically for women, click here

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