Playing hockey, earning credits

Katie Brickman
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Riverview holds annual skills academy program

The next hockey star could be from Riverview Collegiate.

Jeff Kitts, centre, a teacher at Riverview Collegiate and organizer of the third annual Hockey Canada Skills Academy day celebrates with his team after a game at the Bert Hunt arena on Wednesday afternoon. Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman

The school held their third annual Hockey Canada Skills Academy at the Bert Hunt Arena on Wednesday afternoon with players from different grades showing off what they learned in the last five months.

“It is a celebration of the success throughout the semester with the hockey class. For us, it is a celebration of the program, as it is in the third year now,” said Jeff Kitts, teacher at Riverview and an organizer of the program. “The kids put in a lot of time and a lot of organization goes into it, so we just want to give everyone a pat on the back.”

The program begins in September and goes until the end of January, when the first semester ends. The students can sign up for this class and get a credit for it.

“We run in semester one, as the ice is more available then. We do dry-land training in September and October,” said Kitts. “Then we get on the ice three days a week starting at the beginning of October until the end of January.”

When Kitts and other organizers decided to bring the program in three years ago, they wanted to bring something exclusive to the city of Moose Jaw.

“We wanted to try something different. This was unique, as there were only four programs in the province. We made the fourth in the province,” explained Kitts. “There was nothing of this kind in the city and the rink was sitting vacant all day. We wanted to try something different and it became a big success.”

Since the program began, Riverview has seen it grow to include students from elementary schools on South Hill.

“It has really grown. This year, we have expanded to Grades 4, 5 and 6 in South Hill public schools, said Kitts. “So, now we are up to 53 students. In Grades 4-6, we had 26 kids. In Grades 7-8, we had 12 (kids) and then in the high school, we have 15 (kids).”

Kate Scidmore has been playing hockey for many years, but the experience of the skills academy program helped her excel into a role with the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats.

“It has improved my game immensely. Two years I have been in it, Grade 7 and 8 and now I am in Swift Current. I can honestly say that it has helped me get there,” said Scidmore. “It is a great experience. Coming to school and playing hockey during your classes is amazing. I love it so much.”

Typically the students are on the ice for three days a week for a combined 60 hours. The skill level is various — from those that play minor hockey to those that are beginners. However, they all develop throughout the semester, which Kitts feels is the most important.

“For the hockey kids that are registered in minor hockey, we see a lot of development, as they have more time with their stick skills, but the kids that have never played hockey, they grow immensely through the semester,” said Kitts. “With the younger kids, we have five of them that have never played and now want to register for hockey next year. That is success right there.”

For Brandon Harris, this program is his hockey team, as he does not play organized hockey. He started in Grade 9 and has continued now into Grade 11.

“This is really fun. I get to be with my friends and learn to play hockey,” he said. “I think I have progressed a lot. I couldn’t really do crossovers and now I am pretty good at them and shooting got a lot better and my overall skating.”

It may look like an easy credit, but camaraderie is established. The most important thing is that they all have fun.

“They love it. For them, they get away from the school environment and into something unique,” said Kitts. “The parents have really adopted the program and are here watching all the time. For all the kids, it becomes their team, even though it is a class that they get a credit for.”

Follow me on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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