CONTRIBUTED BY RONALD VISH
Cold, windy and unpleasant conditions cannot keep volunteers from packing the Larz Anderson skating rink with eager young hockey players.
Brookline Youth Hockey’s Ice Mice program brings in as many as 60 high school students as volunteers to mentor the children, ages five to eight, as they first step on the ice. The program provides varsity hockey players with a fun opportunity to give back to the community and learn useful leadership skills.
High schoolers volunteer in two of Brookline Youth Hockey’s programs, Ice Mice and House League. The Ice Mice program is for the beginner hockey players learning to skate and hold a stick. The House League is for slightly more experienced players, learning techniques like shooting and stickhandling.
High school volunteers can spend up to 2.5 hours on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons working with the younger children.
Senior hockey player Ella Whelan enjoys being around the children as they skate.
“Some are really energetic when they’re on the ice, and they’ll come up to you and skate around you. Or they’ll try to trip you and bump into you, and it’s all really fun,” Whelan said.
Another senior hockey player, Josie Luby, who was in the program when she was younger, gets a sense of fulfillment from working with the kids.
“I’ll have parents come up to me and say, ‘Thank you, my kid loves to be there and they love to have you as a coach,’” Luby said. “It’s really uplifting, and it’s nice to know that they appreciate it.”
The high schoolers aren’t the only ones doing the teaching. The younger children help the high school players slow the game down and understand techniques in new ways.
“They don’t always understand how I teach the skill in the first place, so I have to come up with different ways to teach it,” Luby said. “And when I think of that different way to teach it, I realize that maybe there’s a different way I could be doing each of the skills, and sometimes that helps me as a player.”
Richie Sheridan, the head of Brookline Youth Hockey’s 10 and under programs, believes that the experience of teaching kids to skate can help high school volunteers improve in areas other than hockey.
Brookline Youth Hockey also partners with the Boston Bruins to offer a subsidy for a “practice learn to play program.” High school volunteers are particularly active in this event. For alum Ardani Mello-Daigneault, class ’19, that program was an opportunity for him to take on administrative roles in the program.
“He was the person who arranged for the other high schoolers to show up and [he] assigned them stations,” Sheridan said. “So in that sense, he was really just an assistant program director for the last two years when he was in high school here.”
The volunteers in the program help the young hockey players see what their future in hockey looks like. The volunteers are given a chance to give back to a program in which some of them played hockey for the first time.
“Being a part of that community is how they give back,” Sheridan said. “It’s fun for us to talk to parents saying, ‘You see that kid over there, six or seven years ago, they were in this program as well.’”