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Sacred Heart’s Hockey Skills program increases engagement in students

Academy members are on the ice twice a week
Mark Moriarty
Sacred Heart Hockey Academy instructor Mark Moriarty.

WEYBURN - Students taking part in the Hockey Canada Skills Academy at Sacred Heart School/École Sacré Coeur are “so excited” to go to school now, trustees for the Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division heard at their board meeting last Wednesday.

Sacred Heart principal and program operator Amber Hilstrom provided an update on the program via Zoom, giving a rundown on how many students are involved and how it has been going so far.

“It’s been up and running since the second week of September, and we’re seeing a lot of successes so far,” said Hilstrom.

The pilot program, which is also being offered at St. Michael School in Weyburn, has two cohorts of students, a group of 24 students in Grades 5-6, and 14 students in Grades 7-8, both English and French students.

The Grades 5-6 students have two 75-minutes on-ice sessions in a six-day cycle, with a 15-minute dryland training session. The older students have two 96-minute sessions per six-day cycle.

The program at St. Michael is slightly different, as this year it is only offered to a cohort in Grade 6 with 24 students, and they are on the ice for two afternoons in a six-day cycle, with two hours of ice-time and one hour of dryland training.

The common denominator for the program is it is curriculum-based and tuition-based, as there are extra costs, and equality is important, as the program is not just for boys or just for hockey players. All skill levels from beginners to elite players are included.

The hockey instructor in Estevan is Mark Moriarty, certified through Hockey Canada, and Hilstrom is the program operator who looks after the logistics and arrangements, with Megan Vanstone providing the social media posts on the program.

One of the successes of this program is student engagement is really high, said Hilstrom. “They are so excited to come to school because of this program.”

She noted Moriarty has been really good in building their skills, and the student engagement has grown a lot as a result. Also, she noted some behaviour issues have been reduced in the students involved in this program.

Community partnership is also really good, with connections being made with the Estevan Bruins and their head coach and general manager, Jason Tatarnic, the Estevan Eclipse Downhole Solutions U18 AAA Bears and their coach, Jeff Smith, as well as the City of Estevan, Joel Moriarty, Dunrite Glass and DMS.

Hilstrom said one need that has come up is for more on-ice staffing when the students are at the rink.

For next year, she is hoping to provide an opportunity in April for students to bring a friend to try out the program and see if they might be interested. They are also looking for more sponsorships to help reduce the costs, as some families found they were not able to afford the expense.