Every time you fall, get right back up.
It's a motto when you skate on the ice for the first time.
It's a motto for life.
After weeks of learning the ins and outs of the game, the kids were now ready for the big day-to head onto the ice.
Pure joy, excitement and nervousness were written all over their faces.
I'm not going to sugar coat it for you. Kids were dropping like flies at the MasterCard Centre, practice home base for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As a volunteer I would smile, stretch my arms out and say, "Skate to me, if you fall, it won't hurt! You're fully protected in hockey gear!"
For brief moments, my words seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.
They were scared.
Regardless, each one of them took the leap and attempted to slide one skate in front of the other.
For weeks I had watched Slap Shot program manager Shawn Shepheard turn many shy, apprehensive kids into confident and quite talented floor hockey players.
It was inside the school gym every lunch hour that I witnessed children blossom in their athletic skills, but more so in the belief in themselves.
A seemingly defeated player would be greeted by words of encouragement from their teammates. Members of the opposite team would congratulate the goal scorer.
At every corner, great character was being built.
It's funny as adults we often fall into the habit of always playing it safe. We are less likely to try new things.
Adventure can easily take the back burner to fear and excuses.
This is the beauty of children. They can be fearless. Yes, they may be scared, but with a little encouragement, it's amazing to watch them persevere.
Try, fail, and try again.
It's a lesson embodied in this program, and one for certain I know participants will take with them in the years ahead.
Jessica Young – Guest Coach for Slap Shot
The Slap Shot Program Welcomes the Support of Hockey Canada!
Remember the excitement of the Winter Olympics in February, nothing seems to bring Canadians together more than the Olympic games.
There is always intense interest in the hockey portion of the games, with just cause as hockey is our national pastime.
I was fortunate enough to attend the Gold medal game when the Olympics where in Vancouver, and will never forget the energy, passion, excitement and national pride when witnessing history as Sidney Crosby scored the OT winner over the US.
It was a once in a lifetime moment.
Then in Sochi this year, who can ever forget the amazing comeback by the Women's team to win the Gold medal in overtime, and then three days later the country set their alarm clocks early to watch the men's team capture Gold as well.
And behind those great memories is the great team at Hockey Canada.
But Hockey Canada is not just about developing Gold medal teams, they are committed to supporting our game at all levels, including supporting children who have never played the game before.
Enter the Slap Shot program.
The Slap Shot program has introduced the game of hockey to over 1200 students in York Region, who would otherwise never get the opportunity to experience the joy of hockey firsthand, all while learning the Character attributes and the joy of teamwork.
Two months ago we got a call from Ryan at Hockey Canada. He had heard great things about the Slap Shot program (thanks to Kevin and the good folks at Ontario Minor Hockey Association) and wanted to see how they could support us.
And the support showed up in a few big ways during last weeks on ice sessions with two York Catholic District Schools.
First of all, Ryan and his collegues arrived in the Toronto Maple Leafs truck, filled with equipment to donate to the program.
Second, they jumped into the action in the dressing room tying skates and getting the kids ready to hit the ice, and finally they lead the drills to teach some of the basic skills to the kids.
Imagine getting taught by the same people who develop our Gold medal winning teams, now that's an opportunity of a lifetime.
The kids loved it, and so did the entire Character Community team and our volunteers.
Thanks so much to Hockey Canada for your amazing support, and we proud to have you join our team.
Character in Action
Sometimes we know the correct answers, or words, but maybe we don't always put them into action.
Knowing and doing are two very different things.
The character attributes are no different.
Compassion, initiative, perseverance, optimism, courage, respect and responsibility are demonstrated each and every time we do a Slap Shot ON ICE day.
At the end of an action packed ON ICE day with the Slap Shot program yesterday, I returned home and thought about how amazing the members of our community are at bringing these attributes to life.
Simply put the program could not happen without this amazing group of 15-20 volunteers at each of our sessions.
Here are just a few examples I saw yesterday as 57 Slap Shot players from Markham and Richmond Hill took to the ice for the first time.
I get a phone call the day before from Kevin from Ontario Minor Hockey Association, saying that he and his friends at OMHA will drop by our storage facility and help me load the 40 bags of equipment on the bus at 8am in the morning. And they do, and then several also come to the rink and help out.
Tom our bus driver, always goes beyond the call of duty and helps us load, unload the equipment, sort and tidy it up in the dressing rooms and anything else we need help with at the rink. Because he wants too.
The York Regional Police community service officers, who come out to meet the kids during a session at the school, play floor hockey with them and make the kids smile. Then they return for the ON ICE day, and the kids greet them as friends, because they are now.
To the amazing group of Character Council and Neighbourhood Network volunteers that take time away from their busy schedules and come out to help out in the dressing room and also on the ice.
We are so grateful.
The common thread is that they do all of this, because they want to.
The spirit and heart shown by everyone is beyond inspiring and reflects the true spirit of what it means to be a Character Community.
Thank you for all you do, we are proud to be part of this amazing team.
See you again in April.
Shawn Shepheard and Karen Addison
The Olympic Spirit is Alive and Well with the 2014 Slap Shot Program.
Shawn Shepheard our program manger has begun this year's sessions at Markham Gateway PS in Markham and at Richmond Rose PS in Richmond Hill.
He is midway through the floor hockey sessions and our first ON ICE day is coming up the first week of March.
He shared this refelection yesterday and it speaks to exactly why this is such a rewarding and inspiring program for us to share with over 250 students this year in York Region.
Funded through the Regional Municipality of York we are honoured to be able to share the "good ole Hockey game" with new Canadians and those who would not have the opportunity to learn the game we all love.
I had an interesting conversation with one of the new Peer Mentors of the current group of Slap Shot students in Markham.
The grade 7 student has returned to the program she loved, this time as a leader helping the new Slap Shot students.
I asked her on the second day if she still plays hockey, and she answered:
"I do, but my friends don't because they think hockey is for boys"
Then the Olympics started.
Two weeks later that same student leader ran into the gym and said:
"Mr. Shepheard did you watch Team Canada women's team play? They are so good and fast! And guess what? My friends also watched the game and now want to play hockey. It's not just for boys you know."
I could not wipe the smile off my face.
This is one of the many lessons that the children have learned from taking part in Slap Shot,seeing character being put into action and watching the Olympics.
It doesn't get better than this!