Power Play Challenge GOAL event

Ben Gordesky has seen up close just how excited his students get when it’s time to play hockey.

The physical education teacher at Beechwood Elementary School in Whitehall helped bring the Power Play Challenge presented by OhioHealth and Greif – the Blue Jackets-themed hockey wellness curriculum for second- through fifth-graders – to his district a year ago.

When it became time to bring it back this year, Gordesky saw a group of youngsters who were ready and raring to go.

“I think it’s something that’s really different that a lot of them haven’t done before, and honestly, it’s one of our favorite units to do,” Gordesky said. “It’s something they really look forward to. This is my second year here – we did it last year and we did it this year, and I could see the reaction when I said we were moving on to floor hockey. Everyone was like, ‘Let’s go!’ It’s definitely something they’ve embraced.”

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Columbus is certainly a hockey town, and the Power Play Challenge is one way to help local youngsters feel a part of the game. To date, the Blue Jackets have partnered with 18 Central Ohio school districts with the Power Play Challenge, impacting 182 elementary schools and over 57,000 students.

But what happens once those students aren't in school? The Blue Jackets are committed to removing barriers and keeping youngsters in the game, and with that in mind, Saturday the organization brought its Get Out And Learn (GOAL) clinic to Whitehall.

The Blue Jackets Foundation funded the build of a street hockey rink at John Bishop Park in the eastern suburb that opened last spring, making it the perfect site for kids to stay in the game. Presented by Safelite in association with Apex Pros, GOAL is another free program for kids aged 5 through 9 to try hockey, with participants taking part in a 30-minute clinic and receiving a hockey stick to take home.

Gordesky was present for the GOAL event Saturday and said it dovetails well with what he tries to teach his students about the sport.

“We talk about even if we didn’t have a rink, it’s something you can do as a backyard sport or a driveway sport,” Gordesky said. “Just having a stick, having a ball, having all that available – you need a hoop for basketball, but you don’t really need a hoop for this. It really is something where with basketball, you can dribble in your driveway if you don’t have a hoop. With hockey, you can set up your own things and play your own hockey game as long as you have a stick.”

From the Blue Jackets’ perspective, bringing together two of its flagship programs designed to bring kids into the game at a local rink it helped build is a win-win scenario.

“We are thrilled to team up with Whitehall City Schools and the City of Whitehall Parks and Recreation to break down any obstacles that could stand in the way of kids playing hockey,” said Andee Cochren, executive director of the Blue Jackets Foundation and senior director of community development. “Our goal is to make sure every child has the chance to learn and experience the excitement of the game we love.

“Hockey is more than just a sport – it's a platform for kids to bond, have a blast and build valuable life skills like teamwork and dedication.”

The Blue Jackets Power Play Challenge is a free, hockey-themed wellness curriculum to assist physical education teachers in the fight against childhood obesity. The goal of the Power Play Challenge is to make a healthy lifestyle both enjoyable and easy for kids to maintain. It is also designed to meet Ohio state standards for physical education curriculum for grades 2-5.

Students are given five fitness-related challenges to complete individually, and each class receives an introduction to street hockey. Each student who completes all five challenges over the course of the school year also receives a special ticket offer to a Blue Jackets game.

A basketball coach in his spare time, Gordesky first came across the program while student teaching in Worthington. A basketball coach by trade, he’s nonetheless become a big fan of the Power Play Challenge and has helped install it with success in Whitehall.

“I thought it was so cool,” Gordesky said. “I had to bring it to Whitehall when I got here last year. We talked about it and decided it was definitely something we wanted to do. I knew it was such a cool program from seeing it in action, and it’s continued to be just such a great thing.”

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