The beginning of a new school year means the start of street hockey season at nearly 60 local area schools, thanks to the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Street Hockey program.
And to help kick off that effort, the Anaheim Ducks hosted their annual S.C.O.R.E. Program Teachers Seminar last weekend, where more than 80 local elementary and middle school physical education teachers and coaches gathered at Honda Center for hands-on instruction and support.
As a part of the award-winning Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation & Education) Program, the street hockey curriculum provides participating schools with a physical education module, street hockey equipment and teacher training, all at no cost, so schools can bring the sport of hockey to their students.
Now in its 13th season, the S.C.O.R.E. Street Hockey program added 11 new partner schools last year, and with their newly expanded curriculum for first through sixth graders, provided 14,000 elementary students the chance to try a new sport.
Kurt Koerth, a physical education teacher from Beechwood School in Fullerton, is in his second year with the S.C.O.R.E. Program and has seen a tangible change on campus since introducing street hockey to his students.
"What the S.C.O.R.E. program has done is it has brought our community together-students, parents, teachers," Koerth said. "We've seen that hockey is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, male or female-and regardless of your athleticism-hockey is easily accessible and everyone tends to love it. So it's brought everyone together under that umbrella, which has created a great environment at the school."
The teachers and coaches in attendance were introduced to hockey's Declaration of Principles, a joint statement recently released by the NHL and NHLPA to further support, direct and advance the game of hockey in a positive way across the hockey community.
The eight shared beliefs included in the statement served as a launching point for the seminar and a reminder that the Anaheim Ducks are committed to supporting the S.C.O.R.E. partner schools in providing the best possible hockey experience for the schools' students and their families.
"Sitting in there and listening to all the fundamentals they were talking about, the ideas behind hockey, just reminded me that this is why we are doing it. We're doing it for the kids," said Kristin Jones, fourth grade teacher and street hockey coach since 2009 at Mattie Lou Maxwell Elementary in Anaheim. "A lot of the students that love hockey are not always the ones that you see with the top (academic) scores. So we're creating a love for something that they may not get in school, because school might not be what they excel at."
After receiving some feedback from the partner schools, it was determined that teachers and coaches desired more instruction on the goaltender position. So in response to that feedback, the instructional focus of this year's seminar put the spotlight on skills and best practices for coaching youth goalies. The Ducks also shared that as part of their support this season, they've partnered with Bauer Hockey to provide new goalie sticks for participating schools.
Some of the basics such as equipment, warm-up drills and the mindset for a goalie were reviewed. Then after catching a few minutes of the Ducks morning skate ahead of their matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers, the teachers headed outside to the Honda Center parking lot where they had the chance to put on goalie gear and run through several drills they can then take back to campus and implement with their students.
Jones admitted that with Maxwell Elementary's street hockey sessions limited to recess and lunch, time for working with goalies is often constrained.
"It opened our eyes to the fact that we need to slow it down, spend a couple of days actually teaching goalie skills, and really work on some of those skills for those kids, while at the same time, encouraging them," Jones said.
Each S.C.O.R.E. street hockey season culminates in the spring when several of the partner schools participate in the annual S.C.O.R.E. Street Hockey Shootout, a tournament where the schools' fourth graders put their street hockey skills to the test as they compete for the S.C.O.R.E. Cup.
Both Beechwood School and Maxwell Elementary have participated in the tournament, and as a newer participant, Koerth shared how exciting and memorable the S.C.O.R.E. Shootout was for his students.
"It really was a once in a lifetime experience for these kids," Koerth said. "Many of our students are not going to play elite sports, so for them to be in that kind of not only competitive environment, but also a supportive and enthusiastic environment that the Ducks made for them, is really a wonderful experience, for both them and their parents."
Jones and Koerth agreed that the education initiatives, incentives and support provided by the S.C.O.R.E. Program and staff have changed the culture at their schools for the better.
"I can't say enough about the whole (Anaheim Ducks) Fan Development team and the S.C.O.R.E. Program," Jones said. "They are the most wonderful, supportive, enthusiastic group of people I've ever worked with. They will do anything for us to help keep this program going and to keep the kids interested. We couldn't do it at my school without this group of people and their support."
"The S.C.O.R.E. personnel has made it so easy to bring hockey to our school, and they make my job easy when it comes to implementing it," Koerth said. "In this day and age to have a professional sports organization set such a positive example for children is invaluable."
For more information on the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Program, visit ducksscore.com.