“Being active in a team sport gives you the opportunity to teach kids life lessons,” says Nigel Shackles, president of Seafair Minor Hockey Association.
Seafair offers ice hockey programs for kids from four to 20 years old and has seen several players drafted into various professional leagues.
“The important thing to remember,” Nigel says, “is that not every boy is destined to be an NHL player, but every minor hockey player should have fun doing what they enjoy doing.”
Founded in the 1960s as a private skating and curling club, Seafair became a community-based minor hockey association in 1991 and provides programming for both boys and girls.
“Our younger players are a mixture of boys and girls,” Nigel notes, “but as they get older and get more into the body-checking aspect of the game, the girls tend to gravitate to the Richmond Ravens, an all-female ice hockey association.”
Nigel lists off the usual benefits associated with kids playing sports, namely the health benefits, teamwork, and social skills, but for Seafair, it goes further than that.
“Kids are like sponges when it comes to soaking up adult behaviour,” he explains. “Today, parental involvement has become massive and with that comes a certain amount of conflict. I’ve seen some really good coaches behind the bench who send the right message to kids on how to handle any adversity or conflict. It’s a great skill to pass on to a young person.”
Nigel points out that it’s not just the kids that benefit.
“Richmond has an unusual demographic when it comes to recruiting kids into programs. We tend to lose families who move out of the area for one reason or another, but we also get to welcome new Canadians, some of whom have never picked up a hockey stick before. We find that the parents of these kids benefit from socializing with other parents. It brings down barriers and helps with any language issues.”
Nigel and his coaches are often asked by parents what they can do to make their youngster a better hockey player.
“Please let them play other sports,” he says. “If you want your kid to be a top hockey player, let them go and play soccer or baseball as well. Let them follow their curiosity and see where their abilities are.’