Sunday, January 9, 2011

Canadian program gets disabled kids onto the hockey ice

From CHBC News:

Like every hockey team, the Vernon Scorehawks love to hit the ice.

Players laced up and geared up for a hard-hitting practice on Saturday afternoon at the Priest Valley Arena in Vernon.

But the Scorehawks aren’t your average hockey team.

Many players on the team, which was created three years ago, have developmental disabilities like Down syndrome, autism or Asbergers.

Sterling Bryant, 16, suffers from Down syndrome.

He has played hockey for 10 years and loves to play defense.

“It’s awesome, I play hard,” Bryant said.

His fellow teammate, James Bridger, 7, suffers from severe eye problems.

Bridger says his favourite part of playing hockey is chasing the puck.

Meanwhile, Carson Macguire, who also suffers from Down syndrome, says he likes being a Scorehawk because it is simply cool.

Their coach, Craig Demetrick says there are different types of challenges to coaching players with developmental disabilities.

“It just sometimes takes them a little longer to figure things out, gain the strength, the ability to do what the kids on other teams do,” Demetrick said. “I think it’s a lot of confidence and that kind of thing, but they pick it up.”

However, he adds the payoffs are phenomenal, with many kids gaining confidence, a better sense of identity and more self-assurance.

“I think what’s really happening is they’re interacting with like kids and feeling comfortable in their own bodies. It’s like any kid, it’s like any person, the feeling of belonging,” Demetrick said.

Family members also report positive changes such as better skating abilities and development as a team player.

There are currently 17 players on the team, with ages ranging from 5 years old to 16 years old.