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What I have witnessed as a true Islander — before and after Ryde Arena

Me and two of my sonsnull

I was born right on the verge of Oakfield. in the 60s. As a young boy Oakfield was patrolled by stray and roaming biting dogs alongside the many streetwise children often carrying their pen knifes— a street scene not unlike the film Oliver Twist. I was privileged that I lived in a nice home just around the corner but but living very close and schooling with these less fortunate children had an effect on me, the odd fight happened in the street and at school and it make me very streetwise.

I ended up going to Ryde High School in the early 70s. I personally didn’t learn a lot and hated every minute of my time there: almost daily the fire alarm was smashed and regardless of the weather out on the playing field we went. Fighting was a big problem at Ryde High School and not only did you have to be streetwise but more important school wise. I left school during the hot summer of 76 and it could not come quick enough, I enrolled on a full time college course and full time then meant Monday to Friday, not like the 8-11 hr full time courses of today. My hobbies became girls and the pub and of course a car .Oakfield had a bit of a clean up in 74 but the problems remain, Ryde had characters , some good ,some notorious, the arcade was a local place to hang out and there were 3 discos where all the youngsters would go, but drink and egos don’t mix and fighting was a regular occurrence.

Moving on many years a venue was built on reclaimed land adjacent to the Hovercraft terminal , The council built an ice rink and reading the local paper it was becoming very popular with something called Ice Hockey, I had seen Ice Hockey on television but bringing up three young children and working all hours did not allow me to walk through the red shiny doors as I was far to busy. However one of my friends kept urging me to take my eldest son to play junior hockey, my son was learning to skate though his after school club at Oakfield primary, and my friend’s son was also doing really well at this very different sport and there my story really begins.

Justin Atrill

After encouraging and supporting my eldest son my other son wanted in of this action, and joined the junior club. Then things really changed for me, I was asked if I would like to pursue a coaching course, well I could not say no could I? I enrolled and 16 years later I am now the Head Coach for the Isle of Wight junior ice hockey club. During that time youngest son also enrolled and my daughter as well, who twice represented our country playing for the ladies hockey team.

I would describe the children I have coached as all very different and from all different backgrounds, some are confident, some with an attitude, and some very shy, but being part of this very special sport the reward is the same— they all become good friends. It’s not just Ice Hockey, Ryde Arena offers something very special, something that my many old school mates needed whilst I was growing up: a safe environment which enables them at the same time to release that often pent up anger which affects so many children, especially during adolescence.

Justin front and centre in Ryde Arena

My experience has taught me that children are extremely intelligent— yes they lack experience and life skills, but giving them the chance to express themselves improves their self esteem and they can do amazing things and turn themselves around. I feel that if we do not regain Ryde Arena, we will not only loose a much needed public venue, we will loose a venue where children can pursue their dreams, a venue where parents know the whereabouts of their children during the evenings, a venue where drugs and alcohol do not take preference and also a venue where parents and children feel equal.Thinking back to my childhood years and all I went through I wish I had known what it was like to grow up with Ryde arena as part of my own childhood.

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