Oli first became interested in ice hockey in 2013 aged 9, after watching it on the Winter Olympics. He hadn't skated before so I booked him onto a learn to skate course at Ryde Arena. After 2 six week courses he had reached level 6 and was keen to try the Power Hour ice hockey sessions on a Monday evening. He went with his uncle on a couple of occasions as he used to play for the rec team, Vectis Warriors back in the 1990’s.
By August of 2013 Oli was asked to join the Junior Raiders for training sessions. Before starting ice hockey Oli had difficulty in expressing his emotions and would get a build up of frustration and anger. The training sessions helped him to release these emotions in a controlled way.
He played his first game for the under 12’s in October of 2013 in a home game where he was awarded Spirit of the Match, giving him a huge confidence boost. The training sessions kept him fit and the games both home and away gave him something to look forward to. By the end of the season his skating abilities had improved massively along with his hockey skills. He had even scored goals for his team. For his first year in the sport he was awarded ‘Most Improved Player’ at the end of season awards evening which he was not expecting.
Oli's confidence, behaviour, fitness and skill as a player continued to improve in his second season of playing for the under 13’s. He managed to score more goals, gain more awards during games and was awarded ‘Players Player’ at the end of season. He was starting to attend the disco sessions on a Friday evening, he would go on his own knowing that there would be someone from the team there to play bulldog with and chat to.
He started his third season by playing for both the under 13’s and 15’s. All the time improving. Then came the horrible news that the rink had been closed.
In the 5 months since the closure Oli’s fitness has deteriorated because he cannot train. This has led to his confidence decreasing. There has also been a build up of his emotions which has caused trouble at home with his siblings. Oli has noticed the difference in his own fitness levels now worrying about his body image as he is about to enter his teenage years.
For the first couple of uncertain months there was no training at all. Now the team only have off ice training which he does not find as exhilarating as playing on the ice. He has made some great friends within the team and the Junior club who he wouldn't have made as they come from across the island. The uncertainty of the future of the Junior club weighs on his mind as he doesn't know what he will do to fill the void it will leave if he doesn't play. He doesn't have the option to go further afield to carry on playing because of the added expense and time of travelling.
The closure of the rink has not only affected the players but their families as well. Oli’s older brother was helping with off ice duties during home games by operating the clock and had started to learn how to use the sound system. His grandparents would come to watch him play. Even his frail 85year old great-grandmother would come to watch his home games (her only trip out of the house).
The 2016/17 season had started so well for the Junior Raiders of all age groups. There is huge potential in all the players and now their opportunities have been cruelly taken away. Not all of them would have been destined for a career as a professional player but the values the coaches were showing them, being part of a team, the friendships that were being made, the fitness and wellbeing of the children is what was most important about having a rink on the island. I hope that skating and ice hockey can be re-instated on the island before our children and future generations lose it forever.