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Steelheads School Visits a chance to "give back to the kids"

Friday, March 18th
Steelheads School Visits a chance to "give back to the kids"

At every Steelheads game at CenturyLink Arena, there are hundreds of children in the stands, many of which would love the opportunity to play alongside their favorite hockey players. Fortunately for them, hundreds of children do get that opportunity every year when the Steelheads visit public schools in the Boise area to teach stick skills and life lessons.

With the support of Blue Cross of Idaho, Steelheads players visited 13 elementary and junior high schools this season, spending a total of 20 hours meeting with their youngest fans. While no two visits are exactly the same, they all incorporated a short question-and-answer session between the players and students, followed by a lot of floor-hockey.

“For me, it gives back to the kids,” said Steelheads veteran Andrew Carroll. “My background is in physical education and it was my favorite class in school, so any time you get to play floor hockey with the kids is great. It’s great to help the kids and to get involved in the community, too.”

Every Steelheads player participates in community and charity events, and most players this season did take part in at least one school visit. But no player participated in more school trips than Carroll, who was on site to meet the kids in more than half of this year’s floor-hockey fests.

“Ever since my first pro year in Charlotte, I’ve gone to the schools. We try to be role models and play with the kids, read to the kids,” said Carroll. “It’s fun to get involved with the schools and the community because, obviously for us, we want to give back to the fans that come out and watch us all year.”

The Steelheads offer instruction to young kids who may not necessarily have an opportunity to play hockey outside of a school gymnasium. They teach the kids how to shoot, stick-handle, and pass, in addition to basic lessons in teamwork. First and foremost, it’s about fun. And Carroll’s team mates know it’s fun to win.

Carroll is the undisputed leading scorer in school visits this season, netting a few goals a game while students cheer around him. It’s all in good fun, but it also gets kids involved on both sides of the puck.

“I’m not just going to let them walk around us!” Carroll laughed. “You want to have fun and they enjoy it when you stick-handle in and out of them and the kids playing goalie like to make the big save. It’s all fun and games and if I was in their shoes, I’d want to be challenged a bit rather than just let me go around them. They score a few, but if we get seven or eight to their two or three, there’s nothing wrong with that!”

After all, going home and telling mom and dad that you got an assist on a goal by Andrew Carroll is pretty cool.

For Carroll, it’s just another way Steelheads players can interact directly with their fans. Carroll never had visits to his school from pro hockey players when he was a kid, and he knows every member of the team values that chance to have a direct impact on younger fans. That impact isn’t reserved to a stick and a puck, either.

Before most visits, the players speak to the kids about how they became professional hockey players, about important personality traits like perseverance and commitment. Perhaps most importantly, Steelheads players teach the students that no matter what challenges arise on their path to becoming whatever they hope to be, they can always control their work ethic.

“You want to tell the kids to try your best at everything you do. Even if it’s not your best skill, you can go out there and run around with a hockey stick and try hard,” said Carroll. “There are two things you can control- your hard work and your attitude.  You may not have your best day but you can still work hard and have a good attitude. The kids can see that in us and we want to be a role model to them.”

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