Rookies score an intense workout with adult hockey classes
Kay Jennings, a psychologist from Highland Park, never wanted to figure skate but likes to play hockey.
She's been going to the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center on Neville Island for about nine years, to play hockey and fine-tune her skating and stick-handling skills. She's a former member of the Island Storm women's hockey team.
“At my age, I'm never going to be any good,” said Jennings, 71, although she smoothly plied the ice on Sunday during the first session of this month's Adult Hockey Skating and Game Skills classes at the center. Instructor Marianne Watkins, the center's director of hockey skating, led 19 men and 11 women through skills at the covered outdoor rink.
“I'm dripping wet when I get out,” Jennings said. “I don't do it for the exercise; I do it because it's fun.”
The sports center offers two types of hourlong hockey skating and game skills classes from October through March, each about five weeks long. Rookies can take a class at 8:45 p.m. Sundays, and veterans' classes follow at 9:55 p.m.
Watkins, demonstrating the semi-squat that hockey fans recognize, said the sport is based on leg movements. “Get on your inside (blade) edge and push back and forth,” she said.
Students paired up and faced each other holding ends of two sticks, to practice swiveling their hips. They practiced stopping, skating backward and doing other exercises. Some easily executed the moves, while novices occasionally fell and got right back up.
“I still can't stop, but I'm better than I was,” said Sarah Debo, 23, of New Brighton. “I have no hobbies, and I like hockey … Eventually, I'd like to play in a league.”
Watkins, a native of a hockey hotbed Peterborough, Ontario, competed in figure skating when she was younger because there were no hockey teams for girls.
Later, she coached figure skating and played hockey. Today, she is a skating consultant to the Pittsburgh Penguins and has been at the sports center for 15 years.
“If (the adults) can't skate, they can't shoot and they can't pass,” she said.
Adults in classes that Watkins teaches “make me realize how hard (skating) is” to learn as an adult, she said. “You're on a slippery surface on metal a millimeter wide, mostly on one edge.”
The adults have various reasons for taking the classes.
Brian Brinza, 56, of Moon is in his second set to “sharpen my skills” as a player in an adult league. “Hockey's a great sport for keeping in shape,” he said. His sons, now grown, played hockey through high school.
Mariana Rieke, 37, of Moon has three sons, ages 8 and twins, 5, who play hockey. But that didn't motivate her to take a class.
“I first came to exercise. I need action because of my personality. I couldn't do yoga,” said Rieke, a native of Argentina.
“I know what to do, but knowing it and doing it are two different things,” said Shawn Leydig, 32, of Coraopolis, who played pick-up hockey games a few years ago. “(Watkins) is putting us together in steps. We're learning from the ground up.”
Each class has about 20 minutes of skating exercises and practice, and another 20 minutes of puck-handling skills. The last part often is an informal hockey game.
But because Sunday's first class started the new session, Watkins gave skating instructions and exercises to rookies for the entire hour.
“I always told my husband I wanted to play hockey,” said Stacy Shatlock, 29, of Evans City, who has taken the class before.
The class helps her work out. “I usually burn about 600 calories,” Shatlock said, which is surprising considering the time spent waiting while other students practice a skill.
“You don't feel like you're burning that many calories,” she said. “It's a great workout.”
Sandra Fischione Donovan is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Archery hunting in Mt. Lebanon called off for now
- 50 years later, Vietnam vet gets his degree at Westminster
- Teens elevate Western Pa. communities with Eagle Scout projects