CLARINGTON EAGLES – LITTLE BUDDY’S MENTORING PROGRAM
Thank you to Austin Kimbark, Rebecca Petrocelli, Connor Hichol-Penman and Neil MacQuarrie, students in Sports Media Program at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute for creating this video in partnership with Ontario Hockey Association. Photos by Jan Visca. Video features David Bell, GM, Clarington Eagles, Quinn Bell, Little Buddy's alumni and Eagles volunteers, and Cody Kean, Eagles Assistant Captain.
Each season since 2012, players, bench staff and managers of a Clarington Toros Atom level minor hockey team are paired with their equivalent on the Eagles. The new buddies are encouraged to reach out, talk about hockey, ask questions, figure out ways to balance hockey and school, resolve problems or get skill tips.
The most important part of the program happens off ice. Players and staff run into each other at the arena and that’s when the mentoring relationship develops. It's thanks to the players and staff who have the generosity of spirit and willingness to take the time out of their busy lives to stop and listen that makes the program a success.
The new season kicks off with the Draft Pick where everyone finds out who their new “buddy” is. Within weeks, it’s “Little Buddy Game Night” at the Eagles’ Nest. The Atoms line up with their buddies on the blue line for the anthem and show off their hockey skills between periods. Once a season (and as a surprise), the Atoms are given the opportunity to use the Eagles’ dressing room for one of their games. Each player walks into the room to see his gear laid out in his cubby with his name plate on the wall just like the big guys! The Eagles and Atoms will combine their practice ice for a skills session. Scheduled prior playoffs, this fun event reminds all the kids, big and little, players and staff, why they play hockey.
Mentoring programs foster an attitude in the children of giving back to their community. Conversely, the program allows the Eagles players to grow, not just as hockey players, but as young men who are role models for younger players and must set an example for the next generation of players.
Testimonial ... “I just wanted to say thank you to him [Rory Craddock] and to your organization. It has been first class all the way this year. Both of my kids have been ecstatic being able to chat with the Eagles and feel a part of something special. Many of the Eagles players have come to many of our games throughout the year. For my family personally, Cody Kean and Brandon Hesson have spent considerable time with my kids at the rink, watching games, chatting in the pro shop. I just thought that what Rory did yesterday, and how all of the players have interacted with our team when they have seen each other at the rink, at restaurants, at the mall, etc. is a reflection of the values that you have instilled in the team. Thank you very much.” … David Bell [who was so impressed, he’s now the program coordinator ably assissted by his son Quinn, an alumnus of the program!]