Sports instruction course, showing growth for Carroll County players – Baltimore Sun

Confidence and perseverance go hand in hand with hockey and it all starts with the next first step – on the ice.

Learning to play hockey is one thing, learning to skate is another. You can fall a hundred times and keep skating for 10. It’s a constant lesson with no timetable for success until the ultimate goal is achieved.

That’s what makes hockey so special. Players can come together to share a common goal of learning to play the sport they love, even if it means taking some tough falls in the process.

“This game teaches kids that if you want to play, you have to learn to skate,” Carroll County Bears coach Jon Weetman said. “It’s a lesson they don’t get very often. If you want to do something worthwhile, you have to earn it and be patient to develop the skill.”

Hockey may not be a traditional college sport in some areas, but the Carroll County Bears certainly treat it as such. The Bears are made up of kids from nearly every high school in Carroll, but they know that when those jerseys come in, they represent the county, not an individual school.

Weetman has been the head of the Bears’ co-op program for two years. For the first time in the Bears’ eight-year history, the roster consists entirely of players from Carroll County, a potential beacon of hope for an increase in the sport’s popularity.

The Bears, who play in the Maryland State Hockey League, are 3-7 in the seven-team Monocacy Valley conference after last Friday’s 4-2 loss to Oakdale.

There were only six hockey teams when Weetman played in high school. The addition of new rinks and the widespread success of the Washington Capitals has also increased the demand for more players and teams over the years.

Today, Maryland has approximately 48 public school teams and 50 private school teams.

“Help from Washington coming in and going well showed me that there are kids out there who can come from anywhere and play,” junior forward Matt Weetman said. “Auston Matthews is from Arizona and is the No. 1 draft pick this year, so it motivates me to see these players come from all over.

“In Washington, you get one of the greatest players of this generation in [Alex] Ovechkin within an hour of you, and that’s great.”

Weetman and teammate Luke Tingley are tied for eighth in the conference with 10 goals apiece.

Hockey is often overshadowed by more traditional sports like football and basketball. Some of Jon Weetman’s players played other sports to join the Bears later, but it’s hard to match which sports tend to get more attention from a distance.

Bringing hockey into the college athletics mix has been frowned upon for years because some consider it a rather brutal game. Weetman said he’s not buying the justification.

“If you look at youth hockey, there are fewer injury cases and the penalties for fighting are more severe,” he said. “I’ve been coaching this team for two years and youth hockey for a long time and I can easily count the number of fights in a high school league and in youth hockey on one hand. It just doesn’t happen.

Tingley’s brother, Penn State Erie freshman Jake Tingley, plays club ice hockey for the Behrend Lions. Their father, Steve, is an assistant coach for the Bears and a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, currently serving overseas.

Jake Tingley started playing with the Bears again while on vacation and said he wanted to see more kids get involved in the sport.

“A few guys in the team have just started and I convinced them,” he said. “One was a football player who wanted to try something new and we put him on skates. It’s something you have to do, it’s not easy to learn but if you commit to it , you can do it.”

The Bears found success with that same commitment in 2013. Some players had never played hockey before, and the team rallied to win the league championship that year.

“Our goalie was brand new and sometimes he couldn’t make it to games,” Tingley said. “We had a different kid playing baseball so he could catch and we put him in the net. We scored a lot of goals but we were scoring 9 or 10 times a game but we were beating a team by 10 or 11 .

“I wish we could have that again, and with the goalkeeper we have now, we could destroy this league.”

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Weetman has coached kids of all ages for years and seen them overcome many obstacles to excel in the sport. His practices consist of competitive and challenging drills, but there’s always room for playful banter between shifts and these players exude the same passion they have for hockey every time their skates hit the ice.

Their perseverance keeps him hooked in the game and in training.

“Hockey teaches lessons that some sports don’t,” he said. “These lessons are repeated at different levels of the game, how to protect yourself with body checking, learn to use your mind to play the game and not be reckless.

“If I hadn’t played hockey, I don’t know how I would have ended up. That’s why I still play and if I can help the kids with that, it makes me happy.


Catherine J. Martinez