Students learn more than sports during floor hockey tournament

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Students had an opportunity to see Meaghan Mikkelson's two gold medals.

CALGARY – Students were treated to a powerful message of adversity turning to Olympic gold during a day of floor hockey fun, leadership workshops and some impressive fundraising so other youngsters get an opportunity to play.

Calgary Christian Elementary School played host to Grade 5-6 students from five other campuses, including two other Palliser schools, Thursday, for a floor hockey tournament. But don’t let the scoring and cheering coming from the gym fool you. The day was about so much more.

Aside from the fun and physical activity, students learned about citizenship, community-building and the importance of making others feel welcome.

The idea for the event was sparked after Shauna Gooliaff watched hockey player Meaghan Mikkelson compete in “The Amazing Race Canada” on reality TV.

“I’m really passionate about bringing in role models for the children to listen to,” said the Grade 6 teacher, adding she was inspired by two-time Olympic gold medalist. “I really liked how she talked about playing fair and the work ethic she showed and the perseverance.”

That’s exactly the message Mikkelson shared with the cheering students, as they watched a video about Team Canada’s come-from-behind gold medal-winning game in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and had an opportunity to touch one of the athlete’s two gold medals.

Mikkelson said no one on the 2014 squad gave up even when down 2-0 with minutes left in the game. Adversity in the lead up to the Olympics honed the team’s character.

“What gave us the strength and determination and perseverance for that game was the work we put in all year long,” she said.

Mikkelson urged students to set goals. “Find what you’re passionate about and go for it,” adding the greater the sacrifice along the way, the more satisfying reaching the goal becomes.

It was a message echoed by another Olympic athlete, Chris Reitsma, former Major League pitcher and member of Canada’s baseball team in the 2008 Beijing Games. He led sessions with each of the teams when they weren’t playing, talking about the value of hard work and discipline in whatever most interests each student.

“No matter what their skill set is, get the most out of it,” said the Palliser Wall of Fame Inductee.

University athletes also led workshops for students as part of the event.

In arranging for Mikkelson to speak at the school, Gooliaff learned she was also an ambassador for Jumpstart, a charity which helps children from families in financial need participate in organized sports and other activities, such as horseback riding, geocaching or dance. It seemed a perfect fit with the school’s motto: “God’s Children Making the World a Better Place.”

“I think sports offers so many great things to kids like self-confidence and teamwork skills and active living and all those things are life skills,” said Gooliaff.

The tournament raised more than $10,000 for Jumpstart, enough to help as many as 3,000 young people in Calgary, said Dan Kasperski, regional manager for Canadian Tire Jumpstart.

“The money gives them an opportunity to explore something new, not just organized sports,” he said. Funds can be put toward registration, equipment, even transportation. For more information, go to

Once Mikkelson signed on it seemed a natural to tie her talk in with a floor hockey tournament, which would also allow her to share her message with a larger audience.

“I thought the more kids we can teach about giving back to the larger community, hopefully that becomes part of who they are as they continue to grow older,’ said Gooliaff.

Fellow Palliser partners Menno Simons Christian School and Trinity Christian School came aboard and were joined by teams from Bearspaw Christian, Glenmore Christian Academy and Simons Valley. Their participation provided an opportunity to talk about community building and how to make visitors feel welcome. All 400 Calgary Christian students watched the first game, modelling the behaviour of courteous fans.

Not only did the interaction provide a chance for the students to share information about their schools and make friends, Gooliaff said it was an opportunity to build school pride for the host students.

“We want people to leave and say ‘that was the coolest event ever and the best school and I can’t wait to go back,’ ” she said.

Further learning moments came through the selection process for the Calgary Christian team, which included not only players but a tech team to work the scoreboard and music and team managers. Previous hockey experience took a back seat to displays of work ethic, sportsmanship, teamwork, fair play, leadership and enthusiasm when it came to team selection.