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Roller hockey growing
in Henry County

 

By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor 

  Nolan Olson has been playing hockey in some form or another since he was three years old, and it’s his skill in the rink that has helped propel his roller hockey team, the McDonough Lightning, to first place in their league. He’s quick to point out however that it’s a team effort and credits his teammates and co-captains Kelli Block and Owen Rouviere, with the success they have enjoyed in the Georgia High School Roller Hockey Association (GHRA) league.

The McDonough Lightning, front row (l. to r.) Evan Greer, Logan Block, Owen Rouviere; Second Row (l. to r.) Coach Todd Greer, Kelli Block, Jordan Zajicek, Nolan Olson, Hunter Reid, Jace Kern and Coach Stu Miller. Not pictured: Nate Heppard. Special photo

  Olson, a sophomore at Eagles Landing High School is one of three co-captains of the McDonough Lightning, and said he has been encouraged by his father and grandfather, who both played ice hockey. In fact, his grandfather is Weldy Olson, an Olympic athlete and pioneer in U. S. ice hockey, who played on the 1960 U.S. Olympic Ice Hockey Team, which was the first time the United States won the gold medal in ice hockey.

  He said roller hockey is physically demanding, but that the fun outweighs the work.

  “It’s a really fun sport with non-stop action,” said Olson, “You learn how to work as a team, and it offers a lot.”

  Coach Stu Miller said his team has worked together to achieve success in the rink in only their second season, even if they had a shaky first year.

  Because no single high school in Henry County has enough players for a team, the McDonough Lightning is a composed of players from several high schools, including Eagles Landing, Locust Grove, Ola and Woodland.

  Block, the only girl on the team, said she originally started playing roller hockey to overcome her shyness. The Locust Grove High School senior started in the recreation league when her brother’s friend was signing up to play. Her dad encouraged her to play as well, and she hasn’t looked back. She said playing hockey has helped build her self-confidence as well as helping her become physically strong.

  “It’s not only a great physical activity, but it’s a good way to get your aggression out,” she said.

  She said at first it was difficult to skate and play at the same time, but with practice, it becomes natural and you don’t even think about it. She said she would encourage any young girl to start playing and said the younger the better. She said her team is like a family but she gets no special treatment being the only girl on the team. Although it’s a non-contact sport, she does get knocked down occasionally, and often times, players from the opposing team will help her up, but not her teammates.

  “With my own teammates, I’m just one of them,” she laughed.

  “We don’t go easy on her because she’s as good as anyone else on the team,” said Nelson. “But we’re all pretty close friends.”

  Miller said that he coached his own children in hockey for years, in Marietta. When he moved to Henry County recently, he received a call to evaluate some local players and somehow found himself coaching again. He said that although the popularity of the sport is shrinking on the north side of Atlanta, the sport is growing in popularity on the south side.

  The team practices out of Avalon Park in McDonough, and matches are played on the north side of Atlanta. Miller coaches the McDonough Lightning throughout the school year and also coaches a travelling hockey team, called the Atlanta Stealth in the summer. For the school season, games are played in Alpharetta, and for the summer travel team, players travel throughout the southeast to play.

  Miller said roller hockey is similar to ice hockey but with no fighting. And it takes not only athletic ability and stamina but the ability to work together.

  “It’s great physical activity, but it also teaches teamwork and leadership,” he said.

  He said he’s proud of his team, not only for their performances in the rink, but for the way they are outside of hockey. He also credits the parents for having the commitment to the kids and the team.

“It’s a commitment. There’s a lot of travel involved and initial layout of money for equipment and uniforms. We have great kids and we have great parents,” he said.

  He said because of the commitment, first and foremost, he wants to make sure the kids have fun.

  “My coaching philosophy is not to yell and scream. You can get kids to work hard without that,” he said. “We have such dedicated players. And the kids who play love it.”

  For more information on the McDonough Lightning, visit them on Facebook or check out the league’s standings page at http://www.pointstreak.com or visit the Georgia High School Roller Hockey Association at www.ghrahockey.com.

 

 

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