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Ann Arbor Rockets Special Hockey Team Share Their Experience Using Kaye Trainer

We have a guest blogger today!! Jacqueline Kaufman, coach of the Ann Arbor Rockets special hockey team in Michigan, shares with us her experience using the Kaye Trainer with one of her athletes. For those of you who have donated to Kaye Trainer International Capital Campaign – this story proves just how important your donations are.

DISCLAIMER:  For those of you who haven’t yet donated – this story will make you want to.

Who knew five years ago when I was introduced to a hockey player and coach named Kim Gearns that we would be where we are now? Running a hockey team called the Rockets and ensuring that anyone in the Washtenaw area who wanted to play ice hockey could play regardless of their ability. When we started we had a lot of rules for who could be on the team. We had age limits, and requirements for being able to skate. Five seasons in we are much more comfortable and our humble little team is pretty darn good out there!

When this all started, I was noticing in my job as a pediatric rehabilitation neuropsychologist that many of the kids I saw had few, if any, opportunities to participate in competitive contact sports. Activities were always very “safe” or carefully orchestrated and seasons were always very short. As a newly minted recreational ice hockey player, I knew (from the bruises on my own bum) that one didn’t have to be so terrific at a sport to have fun and gain the benefit of friendships and the challenge of competition when playing. I wondered, why can’t all of the kids I see play ice hockey too? The answer was swift and definitive – they can’t keep up with traditional teams, they don’t understand the rules, none of the coaches understand how to meet their needs when they play…the list went on. Thanks to the help of some of the local teams (FAR Flyers and MORC Stars) I got some tips and was connected with Coach Kim – my new to be partner in crime.  With generous funds from the University of Michigan Dance Marathon we got the ball (or puck?) rolling.

When we first started out our efforts were in working with kids we thought we could get skating. Our athletes were AMAZING! They were strong, determined, definitely fun and silly, and a great time. In short order our rag-tag team was looking pretty good out there, and we were feeling pretty good about the whole affair. But then we had a few young men join us who did not have sufficient strength to stand on their own, and we found ourselves at our first real road-block that we couldn’t overcome.

We really tried everything – straps, tandem skating, pushing in a chair, you name it! In the end, both of the boys we tried to have skate with us decided the Rockets were not for them. We were a bit defeated and felt that we let those boys down. Then we were faced by a team addition – our youngest recruit who at 4 years old was keen to be a Rocket. The rub was, he walked with crutches off the ice and our hearts sank when we wondered if we would end up in the same situation all over again.

Then, as if by some amazing message, we got the call that our team was chosen to receive the incredible gift of a Kaye Trainer to use on the ice. Now for those who don’t know what the Kaye Trainer looks like, you have to imagine a suspension system that keeps a person at a set height but with their feet on the ground and allowing you to select the level of weight they must support on their own. What a terrific day that was for the Rockets! Prior to the Kaye Trainer we had visions of PVC piping contraptions with suspension cords and men’s underwear as a harness…and duct tape…lots of duct tape (McGyver would have been proud!). We are grateful that we spared our athletes our crazy ideas and could go with a safer and better option.

We immediately worked to get our newest recruit set up in the Kaye Trainer. For full disclosure, he was not so keen to be in the whole contraption at the onset, but he tolerated it when he realized that he could race across the ice to “run over” Coach Kyle (thanks Coach Kyle!) and that he got to play with the big kids. We spent a good part of the season helping him to practice and find his ice legs. One day, after much help from the Kaye Trainer, we decided to see just what would happen if we put our athlete on a standard skate trainer without the suspension system. Much to our surprise and delight he took off and was impossible to stop (he wouldn’t get off the ice!). We really realized then how the Kaye Trainer worked much like “training wheels” for our athlete. He loves to have the control of bearing weight as he skates and now, with the help of the trainer, he is equipped to do that well. He may never be off of some type of support system given his physical disability, but thanks to the Kaye Trainer these support needs will be minimized, and he was able to transition into a more traditional support device. I have no doubt he will be scoring goals this fall and taking no prisoners on the ice!

I know I and Kim speak for the entire Rockets family when I say that we are eternally grateful for our Kaye Trainer. We know UCT shares our vision of limitless participation and a joy of inclusion for everyone in all activities. Thanks again to our friends at UCT!

This entry was posted in Featured by Jen Szymczak. Bookmark the permalink.
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One thought on “Ann Arbor Rockets Special Hockey Team Share Their Experience Using Kaye Trainer

  1. Very inspirational blog today! Let’s share, share, share so others can see the great things UCT does!! And don’t forget to mention we’re accepting donations for the next Kaye Trainer!

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