The key is to keep getting up after you fall.

Although there was a lot of falling going on during the Bulldogs Youth Hockey Association Try Hockey for Free Clinic July 16 and 17 at Le Sueur Community Center, the 3- to 11-year-olds kept getting back up learning to ice skate. Fifty-four kids learned or improved their skating over the two days.

Four-year-old Tenley Powell, of Le Sueur, fell numerous times but kept bouncing back up with a smile on her face.

“There’s a bunch of determined little kids out there,” Tenley’s dad, Ryan Powell said while watching the children skate. “They keep falling and getting back up.”

Tenley had experience skating on double blades a couple times before, but this was her first time on single blades.

It’s not definite that Tenley will end up playing hockey, but her dad said, “She will do anything and everything. She’s a bull in a china shop. She just wants to do whatever her brother (Calin, 7) is doing right now. He’s out there, too. It’s his second day in a row here. He’s gotten a million times better. He went from doing little baby steps to complete strides. Now he’s just having fun riding in a chair.”

Powell appreciated all of the volunteer helpers, including adults and high school hockey players, who taught them how to skate. Head varsity coach Tom Blaido, of St. Peter, and youth hockey coach Jeff Keeley, also of St. Peter, were among those who helped Powell learn to skate.

“A lot of these middle-schoolers and high-schoolers are helping the kids out,” Powell said. “It’s awesome. It’s a lot of fun. It’s good to see the kids get out there. They’ve done the one in St. Peter as well. They do a good job.”

The event used to be held at Don Roberts Ice Rink at Gustavus Adolphus College, but it was moved to Le Sueur this year for the first time in the summer, because the rink opened in the off season.

Tiffany Stuber also was impressed by the progress her daughter, Mercedes Stuber, 4, made from the first day to the second.

“Yesterday she couldn’t stand on the ice, and today she can walk on the ice by herself,” Tiffany Stuber said. “It’s a pretty awesome experience for her.”

Bulldogs varsity hockey player Sophia Doherty, of St. Peter, helped Mercedes both days.

“It was a neat experience they put together,” Tiffany Stuber said. “I didn’t know they had it. It’s awesome, so my daughter is now interested in hockey.”

Many children start out needing a chair or a hand from helpers to stand up.

In his first time skating, Cooper O’Brien, 5, of Le Center, gave it a whirl.

“He really enjoyed it,” his mom, Emily O’Brien said. “And I think we’re going to be signing up now. It’s a great event. A couple of the coaches really spent time with him. They did a really good job teaching him what to do. The more he was doing, he was doing it by himself. He always wanted to try hockey, so it’s a great opportunity to try it before signing up. It’s nice to start early, so they can learn how to skate. He was working hard. I think he’ll be tired.”

Brayden Muchow, 3, of Le Sueur, had skated four of five other times in open skate at the community center, but he learned more about skating.

“It was a great event,” his mom, Monica, said. “The coaches and the students that participated were fabulous, very patient and very willing to work with him and teach him actual techniques and show him what to do. He had a blast. He loves hockey.”

In addition to offering hockey for free, the Bulldogs hockey association provides equipment for free to those who need it in the Mite and Squirts levels. All of the hockey equipment, except the helmet, can be rented before the season for free. Last year, 80 players took advantage of getting outfitted at no cost.

Bulldogs Equipment Manager Jeff Throldahl of St. Peter, who has three boys playing hockey, said, “We try to get all new stuff as much as possible through donations. Parents who have stuff in their closet at home bring gear to us. Play It Again Sports is also great to us … Cambria donated gifts for the event. We pay some money toward it. It’s a huge success.”

Reach Sports Editor Pat Beck at 931-8566 or follow him on Twitter.com @SPHSportsPat.

St. Peter Herald Sports Editor covers St. Peter, Cleveland, Le Center, Le Sueur-Henderson and Tri-City United and Gustavus Adolphus College. Fishing, tennis and golf enthusiast

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