FLINT (WJRT) - (01/13/2019) - "Have fun, it's about fun. You fall down, you get right back up. Falling is learning."
That was one of the lessons taught to 25 young skaters Saturday who got the opportunity to learn hockey for the first time. Rico Phillips has been running Flint's Inner City Youth Hockey Program for 6 years now.
"The lack of diversity in our sport and I don't mean just cultural diversity. I'm also talking about socioeconomic diversity,” said Phillips, the director of Flint’s Inner-City Youth Hockey Program. “So that's kind of the brain child behind this. To make sure we expose our kids here in Flint to something that they normally wouldn't be exposed to."
The 9 week program is open for boys and girls aged 8 through 11, teaching them how to skate the as well as the fundamentals of hockey. While the cost of hockey is high - everything with this program is free, including equipment and transportation.
"The kids out here have smiles on their faces; they are getting exercise and utilizing their bodies, learning skills they've never learned before," said Phillips.
"It's fun, I love it,” said 9-year-old Aubri Rose, who hopes to continue playing hockey after the program. “Yeah hockey is my favorite sport."
Parents love the program, like Lokeysha Guy who watched her daughters step onto the ice for the first time Saturday.
"I think it's a fantastic gateway especially for women of color because it gives them another unique opportunity to go out into the work and do something completely different," said Guy.
Guy said she plans on looking at program to get her son involved in the sport as well as her two daughters.
Briona Smiley’s daughter, Jayla was nervous at first to get on the ice but quickly fell in love.
"It was exciting because she's never been on the ice before so at first she was kind of nervous but everybody was so helpful and encouraging so she was really excited all week to come back," said Smiley
Phillips said this program is designed to help get kids interested in the sport and find future teams, stating the program has helped land nine players on teams over the past few years.
For more information about how to get involved with youth hockey in Flint, visit https://www.flintjrfirebirds.com/