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Continued: 7-year-old Sara Woll: A life (already) committed to hockey

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 5, 2013 - 10:49 AM

“The more she says, ‘Yes,’ the more we let out the leash,” he explained at one point. “If it gets to be too much, we’ll slow it down.” Molly added that hockey will end if Sara’s grades plunge.

The Wolls occasionally hear others wonder whether it is all too much. A friend told Molly in July that her own daughter — after four years of swimming lessons — had suddenly announced that “I hate swimming.” Molly said the friend then asked: “Does Sara really enjoy hockey, or are you just kind of pushing her into it?”

Molly said she and her husband wonder whether friends might be whispering “behind our backs” that they have gone too far. Sometimes “we totally doubt ourselves,” she said. But Molly said that when they ask Sara whether she still likes hockey, their daughter “looks at us like we’re nuts.”

There is, of course, another tally, and Molly knows it well: 1st Athlete — $68 a month; Minneapolis Storm hockey — at least $250; the cost of outfitting Sara in hockey gear, which was recently stolen and had to be replaced — another $400.

“It’s still a stretch on us to pay for this stuff,” Molly said. Sara, in addition, attends a private school.

“We want to give this to her,” Molly said. In mid-October, while outlining Sara’s upcoming week, her mother talked of training and practices on five of the next seven days. “Next week — Girl Scouts!” she said, adding one more activity.

Exercising caution

On Halloween, Sara dressed as a werewolf. Her mother, meanwhile, breathed easier because layoffs announced last week at one of her jobs will not affect her.

“I made the cut at work!” Molly e-mailed.

There have been results.

“A lot of times the kids that miss summer [training] look kind of shaky the first few weeks” of fall league play, said Eric Loichle, who coached Sara last year and watched her during her third practice of the fall in early October. Sara, he said, “is real comfortable, [skating both] backwards, forward.”

But there also are words of caution.

“She’s one of the younger athletes that we have,” said Karl Erickson, the director of sports performance at 1st Athlete. But “at seven, I don’t think you can tell where somebody’s going to be when they’re 18, [or] 16.”

Though Sara’s father has wondered when it might make sense for his daughter to start lifting weights, Erickson was firm.

“Right now, Sara, she doesn’t have that mental maturity yet,” he said. “I would still like to [wait until] she’s closer to 10.”

As a steady stream of young hockey players entered and exited 1st Athlete — the logo says the company is “Building Tomorrow’s Champions” — an ad by the front door extolled the virtues of Coco 5, an all-natural coconut water drink that “contains all 5 essential electrolytes.” Mike Powers, a trainer at 1st Athlete, said he has 75 to 100 training sessions a week, mostly boys and some as young as 4. “They see the progress, [and] they get hungrier,” he said. “Kids are sponges.”

But he added: “There’s a fine line.”

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