Mustang hockey players have proven they know how to balance — and not just on skates. They’ve proven they can balance school work with athletic participation.
The Mora/Milaca varsity team’s winning 11-5 record so far this season shows they know how to score on the ice. The team’s average grade point average (GPA) of 3.35 shows they also know how to score on their schoolwork.
Head coach Kevin Nolt teaches at Mora High School and said there are similarities between characteristics of a strong athlete and characteristics of a strong student.
“As a coach and teacher I see athletics and academics going hand-in-hand. I have played on and coached many teams and all of the successful teams also had strong academic backgrounds,” he said. “Putting in work in the classroom normally means that the players have a strong work ethic, are goal-oriented, and strive to excel. All of those traits carry on to the ice.”
In addition to work ethic, Nolt attributed his team’s success to a desire for continued improvement and effective time management skills.
Sixteen-year-old Ben Nordenstrom plays goalie for the team. Even as a junior in high school he is taking college-level chemistry and Spanish courses.
Nordenstrom said participating in athletics has made him a better manager of his time.
“I’m pretty dedicated to getting my stuff done. School comes first so I keep track of my time and make sure I’m not wasting it,” he said.
Defensive player Kolton Brodal said his most difficult course is his college-level writing course because of the amount of time it takes. Brodal utilizes study-hall time during school hours and long bus rides to hockey games in order to get the work done.
Brodal said Nolt’s coaching on how to set and achieve goals has helped him better manage his time. Brodal said he felt his success in school and as an athlete benefited his future.
Mora senior Garret Smith plays center for the team. Not only is he taking an advanced composition class in school, he also works a part time job for about 10-15 hours a week.
Smith said he treats getting his mind in shape just like getting his body in shape.
He values sticking to a routine and disciplining himself to get as much of his homework done during school hours rather than procrastinating.
“Sooner rather than later,” he said. “It’s not the easiest thing to do but in the long run it pays off.”
Part of what keeps Smith motivated are the expectations set for him by coach Nolt.
“He expects a lot from us —on and off the ice,” Smith said.
At the beginning of the hockey season, the coach and athletes have a discussion about the importance of effort in the classroom, expectations of behavior and performance.
Nolt said, “I think as a coaching staff, we make it clear that if you can’t put in effort in the classroom how will you be able to perform on the ice? Will their teammates be able to count on them?”
Nolt explained that being “smart” or having athletic talent doesn’t equate success —mediocre athletes and academics have surpassed those with talent through hard work.
“I tell my students that ‘smart’ is not what you are, it is what you choose to become. A good work ethic will boost a student and athlete to succeed ...
“As teacher and coach it is important to understand that not all students are going to be ‘A’ students. Instead, I want my players to give their best effort. Their best effort might not be an ‘A,’ but if they truly gave their best effort, then they are successful. The team can count on them to give that same effort on the ice.”