"Hey Rory. It's 2 in the afternoon on a Wednesday. How is it possible that we are meeting right now? Don't you have school?"
Rory MacKillop is making the most of his time as a young athlete. He spends his days, evenings, weekends and summers at the club doing different things. Including spending his lunch breaks with muffin-heads like me.
KC: Can you tell me what you’re doing here right now?
RM: I had Peak Performance, I was in the gym today. Peak is an excellent program where you take the afternoon off of school and come to the club and participate in on-ice or off-ice activity. In the gym with the trainers and on the ice with skills coaches.
KC: That's a great pitch for the Peak Performance program, but what does that all mean for you?
RM: Haha, well, Peak for me is what I look forward to when I go to school. All day I’m waiting until I get to come down here and do these great activities with my friends.
KC: What are all the things you’ve been involved in at the winter club in the past year?
RM: Oh god. Reffing, Peak obviously, the hockey program, the swim team, which is for the most part just swimming, but there's some... I wouldn’t say it’s coaching, but helping out with the 6 and unders.
KC: That sounds tough. If swimming coaches don’t do their job...
RM: The kids could drown?
KC: I'm glad you understand the potential perils. If a hockey coach doesn't do his job, a kid will just get cold.
RM: It's really fun. Some of them still believe in monsters, so sometimes I give them fun little threats, I’d guess I call them, or tell them that I’ll tickle them.
KC: That sounds terrifying. Plus monsters are kind of scary, too.
RM: Fun stuff that would be scary for a six year old, that's what works. I was also here for the Stanley Cup Day as a leader with one of the kid’s groups with a friend. We helped them manage getting around and being on time to see the Stanley Cup, which was a big thrill for all of us.
KC: Obviously you play hockey here as well. You play for the midget A1 team which is a great accomplishment. Tell me a little bit about the road to get to that team.
RM: So playing Bantam A3 last year was definitely a learning curve for me. Playing with kids mostly younger than I am, going through some adversity, but I believe it helped me in the end. I was determined to improve, so through the summer going on the ice, especially the 3on3, where there's a lot of shots helped me big time. Coaching with Sean Murray too, I get coaching from him as well as helping him out on Saturday mornings with the younger kids. Swimming too, swimming helped my fitness levels and going to provincials boosted my confidence.
KC: Why do you think confidence is so important?
RM: Confidence is important to me because even if you make a mistake you know what you did wrong and you can fix it next time. With confidence comes not getting down on yourself, you can recover from mistakes.
KC: A mistake isn’t the end of the world.
RM: Nope. Especially in hockey. One person who's helped me build that confidence over the years was a coach of mine, Wade Bartok. Coach Bartok has been a huge supporter of mine since day one. Since being on his team in Atom house all the way up to Bantam house, he and his family have been great friends and huge supporters of my development.
KC: Development as a person?
RM: As a person and as a player, for sure. A lot of the time it's more about your development as a person.
KC: Wisely said, Rory. Now, moving forward in the next couple years, you're getting older, you're in midget hockey now. What are some of the memories or lessons you’re going to take with you?
RM: I’m just going to take all my experiences. And definitely learning that you’re not always going to at the top, you’re going to have to let people, people will always be just as good or better than you, but you just have to work harder to be better or gain that level.
KC: And now you’re playing on the club’s oldest, best team.
RM: Yep. It’s a huge accomplishment for me. I’ve never played A1 before, I’ve never even played rep as a first year player.
KC: You're an inspirational person, Rory. This club is lucky to have you, the younger players are lucky to have someone like yourself to look up to. If you had to say one thing to a young player who might be struggling or having a tough time, what would it be?
RM: Just keep with it. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true. This is my third time playing rep hockey and so far I’m having the best year of my life. I’m having so much fun on this team. Hockey is all about fun, I think. Personally I think people take it way too seriously especially for kids who aren’t even adults yet.
It’s about the fun, right?
I have nothing to add. What could I say that would top what he said?
Rory MacKillop is wise beyond his years.