As kids we can’t normally tell the little things from the big, the extraordinary from the ordinary. The little things make us happy and as a young hockey player things like shooting the puck around with your dad, your first out of town hockey tournament, or having an older and skilled hockey player giving you pointers and advice about the game are things we will always remember. For Samson Mahbod of the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears, those memories have stuck around and have inspired the Montreal native to give today’s young hockey stars the same opportunity he once had as an aspiring hockey player.
Throughout Mahbod’s career, starting from his time in the juniors up until today, he has made it a habit to visit various hockey camps and take the time to skate, teach and mentor the youngsters.
“I would always show up to summer camps to work with the kids, especially in the West Island where I’m from in Montreal. I work with all age groups but mainly younger kids ranging from 7-12. I share what I’ve learned, I’m not a superstar or anything, I played hockey for fun and now it has become a job and I’m really fortunate,” said Mahbod. “I just give back because when I was growing up I had other people come in and give their time for me and I’m very fortunate for that. I just want to do the same thing and pass along the experience and have fun,” he added.
As soon as he turned pro with the Cincinnati Cyclones Samson joined Hockey Players for Kids (HP4K). Through HP4K he would visit schools, participate in readings with the students and assisted with skating drills and the essentials within the game of hockey. Though he is no longer in Cincinnati, Mahbod continues to share his time and wisdom to the many young minds that may listen.
“This past summer I worked and trained with a lot of younger kids and on days off I’d go in and talk with the kids and sometimes get on the ice and do power skating drills with them and just have some fun. I talk about my past and what I’ve been through and how I started. I know a lot of kids in places like Montreal as they get older, especially the kids around 14 or 15, they have the huge dilemma when it comes to playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League or going to the NCAA. I let them know of the different options and I share my experiences with the kids,” Samson explained.
One unique aspect of the way Mahbod approaches his mentoring with the kids, especially the youngsters, is his emphasis to having fun and not worrying about the politics that can come with competitive hockey.
“When I talk to the younger kids I tell them this is the time to have fun, work hard and have fun. At the age of 12, that’s the most fun you’ll have playing hockey, there’s no pressure or anything. Later on if they want to take it seriously then I tell those kids they have to make sacrifices. Not going out on the weekend, staying in, stuff like that. After practice instead of going to the beach you go to the gym instead, it takes a lot of hard work,” he elucidated.
Mahbod draws his inspiration to give back through his experiences as a young hockey player and keeps his childhood mentality to have an effective and lasting impression on tomorrow’s stars.
“I was there you know. I was that kid and when I saw other people coming in I got excited and I know that feeling of someone older coming in to talk to them to share their experience. I just put myself in their position and think about how I would feel if I were there. Laughing. Skating around. Shooting pucks. I used to have a lot of fun with the older guys so I like sharing that experience and making it fun for them. I love being on the ice with the kids, seeing them skate and seeing them try to work hard and push themselves, I think it’s awesome to see the passion that some kids have.”
At a time where professional sports rely on so much more than just the game itself, it’s always refreshing to see athletes that still just enjoy the pleasure of the game and are reminded everyday of why they picked up the sport in the first place. The reminder that sports isn’t about cars, money or sharing revenues, sports are pleasures many take the time to enjoy, and they are teaching mechanisms that can be related to everyday life. As role models to today’s youth it is essential for athletes to exemplify the true joy and passion behind sports.
To learn more about Hockey Players For Kids (HP4K), visit http://hp4k.org/