The Oct. 15 meeting of Rivermark Skaters, a rollerblading group, culminated with a hockey session for the child participants in the mid-afternoon. In the parking lot of Santa Clara’s Oracle Campus, parents helped set up cones to establish the perimeter of the court. Once the game began, the players, moving swiftly in rollerskates, aimed their hockey sticks toward the ball, hoping for a shot to score a goal.
In June 2000, Santa Clara resident Rohit Bhasin started Rivermark Skaters, a not-for-profit community organization. Since then, according to Bhasin, about 275 families and 550 skaters have participated in free rollerblading lessons and recreational hockey with the group, meeting every other week. With a minimum age requirement of three years old, Rivermark Skaters welcomes participants from children to adults of all rollerblading abilities.
“The child has to be at transitional-intermediate in order to play hockey,” Bhasin said. “During a hockey session, we split the players in half. We use a lightweight ball and we have simple hockey nets. I help all the players understand their position. Each player gets assigned a unique position on offense or defense on each team. After a few goals are scored, we rotate the positions.”
Ayush Anand, 5, of Milpitas, has been in Rivermark Skaters for ten months. He has learned a lot about how to play hockey on rollerblades, such as remembering the blade of the stick should always touch the ground.
“I learned to hold the stick with one hand on top and one hand on the middle,” Anand said. “I like scoring goals and defending my own goal post. When I pass the ball to the other team, I dribble the ball and hit it strong so no one can block the ball.”
“This class has extremely active parent involvement,” Bhasin said. “When the parents repeat my instructions to their child, that further helps to develop the bond and the trust between the skater and the parent. Seeing the parent and child build a bond and trust is also a source of satisfaction for me.”
“Rohit insists on one parent, either the dad or the mom, staying with the kid through the class meeting,” said Lekshmy, Anand’s mother. “If there is a mistake, the parent should help the child correct it. For example, a child might not have the positioning of their legs correct. So, the parents should remind them what the correct position is.”
“My parents show me how to rollerblade in a circle and in a zig-zag,” said Nayara Patil, 5, of Santa Clara, who has been in Rivermark Skaters for six months. “They remind me to bend my knees and put my hand on my tummy when I do this.”
Participants in Rivermark Skaters are assigned a skill level based on a 16-step skating road map Bhasin created. Levels include beginner, transitional-intermediate, intermediate, advanced or expert.
“If you are in the beginner batch, you’d be working on basic or simple turns,” Bhasin said. “In transitional-intermediate, we are doing tight zig-zags. In intermediate, we do cross overs. Advanced students learn about skating backwards.”