By Staff Writer Jada Daniels
Josh Schmitz is a seventh grader at Saint Michael’s Parish Middle School and a young man with a unique hobby. From sun up to sun down he can be most easily found outside of his home, skating across the pavement and diligently practicing a form of street hockey with his very own goal and rollerblades. However, if you really need him, your only hope is that a car might drive by. It’s the only way he will stop momentarily and remove the shiny blue headphones that blast music to keep him focused. The recent outbreak of coronavirus has changed what being a hockey player looks like for Schmitz, but from his story there is inspiration to take and hope to gather for those kids who are recently experiencing similar forms of change in their own lives.
Schmitz began playing hockey at a young age and seemingly never stopped. “My passion for hockey is more than you can describe, I have been playing for eight years.” His parents have supported this life’s passion, and he has memories of being a beginner with his dad by his side coaching him on the basics. “My dad would show me how to hold the stick at a young age like five or four. He would also teach me how to shoot the ball” said Schmitz. Memories include beginners struggles, refusing to use the boards- the wall surrounding the ice rink which players usually use to pass the puck and steady themselves. “[I remember] starting to use skates on the ice. I was about five at the time and [fell] all the time because I refused to use the boards because they were bigger than me at the time. Instead I would just use the walker and fall” said Schmitz. He credits his dad as the one who taught him what he knows about hockey and recognizes the support of both of his parents. “I thank [my dad] for driving me to games and practice, I thank my mom for her support as well.”
Having come a long way since his hockey beginnings, Schmitz has been playing on a team called the Tacoma Rockets as a goaltender. Similar to many athletes around the world of a diverse group of sports and ages, he has had to stop practice due to coronavirus related sports facility closures and shelter in place orders. “I just miss my friends. I feel sad because I don’t get to do what I love with [them],” said Schmitz. “My team would love to practice right now. With all of this happening I do not see another practice in the future. [We] have been doing great, but our state tournament was cancelled for the year.”
Alteration to his regular schedule has not been successful in stopping the grind for Schmitz. He has been able to find multiple ways to remain active and keep his skills sharp for a hopeful return to normalcy. “I play hockey on the street outside everyday because with all of this I still need to ‘practice’ hockey since we don’t have hockey [practices] or anything really,” said Schmitz. Even the surge in global encouragement to stay away from any outside activity and remain inside the house has not been able to stop him from doing what he loves most. “I don’t play outside more often because of COVID-19. So what I did was bought myself a knee hockey set. It’s hockey but you play on your knees, it is really fun.” These times clearly haven’t changed Schmitz’s love for his sport, and they certainly have not deterred the hope he has for his future goals. “My future goal is to get to the NHL and raise the Stanley Cup. If I don’t, I will play in the beer league and use the talent that my dad helped me with and just have fun.” Seeing his dedication in visible efforts, passers by and those pulling into their driveways can’t help but smile. As the pandemic continues to affect our entire community, we have people like Schmitz to thank for examples of persistence and encouragement.