Sometime Thursday morning the Holy Ghost Prep hockey team will head north on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the direction of Jamestown, New York where it will compete in the National Scholastic Invitational Scholastic Showcase this weekend.
The Firebirds are scheduled to face Glenbrook South (Illinois) Friday afternoon and Bethel Park (Pa.) and University School (Ohio) on Saturday; they could also see action on Sunday.
The Showcase is a regular stop for the Firebirds each season. The 16-team tournament features some top-flight high school teams but the trip is about a lot more than hockey. The weekend is structured to allow the players, regardless of their academic standing or the amount of ice time they have earned, to bond and get to know one another as people.
Junior defenseman E.J. Pohl is one of the Firebirds alternate captains. “It’s a tournament” he said, “and we obviously want to win games up there, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s more about brotherhood and coming together as a team and for me I didn’t really feel like I belonged until after the Jamestown trip my freshman year.”
Pohl recalls his anxiety when he made his first trip to Jamestown two years ago. “Obviously, I was afraid,” he said. “I was one of the younger kids on the team but after the Jamestown trip I felt like we really came together as a team and I felt more involved and like I mattered and had a place on the team.”
Pohl points out that weekend is about togetherness, on and off the ice. “We all hang out together as one,” he said, “whether we’re hanging out together, eating together playing together. It’s freshmen seniors, juniors, sophomores all hanging out together as one. And I think building relationships with those older kids really helped me to grow, as a person on the team and as a player.”
Pohl, who is carrying a 4.3 academic average on a 4.0 scale at Holy Ghost Prep, reflects on how his role with the team has evolved from anxious but eager newcomer to a veteran leader.
“Before, it was exciting for me,” he said, “but I didn’t really feel like people relied on me. I could rely on other people for help to grow, but now I feel like I’m in that role where people are looking up to me, so I’m looking to set a good example, on the ice and off the ice.
“I’m excited to get to know the freshmen and the younger people more and hopefully do the same as the older captains from the last two years did for me and bring them into the team and make them feel that they have a spot and they matter, because they do.”
E.J. Pohl (photo provided by Chris Paul)
Pohl notes that receiving positive reinforcement from a teammate can be more meaningful to a younger player that getting those same assurances from a coach. “It means something from the coaches but when you hear it from your peers it means a lot more,” he said. “Because you know the people you’re working alongside are rooting for you as much as you’re rooting for them,”
That mindset is in keeping with the core philosophy at Holy Ghost Prep which was founded by the Spiritans as a prep school and junior college seminary in 1897 (it became Holy Ghost Prep in 1968) and teaches its students that success is measured by the ability to help others.
“The brotherhood that we often talk about, that we have at Ghost, definitely fits into this trip a lot,” Pohl said. “Building that brotherhood with our younger teammates and even the older ones coming together as one, it definitely fits into that one goal, one team mindset that we have.”
By Rick Woelfel
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