Inline skating fuels CCA student’s need for speed
Nicholas Hoff of Reading is a ninth-grader at CCA who holds a national record and several gold medals in speedskating.
After disappointments with public and private brick-and-mortar schools, the Hoff family spent a summer investigating their charter and cyber school options. Nicholas and his sister, Neeli, were heading into fourth and second grades, joining their parents on the tour of school information sessions.
“After one of the information sessions for CCA, my children told me this was where they wanted to be,” Heather Hoff said. “They liked the excitement that teachers and staff had.”
Today, Nicholas is a CCA freshman and Neeli is in seventh grade. Both are inline speedskaters, rising to the highest competitive levels in their age groups.
Skating is not a family hobby but a lifestyle, Heather said, and CCA suits the Hoffs' on-the-go pace.
“They can get all their work done during the day,” she said. “There’s no extra preparation to do in the evening when practice is going on. There’s no extra homework that has to be accomplished. The flexibility of when projects can be completed definitely helps, and so does the fact that we can take it on the road when we travel the world.”
Nicholas first skated when he was 6. He went skating during his birthday party at a rink near the family’s Reading-area home. It was December, and by July he had entered his first national competition. He learned to set goals. Even failures and regrets “all led up to where I was trying to go,” he said.
“My goal at first was to go fast,” he said. “Then my goal became to be league champion, and then break the regional record, and then win nationals and get a national record, and I’ve completed all those goals.”
In May, Nicholas will compete at the outdoor nationals in Colorado Springs.
“If he makes the top six of junior world boys, he will be participating in Holland at the world championships,” Heather said.
Through USA Roller Sports and other organizations, the family has traveled to 22 states. All that exposure to fellow skaters disproves the myth that cyber school students miss out on socialization, Heather said. First of all, “the school is not responsible for teaching my child how to socialize, and, if anything, they are unable to teach my children how to socialize,” Heather said.
Plus, the freedom to travel and compete has opened doors to stronger friendships.
“They are true friendships,” Heather said. “They are meaningful friendships. They’re not just friendships because they have to be together. They’ve actually chosen these friendships.”
Competitions even teach Nicholas and his sister to manage disappointment.
“There are definitely the ups and the downs, and the highs and lows, but that’s where friendships come in,” Heather said. “They’re at the stage when peers matter. They don’t necessarily want Mom and Dad to come running and fixing their boo-boos when they fall. It always helps to have the world-class guys come up to Nicholas and say, ‘Hey, man, I’ve got 20 of those, and yours is just a road rash.’”
Inline speedskating is not an Olympic sport — yet — but many of the ice speedskaters in the Winter Olympics start as inline skaters and switch to ice after achieving their inline goals.
Nicholas doesn’t believe he will switch to ice. If he goes to inline world championships and wins, “I’m still the best in the world,” he said. “Nobody can say they’re faster than me. It’s the same with the Olympics. You win ice skating in the Olympics, and nobody can say they’re faster than you, but everybody knows about the Olympics.”
With the Hoffs, skating is a family affair, whether it’s traveling to meets or raising money for tournaments. In addition to their parents, Jason and Heather, Nicholas and Neeli get support from their grandparents, Dale and Cindy Pollock, and Don and Kim Leffler. Every spring, the whole family gears up for its peanut butter Easter egg fundraiser, when the family kitchen becomes a candy assembly line and the kids collect orders.
Nicholas hopes to keep pursuing his need for speed by building race cars someday. During a meet in North Carolina, he visited Universal Technical Institute. He hopes to attend there after graduation, because he liked its hands-on approach to learning.
“I would rather put together the pieces or work on a part than watch the teacher explain,” he said.
As Nicholas and his sister pursue their dreams, the family continually talks about goals, inside and outside the rink.
“We try and teach them priorities,” Heather said. “To be the greatest inline skater you need to focus, but to be a great person you have to focus on school and relationships and friendships and responsibilities around the house.”