Sometimes not making a sports team can provide just the right amount of motivation for an athlete to get to the next level. So was the case for Orange Lutheran senior hockey player Gavin Dixon. When he tried out for the street hockey team at his elementary school, Friends Christian, the fourth grader didn’t make the cut. But he chose to turn his disappointment into action.
“I made it my diehard goal to prove to myself that I could play competitive hockey,” says Dixon.
The next year, Dixon made the school’s roller hockey team, playing in the Anaheim Ducks i3 Roller Hockey League. That step gave him the confidence to transition to the ice, and once he arrived at OLu as a freshman, he made the varsity team and has played for the Lancers ever since. The uniqueness of the sport has always been a draw for the 18-year old.
“I love the physicality of it, and I love the speed of it,” says Dixon. “I love that it’s not something anyone can just go out and play. You’ve got to put your heart into it. And we say you’ve got to be a little crazy to throw knives on your feet and go skate on ice.”
As an indoor sport, hockey was one of the hardest hit when the Covid-19 pandemic began last spring. The Lancers had just won the 2020 state title and were scheduled to play in the USA Hockey National Championships in Dallas, TX, when they received word that the tournament was cancelled. Dixon says he will never forget the emotion of that difficult day as he sat with his teammates, specifically the seniors, who were heartbroken by the news.
“That was by far the tightest knit group of guys I had ever played with,” says Dixon. “To watch them just be devastated, it ignited a flame in a lot of this year’s seniors to say even though we didn’t get that opportunity last year, we want it this year.”
On a mission to get back to Nationals, Dixon and his teammates defeated Santa Margarita for the second year in a row to earn another berth in the championship tournament. The back-to-back California state titles remain his favorite moments as a Lancer, and he admits he will miss that electric game atmosphere.
“There’s no better feeling than putting on that jersey,” says Dixon of OLu hockey. “It’s amazing. The minute those jerseys are on, we don’t play for the number; we play to win as the Lancers. And that’s by far the biggest thing I’m going to miss.”
Sacrificing everything for the team and leaving it all on the ice are at the core of every hockey player, but Dixon also deals daily with an additional set of challenges as a type 1 diabetic. His pre-game routine includes several rounds of blood glucose testing to ensure that his levels are safe before he steps on the ice.
This lifelong challenge has helped Dixon develop a level of discipline that he carries with him into other aspects of his life. As a senior leader, who is also in the school’s blended program, the Lancer forward takes ownership in modeling responsibility and respect to his younger teammates.
“The coaches on our team have told us they aren’t just trying to teach us hockey, they’re trying to teach us life lessons,” says Dixon. “And they’ve done that well.”
Dixon is headed to Northern Arizona University next fall where he plans to study psychology or marketing and hopes to make the roster on the school’s D2 or D3 hockey team. His parents and grandparents have been influential role models, and John 3:16 continues to resonate with him as his guiding verse.
“Being a student athlete at Orange Lutheran, hockey is not just an on-ice game, it’s also a mental game,” says Dixon. “So one of the things I try to do on a regular basis is to pray before every game, take a little time to myself to thank God for the opportunity to even be at the rink, because no day is guaranteed.”