Question: As the season winds down, I’ve been approached by multiple coaches who asked if my son or daughter would like to play on a spring/summer hockey team. What should I do?
Answer: This is a decision many hockey parents face today and it may prove crucial, not only for your child’s hockey development, but also their overall health.
In today’s hockey marketplace, there are so many different “showcase tournaments” and camps beginning when the regular season is over and continuing through August. I often hear parents say how much their child loves hockey, and because of that, they believe their child needs to play spring and summer hockey. As a point of comparison, my child loves candy, but on Halloween, I don’t allow him to eat the entire bag because too much candy is unhealthy for a growing 10-year-old; plus they are sickened after eating the entire lot. Same idea for hockey; too much could be detrimental to your youth player’s development and love of the game in the long-term.
For a 10U hockey player, participation in multiple sports is essential for developing all-around athleticism and a healthy lifestyle. Multiple-sport participation during these key developmental years is critical in developing hand-eye coordination, foot speed, agility, balance, as well as helping to reduce overuse injuries. As a long-time coach and player, I have noticed more and more overuse injuries in young athletes. Hip labrum repairs have become more common in high school-age players, rather than being an anomaly, and many physicians blame year-round hockey.
Having recently visited with Jack Capuano, head coach of the New York Islanders, I was able to ask him about the importance of playing multiple sports. He highlighted Canadian Olympian John Tavares for his elite lacrosse skills and went on to discuss how he believes the majority of other NHL players probably were also very successful in another sport as a child. His own son played hockey as a child, along with football and baseball, ending up as a scholarship athlete in baseball.
Finally, there is also something special about transitioning into a new sport after a long winter. For me, April was time to put away the hockey stick and skates and enjoy the smell of a freshly oiled baseball glove. As a former two-sport athlete at the University of Michigan, baseball became an outlet for me to rejuvenate not only my body, but also my mind, making me hungrier for training and playing the next hockey season. Even for the best players in the NHL, summer is a time to recuperate and train for next season. With the exception of those playing deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs, they aren’t playing hockey in June and they certainly aren’t playing hockey in July. So why do our youngest players need to play year-round hockey when the world’s most elite players don’t?
Whether it’s baseball, as it was for me, or lacrosse, soccer or any other sport, hockey players need to develop their overall athleticism, with spring/summer being the perfect time to accomplish this. And they need a break from hockey – both physically and mentally – to achieve their maximum potential on the ice during the fall and winter.