Q: I get the message that my child should play other sports in the off season, but are their specific sports that he should play that will help him with hockey?
A: There is an interesting line of research looking at what has been termed “donor sports” with the concept being that certain sports or activities will donate or enhance capacities with an athlete’s primary sports. For instance, there is research suggesting that elite invasion sport athletes played more other invasion sports when they were younger (invasion sports like hockey, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, etc., require a team to invade an opponent’s space in order to score). It’s suggested that the tactical concepts that are common to those sports like creating 2v1s are transferable. There is even one group currently evaluating Parkour as a potential donor activity for team sports.
What we do know for sure is that vast majority of NHL players reported playing a wide variety of sports up to at least the age of 14. Exposure to a broad base of movements skills and experiences help develop both the physical and mental skills that athletes require to succeed as they get older.
So for this off season, have your child engage in the sports or activities that they enjoy. If they are having fun, chances are that they will spend more time being physically active, which is the real goal.
The author, Ken Martel, coached collegiately at Air Force and Michigan Tech while also helping guide numerous U.S. National Teams. As a player, he skated four seasons at Lake Superior State, winning an NCAA championship in 1988.