Decision fatigue is a real affliction, and it quite possibly hits parents as hard as anyone. Not only do parents have to make personal and professional decisions for themselves, but also they are bombarded with choices impacting their kids as well.
While options can be synonymous with privilege, evidence does suggest that the more decisions we have to make, the worse our judgment can become. And the hardest choices are those that fall into a gray area, with no defined right or wrong but a range of hard-to-define positive and negative future consequences.
One such decision that a parent of a 10-year-old might be confronting at this very moment is this: What should my hockey-playing son or daughter be doing this summer?
There is not a perfect, one-size-fits-all answer, but with the help of Dan Jablonic – a regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model – hopefully we can get to the heart of why some choices might be better in the long run than others.
Jablonic was asked about benefits of 10U players taking a break from hockey over the summer – or at least dialing back the intensity – in order to play other sports and to have legitimate down time to just be a kid.
“I love this question because I’m coming back from hockey a director’s course and one thing that stood out is that we know benefits of multiple sports form a physical side – agility, balance, hand-eye coordination,” Jablonic says. “But how often are we looking at the social component and more important the mental side? So much is thrown at these kids. We brought in two professionals who work in the performance field, with social-emotional intelligence, and it was really cool to get that perspective.”
What was reinforced is that a lot of kids need a break from the intensity and structure of fall and winter hockey.
“What suits my family is going to be different from yours, and it’s your choice, but we want to put things in perspective with research and understand there’s long-term development for a reason,” he says. “Too much of a thing leads to stress and burnout. If it becomes a chore with spring and summer hockey, where’s the passion that the sport demands in the winter time?”
Playing other sports also helps young athletes develop different skills that can help them not only in hockey but in life.
“Their brains are not fully formed at this time, and stress comes in different ways,” Jablonic says. “When we can put them in different situations in different sports, they have a new opportunity to learn and and adapt. They’re not doing the same repetitive things.”
Having a different set of teammates – or seeing hockey teammates in a different sport – can also be healthy for development, he says.
“Allow them to be part of a team in a different dynamic,” Jablonic says. “Respect teammates and maybe they see hockey buddies in a different light on the baseball field.”
From a physical standpoint, Jablonic notes that young athletes develop creativity when they play other sports and/or have less structure with what might be their primary sport.
“In this overscheduled world, we are looking for more creative players and improvisation,” he says. “If we don’t put them in those situations in the summer how are we going to get it in fall and winter?”
He says kids need to be “allowed to thrive and allowed to fail” while they are young and encourages parents to take the long view.
“We are in an ultra-competitive sports market,” Jablonic says. “Enjoy the journey. Have some patience,”
Perhaps the most important takeaway of this whole discussion, and one that drives a lot of USA Hockey decision-making at younger levels, is the notion of short-term vs. long-term development.
“If you want to choose summer hockey that’s fine, but don’t go overboard in one area,” Jablonic says. “Make sure you are looking at balance as a whole. Is it a transaction or is it transformational? Is this just checking a box or is it something that will help my child in all areas of development?”
Having kids play high-stress hockey 12 months a year might make them really good at tryouts the next fall, but what will things look like 3-4 years down the road?
“If you put more energy into one thing, you will see short-term gains, but we are really looking at long-term gains,” Jablonic says. “We’re trying to develop not just athletes but humans. These kids are 10. What can we do as parents from a holistic view to help these kids thrive and have a passion for the sport?”
Tag(s): ADM Features