Every week has 168 hours, as Guy Gosselin is quick to point out. That might seem like a lot, but when we factor in the things we must do like school or work, eating and other daily tasks – not to mention spending a third or more of that time, ideally, sleeping – the days start to feel a lot shorter.
Those 168 hours can feel like they disappear in a hurry if we aren’t able to achieve the right balance.
Framing a discussion of increasing strength, athleticism and quickness for 10U hockey players around that idea might seem odd, but to Gosselin a balanced life is one of the essential components of building well-rounded, healthy young athletes – the sorts of 10U players who will be in position to get bigger, stronger and faster in a sustainable way.
Gosselin, a player development manager for USA Hockey and two-time U.S. Olympian, expanded on that perspective and other ideas in a recent conversation.
While allowing that “every athlete is an experiment and that all kids develop at their own rate,” which means that balance might look different for a lot of different kids, Gosselin stresses the overall message of getting enough of all the things you need – and using time wisely – as keys to development.
“It’s the environment and it’s not exact. But it’s about getting them to really want to come back and have a positive experience,” Gosselin says. “I know that sounds corny, but we’re still talking about 10-year-old kids here. Especially today where they are so overstimulated with other things and opportunities, stuck on screens, it’s all about getting back to an active, healthy lifestyle.”
Focus too much on one thing – like hockey – and you might get burned out and neglect the other parts of your life.
“The key to it is balance in your life. You have 168 hours in a week. How are you going to balance that as a player, as a family?” Gosselin says. “Balancing everything out really helps because if you get too much of one thing it’s not good.”
Balance also means making the most of the time you have in each endeavor. To Gosselin, quality repetitions in hockey are the building blocks of building strength and athleticism.
“It’s not rocket science. It’s repetitions,” he says. “Once you become a good skater, you get stronger. Once you become stronger, you become a better skater.”
As 10U players start to get a little bigger and their skating improves along with their strength, it’s natural to see a progression in their game.
“If you have a stronger stride on the ice, you’re going to be stronger on the puck,” Gosselin says. “If you can obtain a better position and start getting core strength, get some flexion in your ankles and skate with your head up, it’s going to make a difference in how you can play.”
Another element of balance shows up in what 10U players do outside of hockey but still within an athletic realm.
Dan Jablonic, another player development manager for USA Hockey, stresses the importance of multi-sport participation as a means for developing better 10U athletes.
“At this age, hockey is not a 12-month sport,” he says. “Players are learning to be physically literate and should enjoy other activities.”
Giving kids the space to explore other activities, particularly in an unstructured environment, is essential.
“That’s on us,” Gosselin says of adults who are guiding 10U players. “We want them staying away from early specialization.”
Getting better and stronger takes time. But it shouldn’t feel like a task.
That’s the biggest takeaway Gosselin and Jablonic have for all involved.
“A lot of times we turn this into work for our children. We have the mentality that we have to do dryland training and shoot a certain number of pucks,” Gosselin says. “The key is getting kids wanting to come and have fun at dryland.”
Or as Jablonic says: “Enjoy being a kid and have fun.”
It’s easier when you realize that, as Gosselin says, there are “a thousand ways” to improve strength and quickness.
“We as coaches have to have a mindset of learning and trying new things,” he says. “Keeping the interest of the kids goes a long way.”