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8U Q-and-A: Summer fun?

06/13/2018, 4:30pm MDT
By Roger Grillo

Q: What should summer hockey look like for my 8U player?

A: Most young athletes in any sport come prepackaged with a ton of passion to play that sport as much as adults will allow them. The challenge for those adults is to make sure they don’t overfeed that passion. 

When I tell parents to step away from hockey for a large portion of the spring and summer and allow their children to experience other sports and activities, the most common response I get is, “But my son/daughter loves hockey.” The ultimate goal, however, should be to make sure that your child has that same response when they are age 14 and beyond. 

On too many occasions, we’ve seen children who had a ton of passion to play hockey at an early age, but because they played it much too often and in many cases year-round, that passion gradually diminished due to burnout. Usually those children ended up getting surpassed later in their teens by players for whom the passion still burned just as bright as it did when they were 8 years old. And typically those still-passionate players were the multi-sport kids whose passion for hockey wasn’t overfed in their early years.

So the answer is this: There’s nothing wrong with a young athlete playing a little hockey during the offseason. Some unstructured, fun summer hockey experiences are perfectly OK, as long as they look nothing like the traditional hockey season, which is too often over-coached, overloaded with travel and time commitment, and shackled by adults dictating everything that happens.

This axiom always applies, but especially in the summer: Let kids be kids. Let them play other sports and experience a variety of activities. Don’t worry so much about whether they’ll fall behind. Focus instead on giving them a well-rounded childhood and a broad base of all-around athleticism. In the long run, those kids are usually the ones who end up winning the race that matters most.

The author, Roger Grillo, has coached for more than 20 years at the high school and college levels. He spent 12 seasons as the head coach at Brown University and was a Spencer Penrose National Coach of the Year finalist in 1997-98.

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