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Put The Skates Away This Summer

By David Kittner AKA Youth Fitness Guy, 07/30/14, 3:45PM EDT


Develop Physical and Mental Skills Away From The Ice

When hockey is over for the year, parents often want to know what their young daughter or son can do over the summer months to get ready for the upcoming season. It’s a question I get asked every year. Hockey has become very competitive at all levels and parents rightfully want to do what they think is best for their child.

The best thing any young hockey player can do over the summer is stay away from the rink.  Rest assured your child will not fall behind or miss out if they don’t play summer hockey. The summer is a great time to get involved in other sports be it lacrosse, soccer, ultimate frisbee, baseball, softball, skateboarding etc. These other sports can be organized or pickup games with friends. This will give kids a much needed physical and mental break from hockey while providing them with a cornucopia of benefits that will enhance their hockey when they get back at it in September.

Regardless of what sports your child chooses to play over the summer it’s critical that fun be the key ingredient. The number one reason kids play sports in the first place is to have fun. Take the fun away and you may well end up with a child who no longer wants to play sports. The number one reason kids quit playing sports is because it’s no longer fun.

Is simply playing sports over the summer going to provide your child with the best opportunity to develop their athleticism and fundamental movement skills required for healthy growth and development? Will it help put them on a path to injury prevention and healthy active living? The answer is no.

It’s important for every child to develop a foundation of athleticism and fundamental movement skills also known today as Physical Literacy. Physical Literacy provides kids with the confidence to participate in various physical activities and sports.

The window of opportunity for children to develop physical literacy gets smaller and smaller as children grow older peaking at around age sixteen when their nervous systems begin to harden and becomes less accepting of new stimuli. The best time to lay the ground work for physical literacy occurs when kids are young and their nervous systems are highly active and sponge like.

Playing sports over the summer as well as hockey over the winter is great for developing sport specific skills, being somewhat active and making new friends but it is not sufficient for laying the ground work for developing physical literacy. So what’s a parent to do?

Think back to the days when kids engaged freely in daily play. Maybe you were one of them. Kids played with their friends, from dawn to dusk with no adults around, came home to eat and then again at the end of the day when the street lights came on. It was free play at its finest. Sadly with the changing times daily physical activity is becoming a thing of the past both at home and school and as a result kids are missing the opportunity to naturally develop their bodies physically, mentally, socially and emotionally.

Developing physical literacy and fundamental movement skills is a direct result of kids participating in games and activities emphasising running, jumping, climbing, pushing, pulling, hanging, rolling, tumbling, chasing, fleeing, dodging, wrestling, throwing, catching, hitting, etc. These activities provide children with the novelty, diversity and versatility in movement and when done daily over time, they will develop a foundation of athleticism, fundamental movement skills and enhanced physical literacy. In addition children will not only benefit in their home and school life but in hockey and other future sport endeavours.

Does this mean your child requires a personal trainer or a gym membership over the summer? Absolutely not! The aforementioned activities can take the form of unorganized free play at playgrounds and parks, hiking and biking, pick-up games of various sports, climbing trees, roughhousing with friends, games of tag etc. When kids get together their play and activity is random, child centred, self-directed, chaotic and most of all fun.

This is also a great time for parents to spend time with their kids and sharing in the many benefits of being physically active together. Keep it simple and keep it fun and you and your child will be rewarded with many positive memories.

While engaged in play and having fun children will improve from the side effects these activities produce. Over and above the social and mental benefits kids will develop systemic strength, balance, coordination, mobility, flexibility, power, speed, agility and explosiveness.

In addition, according to PHE Canada’s Passport for Life,

“competent movers tend to be successful both academically and socially. They understand and demonstrate healthy-active lifestyles, are able to transfer movement skills into different settings, and are more socially and psychologically resilient. Improving in all the features of physical literacy will promote:

  • development of physical competence;
  • confident participation in a wide variety of purposeful physical pursuits;
  • effective interaction in a wide variety of situations and environments;
  • development of confidence and self-esteem;
  • sensitive interaction with others;
  • knowledge and understanding of the importance of physical activity in maintaining health;
  • commitment to participate in a range of purposeful physical pursuits;
  • ability to reflect realistically on personal strengths and to select appropriate, purposeful physical pursuits in which to take part;
  • appreciation of the value of purposeful physical pursuits in their potential to enhance the quality of life.”

Source: (Whitehead 2004, p. 43

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