It’s a simple truth; if you’re the parent of a kid who shows some promise in the game of hockey, there’s enormous pressure to extend his or her season beyond March and into June, perhaps with a summer hockey school tossed in for good measure.
Some parents embrace it, forking out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for pro-calibre instruction, while others grudgingly accept it. Fewer still resist it.
How can you let your kid, who would play hockey every day if he could, fall behind their friends and rivals?
It’s a constant debate of when hockey reaches a tipping point and year-round activity in the sport can start to do more harm than good.
Corey McNabb is the Director of Hockey Development Programs for Hockey Canada and acknowledges that it can be a tough line to walk at times.
“There’s probably a lot of the parents who understand that too much can be too much,” said McNabb. “At the same time, they look at neighbours and friends and other teammates who are doing it, and they feel if they don’t put their son or daughter into it that they might be left behind.”
As kids grow older, the hockey landscape becomes more competitive. But for every success story of the player who makes it, there are just as many, if not more, of those who didn’t. Not seeing results on such a heavy commitment can be an upsetting end result.
“We see a lot of parents who do put a lot of money, resources and time into giving their kid every opportunity that they think is going to get them to the next level. At the end of the day, they are almost putting all their eggs in one basket and really hoping that things are going to turn out.”
According to McNabb, there are two aspects to summer hockey. The skill development can be valuable. If you are working on improving your skating, puck handling or shooting in a situation that isn’t in a team atmosphere or high-pressure environment, it can be beneficial. The player can control how much time and effort they put into a drill. The OMHA Players Club is a great example of an exercise that is great for the off-season.
What can be worrisome to McNabb are the travel and tournament teams over the summer where the emphasis is placed on winning. Over the long haul, that can be a bigger detriment because hockey is played 12 months of the year and there is no opportunity to play other sports.
Playing multiple sports develops multiple muscles and can reduce the risk of overuse injuries. The repetitive motions of some athletes who decide on sport specialization at a young age can cause problems. As well, the year-round participation in the same sport doesn’t allow for enough recovery time.
“The continued stress on the same body parts over and over. Whether you’re a swimmer, tennis player or even a golfer, there’s certain movements that do have a lot of stress on the body. When you’re not doing anything else to help strengthen other muscles and other movement patterns that have the chance to strengthen other muscles around it, they just start to wear down and injuries happen.”
Many other summer sports offer a similar style of play to hockey and can teach transferable skills. Sports like soccer, basketball and lacrosse all feature techniques like spacing, hand-eye coordination and looking for passing lanes, which all apply to hockey. Players won’t lose skills just because they don’t play hockey in the summer.
Summer sports should be looked at as a physical benefit in creating an overall athlete. It’s better than staying inside all day.
After all, the anticipation of ice coming back to the rink is one of the best feelings out there.
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