You've noticed some skill in your young hockey player's game and you're thinking -- hoping, really -- a free ride to a Division One college program might be possible. So you consider having your youngster play year-round, focusing only on hockey. You might be doing your child more hard than good.
My daughter dials it down when they shut off the lights in the rink for the last time. She gets a taste of other sports ( like lacrosse) and gets to meet other coaches and kids. I like that idea. It turns out that this is also a great idea for the hockey side of my daughter's game.
“It’s been proven over and over that cross training can be helpful for all sports. Let the player have fun, explore and find their way. Especially when they’re young,” says Syracuse Mountain Hockey coach Scott Montagna, whose son played D1 Hockey. If the goal is to play D1, there will come a time when you’ll need to invest a serious amount of time and effort into training. “There are very few naturals in hockey,” he told me.
The father of a college hockey star and NHL draft pick, who asked to remain anonymous for this article, says his son always played several sports growing up. When the time came to get serious, he still took time away from the rink. “In the spring and summer, we would cut back to one or maybe twice a week," he said. "The kids need a break mentally and physically from the intense AAA schedule. The parents need a break, too.”
Burnout can be a factor and that’s when knowing your kid comes into play. “I’ve seen kids who will skate two to three hours a day if they can and they are bummed when their parents make them leave," says Montagna. "The most important thing is you can’t force it on your child.”
“An athlete’s most valued instinct is desire. There’s no way a child can keep optimal motivation for a sport if they’re playing 12 months a year. It becomes a job,” says
coach Bill Cahill, whose
daughter plays four sports. Oswego,
Veteran hockey coach John Katko, from
encourages his sons to play other sports too. “To me, the more sports you
can play the better. You develop different muscles, coordination, skills with
different sports, which in the end makes you a better athlete,” he said. Camillus, NY
Keep in mind that the numbers are against your child. A 1985 study of all 30,000 10 years olds playing hockey in Ontario found that just 147 -- about 1 in every 200 youth players -- made it to D1 or juniors, and just 32 of those ever played a shift in the NHL. Only 15 played more than one season and only six played long enough to get an NHL pension.
And one final reminder from the father of that college hockey star and NHL prospect: “The thing I always tell people is I am raising a person, not a hockey player. A sport is just a tool. Using more sports means I have more tools to raise the best person possible.”