The past 6 weeks I’ve been on the ice a ton for a spring 3 on 3 league with PowerTech. I’ve been working with kids from the tyke age group up to midget and everywhere in between. There’s something fun and unique about every age group, and they all have different priorities at their age based on where they should be in their development. One thing that was true across the board was that kids who displayed a high base level of athleticism made good goalies. These were usually the kids who also excelled in sports other than hockey.
If you think you can see where this article is headed, you’re probably right. In my opinion, kids should play other sports in the summer, and not more hockey, especially throughout their developing years.
There are a few big reasons for this statement.
The first and obviously most important is for the long term health of the athlete. So many of the injuries goalies experience are due to overuse and repetitive stresses and impacts on young joints. There are kids having hip and knee surgeries at 14 years old and younger due to the stresses certain positions put on the body. That’s not right. Playing a different sport in the off season allows the body to work in other positions and provides the joints with some recovery time before the next season starts.
The next is that it actually benefits their goaltending. Fundamentally goaltending is more closely related to sports other than hockey in terms of skill requirement. Compare goaltending with tennis for example:
- Crouched starting position
- Small, single object of focus
- Tons of lateral movement
- Reading opponents’ body language and ball path
- Quick reactions
It’s close enough to have a ton of carryover skills, but different enough to avoid a lot of those repetitive use injuries we talked about earlier. Not to mention you get a sweet tan! A tan even British guys can get!
Lastly, it makes you miss the game. Anyone who’s played hockey at a high level will tell you that so much of their success stems from a genuine love of the game. There’s got to be an excitement to come to the rink. When you’re heading there frequently, year round, it becomes tough. I’ve seen kids who have a ton of talent and get pushed and pushed, only to burn out before they’ve had a chance to realize their full potential.
There’s a couple exceptions to my points.
Firstly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a camp or two during the summer to work on some skills or keep things sharp. The summer can be a great opportunity to take some time to add some tools to your game or improve certain skills without the obligations of your season schedule. In fact I would say that if you’re not on the ice at all in the summer, you’ll likely be starting the next season a bit behind the competition, but keep it sensible.
The other exception is when you get to a point in your career where high level hockey is in sight and your summer becomes very structured around making improvements in your game to take into camp the following season. Please understand I’m not talking about going from A hockey to AA. I’m talking about the jump from Midget AAA to Major Junior or college or from junior hockey to professional.
Have fun this summer! Take the chance to get away from the ice for a bit and try something new. Sure, do a camp that’s short and sweet that will help your game (stay tuned for a good option for that coming soon by the way), but make sure you’re working on yourself as a complete athlete.