Dear future hockey star,
Yes, you there, with the hockey stick in your hands. First, let’s put that stick down. And back away from it. Slowly, if you have to. Do we have your attention? Let’s hope so because we’ve got some great advice coming your way.
Want to make it to the next level? What we’re about to pass along is one of the greatest tips you may ever learn about getting there. Yes, next-level stuff. Ready?
You should stop playing so much hockey. Right now.
It’s the summer. From Stockbridge to Boston, from Springfield and Greenfield, Fitchburg and Worcester, inside 495 and 95, up the North Shore, down the South Shore and out to the Cape, there’s something better to do today. Hike, swim, bike, sprint. Climb a tree. Play some hoops, play some catch, play some tag, play some soccer. Tennis. Gymnastics. Golf. Flag football. Anything.
OK, OK, yes, by all means, keep that net in the driveway and shoot for a while, or stickhandle with a wooden ball in the basement if you like, but there’s a secret you may not yet know about.
Stealing a phrase from the experts — the academics and coaches and training gurus who study this kind of thing for a living — you may be sealing your personal ceiling by becoming too one-dimensional as an athlete. Physically speaking, you’re better off playing different sports to become a better athlete. Being a better athlete will raise your ceiling as a hockey player.
Maybe this feels counter-intuitive. Or nuts. But it's true. (Google "benefits of playing multiple sports" and consider who's suggesting you need to play constantly vs. dialing it back.)
You’ll have to be more agile than you are today. You'll need more balance than you have today. And you'll have to be more coordinated than you are today. Playing multiple sports creates pathways to raising your personal ceiling.
“We’ll get kids who have spent a lot of time specializing in hockey, and, in the short run, it might make a difference – but, in the long run, their athleticism is really capped,” USA Hockey ADM Technical Director Ken Martel told us earlier this year. “They're not growing as players, and you can see it. It's like they can't get any better.”
Can't. Get. Any. Better.
That should grab your attention. So should the fact that, on average, you're not as athletic as your peers around the world. In Finland, Martel told us, a study suggested kids needed 20 hours a week of “moderate to vigorous physical activity to be a healthy kid,” and you’re not going to get that in a hockey rink this summer.
You'll be surprised over the years how much of your hockey skill set comes back with you after a summer off. And possibly more surprised how, over the years, elite agility, balance and coordination become more valuable.
There’s also the burnout factor. Put the bag away and look forward to the next time you open it in the fall, or for a quick camp in the summer. We understand you love the game and we promise it won’t betray you if you ditch it for a bit. Deal? We also understand you feel you can eat, breathe and sleep hockey. But few are able to carry that through 24/7/365. Play that long and that hard before doing it for a living and you’re even less likely to make it there without dimming your enthusiasm for the game.
We want that fire to be fueled. We want September to roll around and for you to be excited to run to the bag, to tape up sticks again, to visit a pro shop for the first time in months, to step on the ice and glide across a fresh sheet of ice. To enjoy the return. Revel in getting back to what so many of us believe is the best game in the world.
And, once March or April comes again, look forward to putting the skates away and grabbing the cleats or sneakers or flip-flops. All of which, according to the experts who not only study the science but also believe in creating better athletes, players and people, are suited every spring and summer to making you a better player in the fall and winter.
Enjoy your summer, future hockey star. We can’t wait to see you on the ice—just make sure it’s not too in advance of October.