Hockey Players Need A Healthy Balance

In Leadership by Jay Aikenhead


Marcel Dion sat down with Steve Ludzik (@steveludzik) and Mike Cressman (@mcressReview) as part of a local television show in St. Catherines Ludzy’s Lounge


(Full Show here


During the sit down interview Marcel was asked about the subject of year round hockey. Marcel was of the opinion that kids are playing too much hockey and need to develop a diverse repertoire of skills. Dion attributes his athletic success to not being enamoured with hockey as a child. As a youth he says he was able to develop life skills through participating in hockey during the winter but then allowing himself to do other activities and having down time. Bike riding, fishing, tennis and social activities can benefit the individual and develop different skills away from the rink. This may be why he was able to develop the personal skills required to be a professional and the desire to become a legend in the sport.



Is Marcel off base? Year round programs are popping up all over the country and it has become a multimillion dollar business. From in season development programs to spring teams to off season training to preseason preparation and back to the season again there isn’t much of a break in the hockey year for kids to develop skills away from the rink. However these programs allow for elite athletes to flourish and develop the skills that are necessary on the ice to become top tier hockey players. Just as with an Olympian or other professional athletes these players need quality practice in order to develop in their craft. So is it even a determent to the child to be doing that much hockey?


Early specialization is detrimental to long term development of the athlete. Basic sport skills can’t be overlooked as important to the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model that is the centerpiece to developing athletes in Canada. Kids need to have movement experiences outside the rink to be able to Run, Jump, Catch, Skip, and Throw to maximize their own athletic abilities. These skills transfer to the rink by the athlete being able to control their bodies more efficiently therefore increasing their prowess on the ice. What about personal and social skill development? How many hockey players have their hockey skills get them into school or give them a job? The athletes that get to ”pay their way” with their skills when they get older are few and far between and catering all hockey programs for them does a disservice to the rest of the participants who are playing as a hobby. Kids need to be able to have “free time” where they can decide what they want to do and live with the benefits and consequences of those decisions. They need to learn social skills by interacting with different groups of people in different scenarios not just around the rink.


There are opposing arguments to developing athletes and all families should be asking how much hockey is too much. As with most things a healthy balance is crucial. Your athletes need to be well-rounded individuals in order to survive the rigours of intense competitions. They can’t just be good at being one kind of athlete because they need the well rounded skill set (physically, mentally, and spiritually) to help them through life. On the other hand if being an athlete is what they want to get good at they will have to participate in the sport to a large degree to pursue their dreams. All in all I think Marcel had a great point, don’t stagnate your athletes. Allow them to get away from the rink and develop as individuals. Allow them to experience other parts of life and enjoy the process that is athletic development.

About the Author

Jay Aikenhead


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