The famous line “practice makes perfect” seems to be a household saying when it comes to practically anything, including hockey. While most NHL players did in fact dedicate both their winters and summers growing up in order to perfect their game, that trend is slowly starting to fade.
That’s right, some are now starting to say that playing one sport for 12 months a year can actually do more harm than good, especially for younger athletes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to tell you to go bury your gear in the shed from April to August or that you shouldn’t touch a weight in the off-season.
Keeping the rust off your wheels and building strength and power in the gym is obviously essential in improving your on-ice play but I think it’s important that some light is shed on the numerous other things an athlete can do that will benefit them come the start of the regular season.
It’s unfortunate how often you see parents push their own kids year round, watching and criticizing them during the winter only to sign them up for camps and training throughout the whole summer.
All this does is simply not give them a break.
Most of the time, this ultimately results in the kid burning themselves out of the sport, getting sick of it for lack of better terms.
This is how most “motivator cuff” injuries happen. Most of the time this kind of injury is in fact career ending. All jokes aside, parents fork out thousands of dollars every summer thinking that the more their kid is on the ice, the better chance they’ve got at making the show when in reality, this is a perfect scenario where ‘less is more.’
There’s a reason why golf is the natural and most common off-season sport of hockey players. Is it a coincidence it’s also one of the world’s most frustrating sports? I’m not too sure but aside from riding around in carts on a hot summer day, golf is not for the weak minded. Golf’s individualism puts a huge emphasis on the mental aspect of the game. Golfers have to step up to every shot like it’s just another shot, whether it’s the 18th at Augusta or on the driving range, the ability to execute in pressure situations will pay off when you encounter them on the ice as well. Golfers also know that you need to channel the positive and the negative as you prepare for your next shot.
The ability to keep your emotions neutral through the good and the bad is the heart of staying focused. Hockey players must carry this skill as getting too up on the bench can lead to careless mental mistakes while anger can lead to stupid decision making. Whether golf is for you or not, it’s ability to improve your mental strength is second to none and is transferable to any other sport which is why you see elite athletes like Steph Curry actually being good enough to play in a Web.com Tour event.
You show me someone who loves sprints or running hills and I will show you a liar.
Nonetheless, it’s not something you can just ignore. Power and agility are crucial components to a complete hockey player, but as mentioned, you don’t have to look to far to find something that can develop those skills in a much more enjoyable fashion.
For those who have never tried squash or tennis, don’t be shy to give it a chance. I am not a squash enthusiast nor am I all that good but what I can tell you is that the foundation of squash or tennis combines not only quick feet and quick thinking but must actively think where the ball is going so you can get to the right spot before hand.
Former NHL player Devon Setoguchi would actually spend his summers and free time playing badminton and golf, something he said helped with his hand-eye coordination.
Don’t worry, I made sure to save the best for last.
While it may not seem like the most exciting thing in the world, I can guarantee you that the benefits an athlete will get from yoga will show in every part of their game; be it pre-game, mid-game or even post-game.
My biggest regret as a hockey player is not knowing or not committing to stretching.
Year after year my trainers would be amazed with how I still couldn’t touch my toes and if I had a dime for every time I heard “How are you a goalie?” well… you get the point.
From younger athletes to the older ones, yoga is the one off-season training I would recommend the most as increased flexibility not only improves all of your skills, making you faster and stronger but will also let you play the game longer without seeing your trainers.
My whole point in this article isn’t to preach that you should in fact forget about hockey completely but more so to show that there are numerous things outside of a hockey rink that can benefit young players. Find that happy medium of getting on the ice and in gym all while expanding your comfort zone and come regular season, you’ll see benefits all over the ice.
As always, thanks for the read!
Yours in writing,
Taylor Dupuis #29