The summer months are here and for many the skates, sticks and ice have given way to bats, balls and blades of grass. And while young athletes may yearn for the start of hockey season in a few months, concentrating on other sports and off-ice activities during the offseason may be the best way to prepare for the drop of the puck next fall.
According to Ken Martel, USA Hockey’s technical director of the American Development Model, the offseason provides a perfect opportunity for youth athletes at all levels to develop both physically and mentally. Participation in other sports, along with various off-ice drills and programs, can help players stay sharp for the following season.
“Young players need the time away from hockey, more to provide opportunities to acquire a broader range of movement skills,” Martel says.
“For older players, the break is certainly needed for the mental recharging as well as physical recovery. Playing another sport can keep fitness levels up while mentally recharging for their primary sport.”
Mentally recharging should not be overlooked, as “burnout” due to extreme focus on just one sport can force great hockey players out of the game.
“We see it in some of our best teen aged players,” Martel says. “When the time comes to really kick it in gear and spend more time at a particular sport, they don’t have the mental energy to continue. Athlete burnout has been well documented across all sports.
There are various off-ice, age-specific drills that can be performed to help young athletes stay prepared for when the hockey season arrives. Players and coaches can find several drills online at USAHockey.com/CEPDryland.aspx, or can purchase the Off-Ice Skills & Drills DVD at usahockeycompleteskills.com.
Players can learn lessons from other sports that translate into key hockey concepts as well. Martel notes that, for older athletes especially, there has been evidence of carry-over between “invasion” sports such as soccer and lacrosse in tactics and reading the play.
Additionally, programs such as The Hockey IntelliGym, a software-based training tool designed to help develop players’ cognitive abilities, can be a perfect fit in the summer when kids may not be facing the additional important time constraints from school.
“Players may find that they have more time available to use IntelliGym in the offseason for this type of training,” Martel adds.
Adapted from a program originally designed to help develop Israeli fighter pilots, the IntelliGym focuses on developing “hockey I.Q.” or hockey sense. With a recommended regimen of using the product for 30 minutes twice per week, players should view the IntelliGym like a workout for the brain.
More suggestions and information can be found at HockeyIntelliGym.com.
Most importantly during the offseason, kids should continue to have fun with family and friends no matter what the activity, so that when the weather turns this fall, they are ready to hit the ice flying.
To learn more about The Hockey IntelliGym, visit TheHockeyIntelliGym.com.