Taking A Step Back Can Help Your Kid Spring Forward

In the hustle and bustle of a youth hockey season, parents are constant witnesses to our children’s physical transformations. 

Like when my son Joe worked on his flow so his hair would curl out from the bottom of his helmet. Or noticing another growth spurt with my daughter Sophia by the way her hockey pants no longer covered the tops of her knees.

The emotional and personal developments can be a bit subtler to see but every bit as important in their growth as a player and a person.

As the season winds down and the rigidity of structure melts away, our thoughts turn to what takes place away from the game. Experts have long encouraged kids to add another activity to their sporting repertoire to help them become a more well-rounded athlete. And, at the same time, hanging up the skates for an extended period of time can help to avoid the dreaded effects of burnout.

Seeing the action from a different perspective can help a player process what’s taking place around them and help them stay one step ahead of the play. 

More than just the physical component of picking up a bat or a racquet is the value that playing other sports can have on mental and cognitive ability to look at the action from a different perspective. So whether that’s taking place on a soccer field or a tennis court, how youngsters learn to read and react to the action taking place around them will help them once they return to the ice.

Roger Grillo, a regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model, says a lot of our focus as coaches and parents always seems to come back to the physical aspects of playing other sports: Using different muscles and developing new skills. But Grillo says it is much deeper than that.

“To me, an even bigger aspect in our thinking is how does this benefit my child in reading the game better,” he says. “The flow and patterns of the game, a player’s relationship with the puck as well as opponents and teammates and where do you need to be at any given time.” 

Seeing the action from a different perspective can help a player process what’s taking place around them and help them stay one step ahead of the play. 

 “If you can do that you’re going to make a better hockey player and a better athlete,” Grillo says.

There’s a lot to be said for an unstructured offseason, too. Grillo advises parents of younger players to let their kids enjoy their down time, and if they’re begging for a change of scenery, pick something that’s not over-coached and non-committal.

“To me, over-structure really hurts the passion building and ability of kids,” Grillo says.

At the end of the day, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to  fill the gap when the season ends. Have an honest conversation with your player and give them the opportunity to try something new. 

“Doing something different is always a positive thing,” Grillo says. “Every parent wants their son and daughter to be the best at whatever they do, whether it’s hockey or in school. The challenge is getting them to see that their son or daughter can be good at hockey by stepping away from the game. It’s a leap of faith, but it’s an important one in the overall development of our kids.” 



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