1. Plan for a ‘Three Season’ Year.
Look at the big picture for your family over the next few months and create a plan that works for everyone. Building in periods of rest, both active and passive, is important for growing athletes. Some “downtime” is a necessity. Take time away from the rink. Factor in some unstructured activity where “play” and just having fun is the primary objective. For the ‘structured activity’ part of your plan, consider a sport that serves as a great development activity for hockey … but isn’t hockey (maybe badminton – seriously - think eye hand coordination linked with foot speed).
Multisport training produces better overall athleticism and being a great overall athlete makes you a better hockey player.
Time away from the rink creates a renewed sense of purpose. Twelve straight months of hockey, no matter how much you think your child loves it (or he/she says “that’s all I want to do”), isn’t healthy and it won’t produce the best long-term results.
It is best to think of the year being divided into three ‘seasons’:
- The Competitive season
- The REST and recovery season
- The Development season
2. Sometimes “Less is More”
The pressure to “Keep up with the Jones’” can be extreme. “Wow, Fred has got his son enrolled in so much hockey, I better get in on it or my son will be left behind”. In regard to Long Term Athlete Development, we know that just playing more hockey doesn’t necessarily make one a better hockey player. Consider - the plan to layer a 3 on 3 camp, hockey skills camps, checking camps, etc. etc. along with spring and summer competition may not be the best way to generate desired results. It could be too much of a good thing - especially since there are other options when it comes to highly effective training and development.
Instead, consider the developmental advantages of activity where competition is removed from the equation. This allows your player to become a bit selfish (in a very healthy positive way) and focus on “how do I get better”. Significantly, true development work often creates a situation where performance decreases somewhat just prior to a very rapid advance. (Think of the golf pro that decides it is time to “tweak” his/her swing. Almost always there is a noticeable decline in performance prior to seeing the elevated results of the effort). The focus on, and pressure of, competition can seriously inhibit the necessary stages of development.
3. Skate Fit; Skate Fast
Make sure you take plenty of time to research and shop for the right skates. Then find the people that can get them set up properly. Fit, blade alignment, sharpening, profiling are now all common practice and use updated technology to make a difference in skating performance.
From this performance perspective, skates are your most important investment. Not just any skate will do. Skates need to fit a foot properly in considerations with age, size and body type. When it’s time to buy new skates, don’t wait for a Saturday just before the ‘camp’ starts. This should NOT be a rushed process. You’ve got to get it right.
Take the time to go to your skate store and get measured by a professional. Take the time to go though the fitting process and don’t necessarily buy the most expensive pair. Skates that are too big (fitting for ‘growth’) or too stiff will actually set your skating back. These 2 common issues, poor skate fit or too stiff of a boot for the player, are the biggest problems we see on the ice with young players.
Resist the inclination to be brand loyal. Skate design and manufacturing processes change every year. Skates are WAY different this year than they were five years ago. Your player’s feet may also be way different than they were even last year, beyond just a size or 2 bigger.
The development season is the time to make sure your skates are set up for maximum performance and ready to go for tryouts and selection camp time.
4. “The best way to predict the future is to create it” (Abraham Lincoln) … Move beyond the labels.
Wherever you are at now it is always possible to make significant and rapid advances in your skating ability.
Sadly, labels are put on young skaters far too often. “Awkward,” “Slow,” “Clunky,” “Bad Skater”, “Lazy” are some of the more common ones we hear. They are used so often players begin to believe this is just their lot in life and they cannot change or improve their skating.
We believe that labels are for containers, not people.
We have seen so many players TRANSFORM skating through just one development season. To play with confidence and conviction in hockey today, SPEED is an absolute necessity. No matter what labels you arrive with, the only thing people will be saying once you have experienced a Q3 program is “wow, he/she is FAST … must have skated with Quantum this summer”.