SPRING/SUMMER: TIME AWAY FROM THE RINK IS GOOD
"I know, for myself, when the hockey season was over, I couldn't wait to play baseball. I had no interest in playing ice hockey until September." -Wayne Gretzky (The Globe and Mail, Sept 26/08, click here for full article.)
Each off-season players and parents feel the pressure to be involved with spring/summer hockey team programs, often in fear of being left behind if they do not participate. What's important for players and parents to know is that, naturally, playing other sports during the spring/summer is best for athlete development and that you're not left behind if you don't participate with spring/summer teams. If choosing to participate in an ice hockey program during the spring/summer it is important to choose a program that is based around individual skills/tactics and not around competition. For nearly all ages the optimal off-season should include some on-ice skills/training but must also focus on rest, athletic development (another sport and/or off-ice training), and fun.
The LTAD and HC-LTPD explains data behind issues such as muscle over-use due to early specialization and youth burnout due to extended competitive seasons; both being key issues in hockey. So when deciding on an off-season plan it's important to make a decision that's going to keep the passion hot for hockey when September comes around and a decision that's going to keep the athlete's body in optimal shape another season.