With the start of summer approaching, and the weather getting warmer, I can’t help but want to get outside and go for a bicycle ride or rollerblade through a park. Not much has changed since I was a kid, as I remember spending my summers outside playing games like kick the can around my neighbourhood, or more likely a game of street hockey. While the sport I played in the hockey offseason was lacrosse, what I don’t remember is being on the ice for those summer months.
It seems that it has become a regular occurrence for kids to be spending time on the ice year-round. The logic behind this for a lot of parents and kids participating in all the extra skills work seems to be: “everyone else is doing it, and if we don’t we will start to fall behind”. I can understand this way of thinking, as you always want to be working harder than the next person, but I feel the negatives can potentially outweigh the positives.
One reason I believe kids should get away from the rink for a while is something I haven’t heard many people talk about. Hockey brings you so many great lifelong friends, but it is also important to have friends outside of hockey. Playing other sports and doing other activities will allow kids to create a wider network of friends, which is important, as you will encounter more people through your life from outside the hockey world than from within it. Having friends with different interests is great because it helps to make you a more well-rounded person, and can even help kids with future encounters they will have in their lives.
The best hockey players are typically fairly versatile athletes, but that is something you cannot be if you aren’t participating in other sports. So many skills you learn at a young age from different sports and games will transfer into hockey: quick hands from playing lacrosse, hand-eye coordination from baseball, creativity and critical thinking from creating your own games.
I have seen so many players that were talented at a young age burn out before they are even twenty years old and end up quitting the game. This, of course, can be for any number of reasons and circumstances are different from person to person, but playing the amount of hockey outside the season, from spring tournaments to skills sessions, could have had a negative impact. I am lucky to have a great group of friends with many of them still playing high levels of hockey, from University in both Canada and the US, to professional in leagues across the world. With utmost certainty I can say that all of them played a vast majority of sports growing up and spent their summers outside with friends… and I would recommend the same thing to any young hockey players looking to follow in their footsteps.
One of my good friends, and fellow HEROS Ambassador, Matt Dumba, is an NHL player for the Minnesota Wild. He and I talk often about this topic and it’s something he feels very strongly about; kids should enjoy being kids and have fun doing a variety of activities. Something most people wouldn’t know is he was not one of the best hockey players when he was a kid, but he was such a natural athlete that his progression was able to happen quickly and has allowed him to get to the position he is in today.
Another great example of being an all-round athlete, that paid off later in life, is my sister Sarah. Sarah’s sport of choice was soccer, but she played many other sports, even giving hockey a try one winter. She is now a student athlete at the University of Lethbridge who not only plays on the Woman’s Soccer Team, but is also a star on the Track and Field Team. Sarah is one of my biggest inspirations as she is dedicated to being a great athlete through her training and the way she eats and lives, while also being a great student and putting time into volunteering in the community. Just recently she participated in RBC’s Training Ground, a joint initiative with RBC and Canada Olympics searching Canada for future Olympic athletes, and her dedication paid off as she was announced as the winner of her region (and one of only four winners in all of Canada). I am proud of what she has accomplished and am excited to watch where her career takes her as she aims to one day participate in the Olympic games. Without her upbringing of being active in so many different sports, I don’t know if her current success would have been as likely.
To this day Matt, myself, and the rest of our friends spend the summers playing outside whenever we can, getting basketball games together or going for a swim. Whatever it is we are doing, we are always having fun and to me that is the most important thing for any kid. They should have fun and enjoy their time away from school with friends, and by the time hockey season comes around they will feel recharged and excited for the season to start.