Many kids get involved in spring hockey after the regular season, but when school is out and summer starts, it’s time to hang up the skates for a while… A big misconception is that kids need to continue playing hockey during the summer to get an edge on the competition by attending high-intensity on-ice camps. I know some parents get worried that if their kid isn’t doing more than the next guy that they’re going to be left behind. Trust me, kids are not going to forget how to skate or take a slap shot in the off-season. If you want to effectively improve on-ice performance you have to focus on strength and conditioning in the off-season.
There’s nothing wrong with skating once a week during the summer to work on skill development, but the intensity has to be low in order to recover properly from all the heavy skating over the year. Too much on-ice work over the course of a year will increase muscular imbalances and ultimately lead to injuries. Players need time to rest and recover by correcting flexibility and mobility issues while strengthening muscles that get under used on the ice.
With that being said, there are many types of summer activities kids can do to stay fit and in shape while having fun doing it. The best all-around athletes are those who participate in various sports or activities during the off-season. There is so much more to athletic development than just on-ice preparation. If you really want to get better on the ice and be prepared for the next season, you should be doing some kind of strength and conditioning program.
At an early age, it’s more about just staying active and having fun in the summer time, which is why I don’t recommend doing any half or full day camps that take up most of the day. If you’re doing on-ice and dry-land training in the same day you’re simply going to burn out and risk over-training. Give your kids the opportunity to enjoy their summer and spend time with the family by going biking, hiking, kayaking, or playing soccer and ultimate frisbee with friends. Simple push ups and pull ups are great upper body strength exercises that can be done anywhere as well.
If you choose to attend an off-season strength and conditioning program I would recommend no more than four days per week with a maximum of only 1.5 hours per day with no ice time. At the high school level, training should be taken more serious than Pee Wees and Atoms considering high school players need to get bigger and stronger. Just remember it’s about having fun and taking a break from hockey, and I can guarantee you will see better results than those who do too much on-ice activity year round.