This entry was partially inspired by a 6-year old post called “The Start of Creative Hockey Coaching – My Bunker“. If there’s a difference, this post advises hockey parents, coaches and older players, while the above linked post was purely for member coaches.
Back when that article was written, I don’t think there was anywhere near as much misinformation floating around as there is today. No, back then I didn’t feel the need to warn my members to not fall into the hockey off-season traps.
— Dennis Chighisola
Don’t Fall Into The Hockey Off-season Traps
Okay, let’s get some of that misinformation stuff out of the way…
First, it drives me nuts that a lot of hockey writers, wannabe hockey gurus, as well as some seminar speakers totally twist some good advice to unsuspecting youth coaches and parents. Whether it’s because they want to sound important or not, I don’t know. I only know that they’re doing a terrible disservice to those who might initially trust them.
Secondly — or once the initial damage is done, the whole thing tends to snowball. I mean, it reminds me of that old classroom game where a message is given to an initial student, and it’s totally misconstrued by the time it reaches the last kid on the other side of the room. Yup, youth coaches and parents just keep repeating and twisting what they heard from others until a huge injustice is done to all of youth hockey.
Now, while that pretty much explains how all this craziness has been happening over the last few years, here’s the good advice that somehow gets spun differently on its way to youth folks…
To paraphrase as best I can, a good part of that advice (from those who know) suggests that hockey players should not play during the off-season months.
Along the same lines, another good piece of advice makes a lot out of us adults helping kids develop as “athletes”, and not necessarily as strictly hockey players.
I don’t have any arguments with either thought process; in fact, my former NEHI Prep and Junior High School families will tell you that that’s exactly what I advised them to do. Moreover, I incorporated a lot of athletic work in those kids’ weekly practices.
Well, if all that’s so, what’s the problem? Or, more specifically, what are the off-season traps I don’t want my CoachChic.com coaches, parents and players to fall for?
What’s been happening over the past few years is that guys who don’t know any better are sounding as if they encourage hockey players to put all their hockey gear away for the entire spring and summer. And, the way they say it — as if they really know, makes a mom or dad or coach feel stupid for doing anything remotely connected to hockey. (Geeeeeeeze… The stupid part of that is the so-called guru’s advice!)
No one — including USA Hockey — seems to offer any advice about what TO Do. No, instead, those who know no better, scare all the lesser informed hockey folks into thinking they’re going to do their kids great damage by letting them skate, grab a stick and fire a handful of pucks, in-line around the block, work with resistance bands, or anything remotely connected with hockey.
And, left with little more than those words of “wisdom”, I fear some folks think their kids would be better off just vegging or doing absolutely nothing for like three straight months.
Okay, having pretty much taken some supposed hockey experts to task so far, I’m ready to suggest some remedies…
I’m all for shutting down as soon as the regular hockey season ends. As I’ve said in a lot of previous posts, most players have been beaten-up over a long winter, both physically and mentally. And, because parents and coaches have traveled the same route over about 7- or 8-months, they deserve the same kind of break. Aaaaah… Just imagine a Saturday morning with no team related commitment.
At the same time, totally collapsing for very long is not a good idea. Actually, the old Soviets had it right, in that players will benefit most from what might be called “active relaxation”. So, after a very short time of doing the couch potato thing, the best thing in the world would be for a young athlete to get back to being active.
Now, there isn’t much I tell hockey folks that doesn’t have serious meaning, or some future impact. And, in that regard, I’m going to refer to my podcast from a month or so ago, “The Importance of Note Taking“. My point in that audio program was to suggest members make a todo list while the recent season was fresh in your mind. For parents and players, we’re probably talking about skills or physical qualities that need improvement. For the coach, it’s a matter of considering what worked or didn’t work, and then studying ways to do things even better in the upcoming season. (One of my Hockey Diary posts also encourages the reader to make better progress with “3 Steps to Hitting Your Goals Every Time“.)
For my members’ sake, I’ll soon start providing more specific advice — specific to parents, coaches and older players. In the meantime, I’ll at least offer a few ideas here.
Understand that 4- or 5-months of off-season is a pretty long time, and it’s plenty of time to make some drastic changes. My biggest concern is that members might fall into the hockey off-season traps I’ve noted early-on. Again, those off-season months represent a long time, and I’d hate for my followers to waste it.
From my experiences, the off-season is a time when players and coaches can either catch up to or pass by others. (If you’re a coach, don’t fall for the same trap described in my piece on “Maybe You Can’t Coach“.)
Then, before leaving here and working on more detailed advice for you, let me offer a few more thoughts…
When I say a player shouldn’t play during the off-season, I’m suggesting that he or she doesn’t need the pressures of game play outside the regular season. That doesn’t mean that a skating or puckhandling or shooting course couldn’t be a lot of fun and wouldn’t do a lot of good (depending on the aforementioned note taking).
Some players could use an off-season strength training program to greatly enhance their future play, while a speed training or jumping course could also benefit some players.
I highly recommend a player engage in another sport. (Some might suggest more than one, but I’ve found that life gets pretty complicated dealing with several schedules.) From my perspective, some sports tend to compliment hockey — and help to build athleticism, while others can work against our game’s needs. (Thinking of just one example here, I’ve always steered my older players towards anaerobic or explosive track events, as opposed to long distance, aerobic-type running events.)
Getting back to those courses or training programs I mentioned earlier, I’ve also always suggested a mixed approach in dedication. I mean, while it would be foolish to skip too many sessions, I think it can prove exceedingly beneficial for a player to “just go fishing”, go on vacation, or otherwise take a night off once in awhile. Trust me, that a rejuvenated player will bounce back quickly, and often progress even more than had he or she stuck strictly to an off-season schedule.
Oh, one last warning… I was extremely disappointed when most youth hockey organizations switched to springtime tryouts. I wasn’t concerned about my own young guy — or even my students and players, because we kept working and blowing past all the others who sat home on their hands all off-season long. That in mind, those out of whack tryouts are yet another trap, that makes a lot of players (or parents) lazy, and falling behind for all the off-seasons they ignore.
In closing, I hope all of the above makes sense to my members. Again, the off-season represents a long time, and plenty of time to catch or pass by other players or coaches. If you check the Coming section of this site, you should notice that a lot of what I have planned for members is aimed at that end. So will the old articles and videos I’ll resurrect each weekend under My Best Posts.
Whatever you do. though, don’t fall into the hockey off-season traps set by those who don’t seem to know any better.