Should Your Kid Play Hockey Year Round?

Should you play hockey year round?

By LEANNE BROWN

Nothing says summer in Canada summer like hockey. It’s a 30 degree day in July and I’m headed to a rink. Again.

I pull into the arena parking lot and after dragging the gear out of the trunk, I pull on sweatpants and a hoodie over my summer shorts and tanktop. For the next 90 minutes I will be shivering ice-side while my daughter pursues her passion. Fortunately, it’s just a three-day camp.

When I grew up, hockey season went from September to March. In the off-season, we played other sports like soccer or baseball. The  summer sport was only one or two nights a week and the occasional weekend tournament. My summer holidays were a time for being with friends, exploring, swimming, eating entirely too much ice-cream and just plain goofing off.  30-degree days in July were dedicated to swimming or the beach.

Even the really dedicated players only attended a hockey camp in late August in prep for the upcoming season.

These days, hockey season never really ends. The kids never really get a break. It’s like that for most sports these days. Kids who are really into a sport, typically play year-round, many attending camps dedicated to their sport at Christmas, March Break and in summer. I wonder if we’ve all become so invested in the idea of organizing our kids’ activities and of giving them every opportunity to be their best, that we’ve forgotten how to let kids be kids.

After a summer break, I see the excitement in my daughter’s eyes as she laces up her skates and hits the ice. She’s missed hockey and is excited for the season ahead. I see the same look as she laces up her cleats in May. She appreciates the change.

Many experts agree with a change of sports per season. The belief is that you play hockey all winter, in the summertime you need to get outside, enjoy some sunshine, get out of the hockey arena. Eight weeks of training in another sport, depending on when your season ends, is good for kids. In other words, go do something else in the summer.

Many parents wonder if taking the summer away from hockey will leave their child at a disadvantage. Experts don’t see it that way. When a child plays more than one sport, they are better overall athletes. Sports like soccer are fantastic for coordination, learning spacial positioning and seeing the field, all which translate to better play on the ice. Baseball, lacrosse and field hockey are good for hand-eye coordination. Most summer sports offer great aerobic conditioning.

Even NHL players don’t play hockey all year-round. Most play other sports like golf or tennis in the off-season. It’s all about benefits of being a multi-sport athlete.

As a general rule, hockey is a late specialization sport so waiting until they are older to specialize is a good strategy. Sometimes kids that specialize in hockey have trouble moving to other sports. When these kids drop hockey in their teens, they don’t have a backup sport which sometimes leaves them on the sidelines due to lack of confidence.

So how many sports should your child play? As a guideline, three sports for 13- to 16-year-olds, four for nine- to 12-year-olds and up to six for three- to nine-years olds. Now, these aren’t all expected to be rep sports. Houseleague soccer once a week or swimming lessons count.

As for summer hockey camp, I think one or two weeks close to the end of the summer can be a great idea to get their feet moving on ice again. As a parent, it can also be a good gauge if you have kids on the fence about playing. You can see if they actually want to continue before they commit to the season. Summer is notorious for kids having growth spurts, so this is the time to see how much new gear you are going to need to buy and benefit from those “Back to hockey” promotions.

Now that I’ve thawed out from the rink, it’s time for a swim and some ice cream. After all, the best summer ice comes in a cone with sprinkles.

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