Do you ever feel like you’re forcing your child to go to hockey or dryland training? This is a gigantic red flag.
This is the first in an epic ten-part series, The Minor Hockey Player’s Guide to In-Season Nutrition, Health & Wellness. Special thanks to Shelley Hoodspith for her research, advice and hard work.
Overtraining happens to young hockey players more than parents want to admit. When a hockey player who possesses the necessary skills to contribute to a team but is having trouble with systems, confidence or production, overtraining is the first element a coach questions.
For parents? Overtraining is often the last aspect of a young hockey player’s life to be questioned.
When an athlete is required to do too much, to work at an inappropriately intense level or doesn’t take adequate rest, their on-ice performance suffers. It’s a vicious cycle, because players and parents often blame a lack of performance on everything but overtraining.
So why do we overtrain?
Easy - we want to succeed. The problem is we fail to connect the dots between fatigue and work. Skating 10 times per week, training in the gym, practicing with the team and playing games is too much activity for a minor hockey player who also needs to concentrate on school, helping out around the house and contributing in a positive way to society.
Overtraining alters a hockey player’s mental state. Warming up for a game feels heavy, learning new systems is difficult and the mind reacts sluggishly to suggestions.
It’s obvious to coaches when players are fatigued because they can’t keep up with the rate of knowledge acquisition relative to their teammates.
Simply put, overtrained players don’t learn as quickly as they should be.
Mental fatigue can manifest itself in a number of ways. It’s crucial to ask our children how they’re feeling after dryland training, games and practices. An athlete’s body can feel heavy and achy during off-ice workouts even if their body is perfectly fine. The mind plays tricks on us to make sure we’re paying attention to how much rest we need.
According to Shelley Hoodspith, the first step is to take time off when things start going south. “Take 3 to 5 days off and pay attention to the recovery. Then go back to regular volume to see if there’s a noticeable change. If there is, then resume training. You just needed a break. If there isn’t a change, then the fatigue is physical, not mental.”
There are days when we feel weaker and we get tired faster. Our strength is diminished, our endurance crashes and our recovery time increases.
Weights feel heavier and our muscles are stiff from a previous workout. This is a physical sign that our bodies haven’t caught up to the work load. If the cause isn’t mental fatigue, then the training is either too intense or the volume of work is too much.
Now, this doesn’t include starting a new training program or a new hockey season - when people are bound to require some adjustment time. Just make sure that while your son or daughter is adjusting, you’re providing them with sufficient and appropriate fuel for this period.
We’ll dive further into the secrets of hockey nutrition later in The Minor Hockey Player’s Guide to Nutrition, Health & Wellness.
Shelley says that the fix for physical fatigue is the same as the fix for mental fatigue.
“The difference with physical overtraining is there's more risk of injury when returning,” says Shelley. “So don’t plunge right back in with the same weight you were using before the break.
Understanding mental and physical fatigue is one of the most basic keys to having a successful hockey season.
Here are the 15 main signs of overtraining fatigue. It's up to you to ensure your son or daughter is taking the proper steps to recover if they're showing any of these signs.
Don’t ignore your child’s fatigue this season. Pay attention, ask questions and get them the proper rest they need to stay on the ice and contribute to the team.