Hockey parents are always worried about being left behind in the great race to the NHL.
So worried in fact they often blink and find themselves at the end of their child’s career without much more than fleeting memories of time spent on lessons, camps, spring hockey and so on.
What about the lessons to be learned through the actual club team on which they’ve played?
The extra on-ice development available these days is sure an advantage if it’s done right, but the real key to developing your young hockey player’s skills?
The answer lies between the ears.
“Yeah, but why?”
I both love and loathe hearing this question. Loathe because it often happens during heated moments in a game where there’s not much time to teach, and love because it means a player is seeking more than a stock answer about what to do in a given situation.
The hockey player who asks questions wants to understand why something happens in addition to how it happens. Understanding a skill grants clarity in a player’s mind and helps them achieve that skill much more quickly than if they were simply ordered to do it.
Awhile back I wrote this article over at The Coach’s Site about finding a role for every player on the team. Well, what wasn’t clear to one commenter was that I was speaking directly to coaches, not parents.
This commenter scolded me for suggesting players shouldn’t play different positions.
Kids at young ages who play different positions develop a broad understanding of the game. For example, playing defense for a couple months can help a forward keep the puck deep in the opponent’s zone because they understand how difficult it is for his or her defensemen to constantly be under attack.
Playing new positions is a valuable way to speed up development because it helps players achieve an appreciation for all aspects of the game.
A traditional Japanese term meaning continuous incremental improvement, Kaizen is a philosophy that’s tough to adopt completely.
However, if you can master Kaizen?
The results are inevitable.
One of the hardest things about being a hockey player is maintaining a positive attitude when you’re granted so much of a good thing. Think about it - being on the ice every day is bound to wear thin at times for even the most obsessed young hockey players out there. It’s important for coaches and hockey academies to keep this in mind and keep young players engaged by challenging them, but ultimately the player is responsible for their own energy.
Other ways we can help our kids achieve kaizen by:
Natural Development via Mental Engagement
The season is a grind, but with the right approach and sufficient down-time, development occurs naturally. Hard work, balance and mental exercise can have an enormous effect when compared with forced daily 1on1 development sessions.
Don’t get me wrong, added on-ice development is a fantastic advantage most kids in the lower mainland have, but without the proper focus, that advantage is lost to distraction or apathy.
Let’s keep our kids engaged this season. They should be eager to go to the rink. If that changes, dial things back and re-evaluate, because you could be doing more harm than good.