Some of the most difficult days of my life started in a simple but sturdy 1993 Mercury Topaz.
Back in the day, early morning drives to university were followed by mid-morning drives to work at the local hockey academy. Then I’d head back across town for practice, which was usually followed by more classes in the evening.
I had to rattle the windows with the radio just to keep my eyes open on many of those days. The worst was the late afternoon trek to practice as the sun softly peaked over the horizon on its way to rest for the evening.
How I wanted to follow into that quiet unconscious bliss.
Practicing every day and playing games on the weekends combined with a full class schedule and a part-time job was exhausting. Such is the cost when you want to take the next step in life.
I look back on those days with a slack jaw as I wonder how I managed not to fall asleep on Wayne Gretzky Drive in Edmonton between Vimy Ridge Hockey Academy and Concordia University. It’s not like I was making healthy choices when it came to nutrition either. Nope, kraft dinner was the name of the game.
But I survived. And I learned.
Like many coaches in and around my age watching afternoon hockey pop up here and there, the benefits of combining athletics with academics is a lifestyle I wish I had when I was a teenager. It would have made the university grind a lot easier to get used to. To get your core courses out of the way in the morning (let’s face it - that’s the thought process for most academy athletes) and commit to your chosen sport in the afternoon is a privilege more and more families are taking advantage of.
It’s sweet irony that I was fighting to stay awake in those hectic university days while working at an academy designed to maximize the energy of young student-athletes. Truth be told, it’s an irony I didn’t realize until this moment.
Rest is a weapon. Coaches in the National Hockey League take advantage of rest days every chance they get, and their players only have to worry about one thing: playing hockey.
For teenage athletes trying to balance hockey with school, the opportunity to develop on and off-ice skills during the workday benefits not only their physical and mental well-being, it allows them time to focus on other activities in the evenings not occupied by regular team practices or games.
Activities such as music. Other sports. Homework.
Or simply spending time with family.
In addition to regular team events, the state of hockey society today demands we spend countless extra hours working on skills and building our bodies in the fitness centre. That’s ok - your investment in the game will always be paid in full at a later date. The truth is that the academy lifestyle isn’t for everybody, but for those seeking their passion day in and day out.
It’s demanding. It’s challenging. Hot darn, it’s fun too.
For the next couple weeks here on the ol’ NSWC blog, you’ll hear from Steph St. Laurent as we talk about the North Shore Winter Club’s Peak Performance program. 2017 is a big year for the program, its fourth, and there’s a lot you might not know about it.
In part 2 next week, Steph and I dig into the genesis of the program and why it may or may not be the right choice for your child.
Stay tuned, and keep your eyes open out there!