Mental awareness is tricky for hockey players. You can't track exhaustion or excitement on a gamesheet. It's not like shots, goals or even ice-time.
Mental awareness, though, is more important than every hockey statistic combined. So, how do we know if our children are tired?
If you remember one tip from this blog at all, it's this:
Don’t ignore the signs.
Let me explain.
The last thing we want to do to our minor hockey players is associate the game with negativity.
For example, I was coaching a spring hockey tournament a couple weekends ago. One of our players was playing fantastic for the first 3 games of the round robin segment. Sometime around the middle of the second period in his 4th game in two days, he started to run out of gas.
At around 11:30 that night, sure enough, he got sick.
… And he continued being sick for most of the night. Poor guy.
His parents monitored him closely and he was done for the tournament. Now, this is a pretty easy example, because the evidence of illness was, well, everywhere.
So, what if the signs aren’t as obvious?
What if there is no physical evidence of fatigue or illness?
“Did you tape your stick? It’s time to go to the rink.”
“Oh, right. No, I don’t need to.”
“You always tape your stick though.”
Sound familiar? At the risk of sounding like a cheesy self-help video from the 80’s, something is up with this player.
Is low energy a sign of not caring?
It’s unfortunate, but too often hockey society labels kids who are simply burnt-out as kids who don’t want to do what it takes to reach their goals.
This could not be further from the truth.
As adults, we need balance in our lives, right? Well, hockey players need balance as well. Whether they’re 8 or 18, hockey players are just kids who’ve dedicated themselves to a game. A sport.
Summer burnout is a reality. The mind needs a break from all the effort and energy your body puts in to work on your game.
Ugh, the thought alone of working on your game…
Don’t ignore the signs.
We all love hockey. Before I switched to an english major in university, hockey had given me everything I have. These days, it’s still giving to me.
However, hockey is exhausting. On a micro-level, hockey takes more of a toll than any other sport I can think of (unless you consider mountain climbing like Sylvester Stallone in Cliffhanger a sport - which I totally do).
This is all before the game even starts! I’m tired just writing about it!
On a macro-level, think of the sheer amount of information young hockey players receive. Spring coaches, development coaches, dryland trainers, parents, teachers - I think it’s safe to say that the hockey mind is thoroughly challenged day in and day out.
Why am I telling you all this? Simple: awareness.
Again, the purpose of this article isn’t to discourage spring hockey or summer hockey camps. After all, if your child loves to play, then they’re fortunate you’ve given them the opportunity (and the taxi-service).
If we preach awareness of our surroundings, our peers and our own mental state to our children, then we’re teaching them to teach themselves. Fatigue and burnout is a very tangible reality that hockey teaches us to deal with. If we ignore it, however, then the negative effect will rear its ugly head somewhere else down the line.
Don’t ignore the signs. You can flush out negativity in an instant by understanding its roots.
Refreshing your love for a game will enhance your ability to perform in that game. Learning a brand new skill is exciting - returning to a skill you left on the shelf for a few weeks is thrilling.
Every time I take a few days off my skates, I’m amazed I still know how to shoot a puck. It’s not like I think I’ll forget (I tried to count how many times I’ve been on ice since I played college hockey and my brain almost exploded), but there’s no denying the strong sense of pride I feel in my refreshed awareness of my skates, the feel of the puck on my stick and the possibilities that await me on a fresh new sheet of ice.
Pay attention to your kids this summer. Don't let them off the hook and go total couch-potato mode, but remember that if the signs tell you they need rest, then they're probably in need of some down time.*
The Bantam Prospects Training Camp runs right before tryouts, August 11-15.
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