The pendulum continues to swing. The great debate has and will continue to rage on around the topic of specialization and the game of hockey.
One former pro and longtime coach had this to say about the matter.
“When is enough, enough?”
“Kids now are on the ice almost year-round, working on so called skill development.”
“When do they have time to recharge, time to get stronger, time to let the mind, body and soul recover from a long intense season?
Mind, body and soul. That doesn’t sound like something a hockey player would say, but yet I t’s so true.
“Oh, I’m just going to take a few days off and get back at it.”
That’s a commonly shared phrase around the hockey world. That “default setting” well-rehearsed phrase is being used by younger and younger players, which at the heart of the matter is a massive problem.
Perhaps this hockey lifers next quote is the scariest of all.
“Kids don’t know how to put in hundred percent effort,” they said.
“We get eighty percent of what they have because it’s just another day at the rink just like the last 365 days.”
Everyone realizes specialization is wrong on so many levels, yet the spring and summer sessions have never been busier. By no means is this attack on those programs or any programs, but this is the harsh reality of the game and the athlete.
There’s a fine and very blurred line when it comes to this topic around the game.
Everyone involved has their own unique perspective or view on the matter.
At the end of the day, it’s big business. At the end of the day, parents and players don’t want to be left behind. They don’t want to leave any stone unturned when it comes to reaching their child’s full potential. What about the player? If he or she doesn’t attend off-season workouts/sessions offered will that be held against them.
Does that mean they don’t want it anymore? Does that mean they won’t be considered when tryouts roll around? You see it’s all about development and like I’ve written thousands of times player development is critical, it’s everything really, but at what cost?
Let’s not even go down that hole or bottomless pit, but let’s be real, development opportunities throughout the season are very rare, maybe with the exception of this season given the lack of games played and more practice time due to COVID.
What about the kid rotting away with a bad or subpar coach all season long? Obviously, they need the development opportunities to get better, improve and in many ways get caught up.
The hockey world prides itself on hard work, putting in the extra work or going the extra mile, but how about we leave that up to the kid sometimes.
When it boils right down to it, parents want to give their kid the best chance to make the next level. At the heart of all of this, the instructors or companies offering the enrichment opportunities within the game want to develop kids and make some money at the same time, because obviously that’s their business. Some are truly great at what they do. Are there some programs out there that are money grabs, of course, but for the most part there are some amazing people doing amazing things when it comes to development.
Nevertheless, the biggest question that remains is what about the player? What about the kid?
Do they have a choice or say in the matter?
What do they really want?
It’s ridiculous to think that really young Pee Wee and Bantam aged kids are playing 12 months a year.
I realize that if they really want it, they should go for it, but who’s going to stop them from training that much? The answer is no body.
The coaches love it, hell they promote it, the parents love it, the development coaches see the gains and pass that a long, but more and more players are getting burnt out.
They might not feel burnt out, but they are. By the time tryouts start for the year, these kids are completely spent and probably nursing some underlying overuse injuries.
Are the players that train all year more motivated or driven than their counterparts?
Are the players that have trained for a few weeks a summer in the gym or on the ice more motivated or driven than their counterparts when tryouts roll around?
I would like to know how the parent, coach, development/skills coach and player would answer those questions.
Now don’t get me wrong, when it comes to Major Junior or the professional ranks, players need to train like hell, they need to work, they need to maintain or improve their fitness. At that time in their lives the game is a way of life, but that still doesn’t mean they don’t need rest. That still doesn’t mean they can’t rest, recharge and find a great balance during their off-season workout/training regime.
The pendulum continues to swing, the great debate rages on.
The search for balance for some is nowhere to be found.
Everyone involved is happy with process, progression and perceived gains, but do they really know where it will end?
It’s that time of the year, it’s the offseaon.