Since I’ve been working with hockey players, I’ve been really fortunate to be around some very talented players from all over the world. What I have realized is that their superior talent level combined with their incredible work ethic, has allowed them to play at the highest level possible. What most of these players also have in common is that while they were growing up, they also have played other sports. Some of the sports that were played include baseball, football, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, and golf. Players who I know of who were also outstanding at other sports include former Duck Adam Oates, who was also an outstanding lacrosse player, and current Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins and former Duck, Dan Bylsma, who was a great baseball player and also an outstanding golfer. Chris Drury, who currently plays for the New York Rangers, was a pitcher on the USA little league baseball team that won the world championship over 20 years ago in 1989. There are several players on the current Ducks’ roster who were great at other sports. The list can go on and on for current players in the NHL.
My point is that these guys all played different sports while they were growing up. They didn’t just play hockey or “specialize” in hockey. The skills that they learned in other sports have helped them develop the skills that they now have in professional hockey.
Today’s young hockey players are spending way too much time just playing hockey. Hockey is now a year-round sport for many young kids (especially if they’re good). There is always the next team to try out for or the camp that “all of the top players in the area” are going to. What is also really interesting to me is how many of these kids have their own “private” lessons. Why? Tell me how taking private lessons is going to help kids become better team players who work hard together to achieve common goals.
With physical education in the United States drastically decreasing, the need to play more sports is more important now than it ever was before. Sports like soccer, football, lacrosse, basketball, baseball, field hockey, volleyball, and softball which emphasize team work should also be played throughout the year. Developing speed, agility, quickness, balance, and body awareness in other sports can translate to having those attributes on the ice. What I find most important, especially with the absence physical education, is the general fitness gained in playing other sports.
Hockey is a team game. The better teams in the NHL have a bunch of hard-working players who play for each other and put team success before individual success. The really good players realize that their team’s success will help them have individual success in the long run. Playing different sports while learning life lessons in teamwork and accountability, all while having fun, will help any youngster develop into a better hockey player.