Q&A: What Should My Player Do For Summer Training?

keep_up_skills_in_summer_postKeeping your player motivated and active during the summer months is an excellent way to give them a leg up in the coming season.  Here is some great advice about summer training from Dennis Chighisola, President and Director of the New England Hockey Institute.

Tim asks: Hockey season is virtually a year round sport. What can I do for my son over the summer so he doesn’t lose his skills but also doesn’t get burned out?”

Answer: I only have one problem with this question. I am unsure of how old your son is.  That being the case let me make a few suggestions for the various age groups.

Before I get too far into this though, let me suggest that the off-season shouldn’t be devoted to just sustaining skills. I believe it’s possible to actually make huge gains during the spring and summer months, WITHOUT THE DANGER OF BURN OUT.

To begin, I believe very young players grow the most by enhancing their fine motor skills and overall athleticism.  Participation in a warm weather sport can help with both of these traits, and it also can help a youngster learn to deal with different kinds of mental challenges (because of the different rules, different strategies, etc.).  An active youngster is going to be better-off next fall, mainly because most backyard games help enhance motor skills and athletic qualities.  Rope skipping, especially if a youngster works at it, can really carryover to on-ice footwork, balance and more.  Additionally, just horsing around on in-line skates can transfer to a young kid’s on-ice abilities.  As far as improving hockey-specific skills, I’d suggest that you set-up your son with a stick and golf ball (or Swedish stick handling) and then (borrowing one of my favorite expressions) encourage the boy to “Go nuts!” with that thing!   Furthermore, puck-skills and shooting ability can really separate young players.  This can be practiced easily by arranging a convenient net and a handful of pucks for your son.

As for formal training, I might suggest that you enroll your son in a once-per-week skills oriented on-ice program and then an end-of-summer hockey school.  The weekly sessions will help maintain the boy’s legs and skills over the summer, while the one-week program should make the first fall skates seem easy.

Next, skipping to the extreme, I’ll suggest that older teenagers pretty much “are what they are” when it comes to motor skills and athleticism.  At this time in life, a youngster might be better served by working to do things harder, faster and longer.  In other words, I would recommend strength training, some sprint and agility work plus some hockey-specific conditioning.

Now that I have dealt with the two extremes, middle age groups would likely benefit from a little of each.  This means, 11- to 13-year old should consider mixing some of what I recommend for very young kids with a little work on those physical traits I mentioned for older teens.  Should your son fall into this category, you might adjust this spring and summer training according to whether your son falls at the younger or older end.

Regarding, the dangers of so-called burn out…  My take on this is that “work” is what one makes of it.  In fact, I think even most college and pro players, or those guys and gals who have to do some pretty heavy off-season workouts, can find ways to make these sessions enjoyable.  As you may recognize in your own day-to-day activities, there is a huge mental difference between the things you feels you “have” to do and those things you “choose” to do.  With that in mind, I see nothing wrong with blowing-off a given clinic or workout in favor of a day- or night-off, a vacation, or whatever.  As I’ve often suggested to my players, sometimes it can be more beneficial to “just go dawgoned fishing!”  Having seen it all over nearly 40-years as a coach, I’ve noticed that most players come back loaded for bear just from taking that kind of short break.

Finally, Tim, thank you for the very timely question.  And, if I haven’t totally answered it (because I wasn’t sure about your son’s age), I sincerely welcome a follow-up.  Thanks again!

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Dennis Chighisola (Coach Chic) for his valuable input on this question.

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