It’s never too early to start thinking about summer.
The sun. The beach. The bike rides…baseball games…cabin trips…and yes, even some hockey.
“If a kid wants to work on his or her game in the summer, that’s absolutely OK,” said Guy Gosselin, USA Hockey’s ADM Regional Manager for Minnesota. “We want them to want to learn and get to be better athletes as a whole.”
Gosselin, a two-time U.S. Olympian, noted that while an offseason should mostly be dedicated to taking a break from the rink, that doesn’t mean you can’t sprinkle in some summer hockey fun here and there.
He helped provide an age-appropriate checklist on what your focuses should be when it comes to a summer hockey plan.
Priorities: Have Fun, Agility, Balance, Coordination
Suggestions: Unstructured free play. “Get the kids outside doing stuff. Let them figure out games or encourage them to invent some of their own. These are little kids. Throw a bag of toys out there and let them get after it. Add music. Get creative. It’s OK to be a little bit silly, right?”
Priorities: Have Fun, Repetition
Suggestions: Monkey in the middle. “Like I said, no one wants to go in the driveway and shoot puck after puck. Instead, grab some buddies and play monkey in the middle. Get used to passing and receiving and play it for a while, rotating in to get the repetition and competition growing.”
Priorities: Have Fun, Repetition, Introduce Off-Ice Training (Athleticism)
Suggestions: Stickhandle with different weighted items. “At 12U, we can start introducing some more weight training and dryland offseason activity to develop the overall athlete. When it comes to the hockey side of practice, have your player stickhandle outside with tennis balls, golf balls — whatever you have, just so you can feel different weights on the end of the stick. Get outside and shoot around in the driveway.”
Priorities: Have fun, High-Performance Training and Growth
Suggestions: Set goals. “At 14 or 15, players should start taking some responsibility for their development and improvement. The summer is a good time for these players to have a bit of self-reflection, and it’s good to have goals, and yes, you want those goals to stretch them a little bit, but you don’t want to blow their minds either. If they’re bored with it, they’re not going to get what they need, so set reasonable and attainable goals.”
When looking at summer hockey camps, Gosselin said there’s one major element to look at: the atmosphere.
“Is it a positive, fun, exciting environment? Is it an environment that is really going to develop that passion for a kid and doesn’t get too caught up on hours on the ice? Is everybody involved? Are they moving on the ice or are we putting kids in a line and looking at individuals? You can tell what the atmosphere is five minutes walking into the arena. If kids are in one corner and in a line while three kids are participating, that’s not fun.”
Beware Keeping Up with the Joneses
“What’s good for my family isn’t necessarily good for your family,” Gosselin reminds. “Be sure you’re finding a balance in everything that is right for you and your family and don’t compare it to what others are doing. Only you can assess where you spend your time in activities — both physically and socially — and what’s important to you.”
The Final Word
“Bottom line, if you’re going to use the offseason to improve, do it in a way that you’re still going to love the game. There’s no reason to completely avoid hockey in the summer, but there’s no reason your summer should be focused solely on it either. Have fun. Be a kid. Pass the puck but be sure you’re doing plenty of other things as well while working to better your game. You’re not going to become a different player in three months. Enjoy the game and your growth — whatever pace that may be — as it comes.”