Stop and take a moment to think about how often your little hockey player is on the ice in a given season. Count it up. Add up all the practices and games.
Chances are, over the course of a single season, no matter the age, young hockey players are getting plenty of ice time. But with the offseason fast approaching, or possibly already here for some, how much time should kids spend on the ice, to stay in hockey shape for next season?
The American Development Model has set guidelines for how much ice a player should see in a given year. The main takeaway is, during the offseason, it’s best for young athletes to participate in a variety of sports, to use different muscles and develop different skills that can cross over between sports. But the ADM does have some recommendations for different age groups about hitting the ice in the offseason.
“It is extremely important for youth hockey players to get off the ice and play other sports in the summer,” Kenny Rausch, Manager of Youth Hockey for USA Hockey, said via email. “There are many reasons why, but one of the biggest is to increase overall athleticism in young children. If they only play hockey, they only use the muscle groups and motions involved in playing hockey instead of a wide range of movements that are required in various sports. By only playing one sport, a child is at risk for over use injuries.”
Playing other sports will help hockey players become well-rounded athletes. Their muscles won’t know just one, specific skill, but will be able to perform a variety of tasks. Their knowledge of game situations won’t be based on only their on-ice experience, but will havealso on a wealth of situations from other sports of which to draw off. Rausch noted that growing up he played tennis and baseball through high school and even played baseball in college for a year. He also currently coaches lacrosse in addition to hockey and is a huge fan of multi-sport athletes.
Rausch noted that any sport is good to play, but a few compliment hockey well. Lacrosse, soccer and basketball can help with spatial awareness while baseball, lacrosse and racquet sports are great for hand-eye coordination. Furthermore, gymnastics, swimming and track and field are great for overall athleticism and body control.
“Kids should try everything at least once and decide for themselves what they enjoy playing,” Rausch recommended.
One further, and important benefit of playing a variety of sports is avoiding burn out. Rather than focusing too much on a single sport, athletes will have fun in multiple ways, which will leave them enthusiastic about each sport when that season rolls around.
“If they don’t love playing, they are probably burnt out,” Rausch said. “By playing other activities and getting away from hockey for a little bit, you are hopefully stoking the fire for their love of the game. If they don’t miss playing, they don’t really want to play.”
Find the recommendation for your age group below.
ADM recommended ice time: 50-60 ice sessions split between 34-40 quality practices and 16-20 cross ice games.
Offseason takeaway: Play other sports! Unless they’re skating around and shooting for fun, stay off the ice. These kids are still growing and developing. This time is important to set the foundation for their skills in a variety of ways. Playing tennis or baseball can help hand-eye coordination. Soccer can help with conditioning and putting an athlete in a variety of game situations. Also, putting them on the ice during the summer may not leave them excited and thrilled at the start of the next year. Instead, let them play other sports and continue to develop as a well-rounded athlete and return to the ice in the fall, pumped for the season.
ADM recommended ice team: 95-100 ice sessions split between 75-80 quality practices and 20-25 games.
Offseason takeaway: Play other sports! Stay off the ice, unless they’re just having some fun. Once again, these kids are still growing and developing so developing general athleticism is important. But with more ice time in season, you also don’t want to overwhelm them with too much hockey, causing them to burn out from the sport. We want them excited to return to the ice once the season starts up. Again, playing other sports can help develop other skills that will work just as effectively on the ice – only the kids don’t realize it’s even happening.
If you’re young player absolutely can’t stand to be off the ice for the entire summer, note the recommended practice-to-game ratio. Most players at this age level already play more games than necessary so any offseason ice time should be focused primarily on skill development. Again, playing other sports or activities can put young athletes in a variety of game situations and help a hockey player grow into a strong, all-around athletes.
ADM recommended ice time: 105-120 ice sessions split between 80-90 quality practices and 30-35 games.
Offseason takeaway: Now may be a good time to start considering a short offseason camp in which they can get on the ice. But once again, play other sports too. It’s ok to get some sort of second season in, to help prevent the loss of muscle memory or a depletion of certain skills, but again, it’s critical during this stage to focus in on skill development. Most players exceed the recommended games during their association season so capitalizing on more practice time is ideal.
Attend a hockey school, but don’tBe careful not to stuff the offseason with program after program. Play another sport and miss hockey a little bit. When the season rolls around, they’ll be eager to get back on the ice.
ADM recommended ice time: 160 ice sessions split between 120-130 quality practices and 40-50 games.
Offseason takeaway: These Get a short second season on the ice and play other sports. These athletes are old enough where they can start to train certain areas of their game, from adding in weight training to gain strength or working on their skating stride. Again, getting on the ice in the offseason is important to keep developing these specific skills, but it’s also essential to also play other sports, even recreationally, to avoid burn out and become a well-rounded athlete.