Photo by Steve O'Day
As the sun starts to warmly shine and the grass begins to turn green, it’s a true sign that spring is finally here. With temperatures on the rise, getting outside becomes a major priority for those of us who live in the land of the ice and snow.
This time of year, while beautiful, also signals the end of the hockey season. But the turn of the weather doesn’t mean you can’t still work on important hockey skills. In fact, many spring and summer sports can help you develop the same skills you need on the ice, with the added benefit of getting outside and potentially falling in love with another activity.
Matthew Cunningham, USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program coordinator, helped break down a few other sports and how they benefit your hockey skills.
Like hockey, lacrosse is a contact sport that requires a similar skill set. Just as you skate and handle the puck simultaneously, lacrosse requires a lot of multitasking and the ability to make decisions under pressure. In lacrosse, taking care of the ball is similar to protecting the puck, with hitting and body contact also serving as an important part of the game.
Beyond the benefits of being a multi-sport athlete and developing skills that aren’t specific to hockey, one of the best skills baseball can provide for a hockey player is hand-eye coordination. Connecting the bat to the ball is no small feat, and snapping closed a glove on a line drive requires players to improve their footwork and agility as well. Developing these skills in baseball can translate to stronger coordination on the ice.
While soccer is beneficial for developing speed, it’s also key in helping put players in game situations where they have to create time and space, as well as angling shots or passes. Hockey and soccer are similar in how a player must react, working with teammates to create shooting or passing lanes, and their vision in the field of play.
Tennis benefits hockey in a variety of ways. As in soccer, it helps with speed and quickness. Tennis also has some of the same hand-eye coordination benefits as baseball. Where tennis really sets itself apart though is how it helps work on overall balance and coordination. Additionally, it develops decision-making and anticipation, as players need to predict where they need to be on the court.
Like lacrosse and soccer, many of the game concepts in floorball are similar to hockey, such as support, creating time and space and creating man advantages. In terms of specific skills, it develops stickhandling skills, hand-eye coordination, and quickness to name a few. Perhaps, most importantly, it’s also great for developing creativity and deception skills. Check out this video on the similarities.
Cunningham noted that all of these sports have important intangibles as well. First and foremost, getting out of the rink and playing outside is particularly important as it helps stave off boredom and burnout. Kids should get away from the rink, and actually miss it for a time, so they are excited to pick the sport back up when the next season rolls around.
Overall, playing other sports helps develop kids from being hockey players into well-rounded athletes. All the suggested games involve spatial awareness and body control. They also provide athletes with a great opportunity to get out of their comfort zones and experiment with new skills they may not encounter on the ice.
With all of this in mind, it’s important to remember that no matter what sport an athlete plays, it should be fun. They should truly enjoy what they’re doing and forge positive lifelong friends and memories along the way.