As the saying goes, repetition is the mother of all learning.
The more a skill is repeated, the more it becomes engrained in our brains and muscles. Over time, that skill becomes second nature, something that barely needs consideration to perform.
“Repeating skills in a variety of different settings enhances the development of overall ability, mastering the ability,” said Dr. Michael Kanters, a professor of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University. “That’s transferred from all kinds of learning environments, not just sports and physical activity. We also need to be careful that we’re not being overly repetitive.”
Too much focus on one sport, particularly at a young age, limits an athlete’s overall potential. And it’s often the best all-around athletes that succeed at the highest level (for evidence and discussion of this, click here). Consider, for example, the recent NCAA football champions from Ohio State, with a roster comprised of 42 multi-sport recruits versus just five who were football-only athletes in high school. That’s part of the reason USA Hockey, through its American Development Model (ADM), encourages children to participate in a variety of sports to help them develop a wide range of skills and become well-rounded athletes.
Another benefit of playing multiple sports is that it can also reduce the likelihood of burnout and injury.
Tracking Your Child’s Activity
USA Hockey has created a way that parents or coaches can track a player’s development or repetitions: the Player Activity Tracker. The tracker lists several categories that the adults can tally or track for players, including skating, passing — both attempted and received — shots, puckhandling, coaching feedback and explanations.
With this tracker, not only can an athlete see how active they are throughout a practice, and compare that to previous sessions, but also note how often they perform each skill, and, again, compare that to previous practices. And with the ADM’s station-based practices and small-area games, players are more engaged and more active, getting more skill reps, in every practice session.
Fun and Fitness
While the Player Activity Tracker can help an athlete have an idea of how much they practice a certain skill, the main point is to simply be active; to get their heart rate up and break a sweat.
“One of my metrics I always ask people is ‘did you sweat? Were you breathing heavy?’” Kanters said. “Now you’ve achieved a moderate to vigorous level of activity — you got your heart going, you’re physically active, stressing your cardiovascular system for a period of time. But sports should be a lot more than that.”
To Kanters’ point, while continuously repeating skills is important for an athletes’ development, it is important for kids to have fun and truly enjoy what they’re doing. The more they enjoy the sport, the more likely they will continue to stay active as they grow older.