Rest & Recovery: The Most Overlooked Area of Athletics and Sports Performance

By Don Lewis, Owner & Founder, Tier 1 Athletic  Performance

Today I would like to talk about rest and recovery. Oh yeah, I know this is not at the top of the list of exciting topics, but rest and recovery are crucial to excellence in ice hockey.

Most of us remember our youth as a time of constant activity. We were out playing from sun up until we were called in for dinner. However, we were not involved in the organized activities the way our children are today. There were no adults around to tell us we were not performing up to expectations. We just went out and played without the scrutiny that athletes now endure. Therefore, planning sleep and recovery periods is much more important today. If you want your hockey player to be at her or his best, you must allow enough time for sleep and recovery between athletic sessions.


Surveys show that most adolescents lack the requisite amount of sleep. But most parents do not understand the true importance of rest and sleep. Simply put, the body does not grow without proper sleep. The brain does not properly develop without sleep. Memory and memory organization only take place during REM sleep. Click HERE for an informative article with links to more detailed information.

Throughout the season, we see the roller coaster ride of performance. Sometimes athletes are ready, fully focused and competing at the top of their game. Other times, players seem lethargic, disinterested and the level of play dips accordingly. While a portion of this cycle can be explained away as part of the developmental process for children, sleep habits contribute to mental focus, physical capability and even hormone balance.  A minimum of eight hours of sleep, per night, is recommended for proper physical and cognitive development.


Especially in season when schedules are determined by clubs and teams, parents and players should pay attention to the amount of rest athletes are attaining. “More is better” will not, in the long term, maximize growth and development. Balance between periods of activity and periods of complete rest allow players to recover and prepare for the next practice, training session or game.  At Tier 1, we use our “Rule of 5” for recovery, in season and out. Hockey players should have five days of active training and two non-consecutive days of rest per week. Playing hockey puts a strain not only on muscle, but on joints and (as children grow) bone structure. Proper recovery will enhance performance, allow for natural healing of the bumps and bruises of competitive hockey, and reduce the risk of injury.

Consistent recovery periods also reduce the risk of “burnout”.  More and more research is showing that burnout is a real concern. Click HERE for an excellent article on burnout in young athletes. During the season, the optimal way to decrease the risk of burnout is by providing sufficient recovery periods. Two days of rest, per week, should allow players to perform at their best while deterring the opportunity for end of season burnout.  And there is nothing worse, as a competitive athlete, than burnout at league playoff and state tournament time.

Again, more is not necessarily better. While we as adults can understand our bodies, and know when to take a break, young people may not have that “Off switch”. Parents and coaches need to help their athletes understand and follow a regimen that includes intense activity, recovery time and sufficient sleep.

Categories: Advice

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