Whether it’s the offseason or a season quarantine, there are plenty of non-hockey activities to improve one’s overall athleticism
By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI – Physical literacy is a phrase that USA Hockey is adopting and will be putting valuable resources into to make it resonate with hockey players and parents nationwide.
“It’s building kids confidence so making sure they have a wide range of movement skills that are not just hockey specific but multi-sport participation,” said Heather Mannix, USA Hockey American Development Model manager of female hockey. “It’s doing things that build your overall athleticism.”
With the offseason happening a little early for most hockey players due to the season being cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, kids find themselves in the midst of a break from hockey. Now is the time for players to exercise — literally — their physical literacy.
“I think we should use the opportunity to stay away from hockey-specific stuff and explore other sports,” Mannix said. “If you’re not in quarantine times, hopefully you’re actually out playing different sports and just kind of taking that mental break from hockey. I think it is definitely really important to not get burnt out and just keeping the love for it.”
Mannix has a number of activities she suggests that kids of all ages can work on during the offseason.
The first can be tricky, but fun: learning how to juggle three balls. Along those same lines is an activity called contact juggling.
“If you think about the Globetrotters, how they took the basketball with one hand and run it up their arms and down their back and down the other arm, that’s a form of contact juggling,” Mannix said. “But it gives you this kind of overall awareness of your body.”
Another popular choice is juggling a soccer ball. However, kids shouldn’t just concentrate on using their dominant foot, but both feet.
Mannix suggests getting out Dad’s old hacky sack and kicking it around and working on tricks. Another thought is learning how to swing a baseball bat and hit from a kid’s opposite side. A similar activity is learning how to swing a tennis racket and hit a ball using the opposite hand.
“Doing these things will help those skills transfer over to becoming a better hockey player, having better hand-eye coordination, having more control over your hands and your body, feet,” Mannix said. “But it something that’s different from hockey and you’re not in the driveway ripping 3,000 shots just because you feel like you have to.”
There’s also a YouTube video titled: “16 Jump Rope Tricks.” This can make a seeming mundane activity a little more fun.
“It’s just a creative way of looking at the skill of jump roping,” Mannix said. “Instead of just jumping, you can do all sorts of different stuff with it. That’s phenomenal for footwork. But again, it’s not directly hockey specific.”
Is it best for parents to help their kids set up a schedule for what activities to work on daily or even hourly? Mannix said parents know their kids, so they’ll know the right way to approach things.
“If they need a little bit of structure, then absolutely,” Mannix said. “But at the same time in the offseason, our kids are so overstructured, and because we’ve kind of taken away this creativity and this unstructured play with them, if you tell them to go play or go work on their overall athleticism, they don’t know what to do because they’ve always been told. You’re going to be here at this point, when you get there, you’re going to do this and then you have to go here. We found that with this generation, they don’t know how to organize themselves anymore.”
One idea during quarantine and in the offseason is have a kid pick one skill each week to work on, e.g. juggling three balls.
“Take a video of the kid doing it at the beginning of the week and then half hour, an hour a day, work on learning how to juggle,” Mannix said. “Then at the end of the week, take a video to see if there’s any improvement to give some kind of acclimation.”
The kid is not going to master juggling in just one week, but any improvement certainly builds motivation and confidence.
Mannix stated whatever activities kids work on during the offseason, it shouldn’t be forced. It needs to be fun for the kid or it’s going to be a long number of months until getting back on the ice.
“If we’re telling these kids that they have to practice 100 shots a day and you have to do pushups — they want to do that, that’s fine,” Mannix said, “but if we give them that this is the outcome we want you to have, we want you to have this many shots logged, this many pushups, this many squats, are they actually having fun in the offseason? Are they actually getting that mental break that’s going to make it that when they come back at the end of summer that they actually want to come back?”
Probably not. So, make it an active, enjoyable offseason.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.