With each passing year of coaching, it never ceases to amaze me how often people assume that our sports superheroes and stars were “born that way”. That Patrick Kane had “gifted hands” from a young age, or that Tom Brady was a superhuman athlete his whole life, or that Sydney Crosby was born with skates on his feet! The same can be said for our favorite bands or singers, how one day you hear this amazing voice that you’ve never heard before, and the next week this “overnight success” is topping the charts. Well folks, I’m here to tell you, it ain’t so!

There have been a couple of great books written on this subject. The first one that really resonated with everyone was the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a.k.a. the “10,000 hour rule” book. In this book, the author proposed the idea that in fact, if you really look closely at top athletes and musicians, and carefully trace their humble beginnings, by the time they are famous all of them have put in around 10,000 hours practicing their craft. One of his strongest examples was the musical history of the Beatles. Long before their television debut that catapulted the band into star status x 10, the Beatles were playing small night club gigs all over Europe 24/7, 52 weeks/year. Gladwell accurately traces the bands early appearances, and lo and behold! it adds up to 10,000 hours!!! Of course, this same idea applies to all endeavors-business, research, politics, you name it.

A second excellent book, Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, came along to expand on this theory. In another intense scrutiny of the world’s best athletes and musicians, Colvin makes a strong case to suggest that it’s not the NUMBER of hours that matters as much as the QUALITY and PASSION with which the person practices. In the book, Colvin studies and interviews top professionals and compares them to other almost top professionals. He tries to find out what makes the difference between being the BEST or the GREATEST, and just being really good. What his research seems to show is that the people who practice with dedication and passion not only end up practicing more, but their practice is WORTH MORE in terms of improving and gaining positive results. While it seems that this might be common knowledge, I’ve come across a lot of athletes who think that just showing up is good enough. Worse yet, I’ve met a lot of parents who push their kids or make them do extra practices in a constant effort to have them play at the highest levels. The moral of the story here is that if you don’t love what you do, there are always going to be people better at it than you. You can’t “instill” passion for something in someone other than yourself, passion comes from within.

Some other knowledgeable folks started arguing that while dedicated practice is always good, over-specializing in one area (one sport) might actually be detrimental. Particularly in the sports world where overall athleticism has its advantages. If you followed the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl, we need look no further than the young 23-year-old phenom Patrick Mahomes, quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. If you’re a professional football fan like myself, you know how freakishly amazing this kid is. He can do things that only seasoned veterans are usually capable of, and actually he is WAY MORE SKILLED than the seasoned veterans. Not only is he compared to the likes of Tom Brady, but to be honest, he can do things even Tom never did. His father was a professional baseball player, so the easy assumption is that he is genetically predisposed to this line of work. But if you look a little deeper into Patrick’s upbringing, the picture gets a lot clearer. Patrick was OBSESSED with sports as a young child, in particular anything that involved throwing and reacting quickly. He loved football, but he was also an excellent baseball player and tenacious short stop. If you study some of his side arm throws, across his body, with both feet off the ground (that he routinely makes in the NFL), you can’t help but see his training as a short stop coming into play. If I had a nickel for every College D1 hockey coach who has told me point blank that they look for athletes who successfully played multiple sports in high school I’d be rich! Take away lesson-if your child enjoys multiple sports, let him or her PLAY THEM. It will serve to develop their overall athletic development, it will prevent overuse injuries, it will allow them to explore what their true love might be, it will give them the opportunity to meet more people, and it will keep them passionate about their other sports if they take a break once in a while.

So where am I going with this??? Well, as we all know, skating is a very specialized form of athletic movement. I’ll make a bet that Tom Brady, LeBron James, Mookie Betts, or Patrick Mahomes would be a riot to watch at an open skate! That means that athleticism alone isn’t enough, you have to practice your skating a lot to become good at it. So, while it’s an excellent idea to play multiple sports, one needs to recognize that skating is a skill that needs year-round attention.

The great news is that hockey players can continue to work on their skating skills without actually engaging in hockey. Rather than enrolling in Spring hockey, and summer hockey camps, my recommendation is to use the off-season for increasing your efforts in the area of power skating. Kill two birds with one stone-take a break from hockey, and, get better at your skating at the same time!!! Enroll in power skating camps, try some private lessons, and/or make a consistent commitment to engaging in skating treadmill training at All-N-Stride (yes, that’s a shameless plug!). The summer is the best time to really sink your teeth into some intensive 2-3 days/week skating training. There’s no school, plenty of time to refuel and rest, and no formal hockey practices to fatigue your legs.

As the 2018-19 begins to wind down, this may be a great time to start a constructive discussion with your son or daughter about what their hockey goals are, and what they think they would be willing do over the spring/summer to achieve those goals. Goal setting/planning are key to a productive and successful athletic career. Our role as parents is to guide and provide. Stay informed, read relevant material on training, and shop around for your best local opportunities. Last but not least, LISTEN to your child and support their passions!