Monday, September 15, 2008


Monday Musings: Hockey Burnout

by Jes

As you might have noticed, the volume of posts on this site has slowed in the past month. Besides the lack of good hockey news, I'm still feeling under the cloud of Blogger Burnout. Even if there is a good story to be had, I just don't have the spark.

Remember the story of young Steven Legein? He's the Columbus Dinner Jackets prospect that quit the game simply because he grew tired of it. All of the practices, training camps, video sessions ... it just wasn't worth it for the young prospect.

This type of burnout seems to be happening more these days among our nation's youth, and most of it can be traced to those parents that push their children so hard in a usually-futile attempt to land a lucrative spot in the NHL.

From The Province:

But the seeds of hockey burnout are now being planted long before a player reaches the junior level, and [Canadian Hockey Head Bob] Nicholson agrees it is becoming a problem.

"It's a big concern of ours that players aren't playing soccer, baseball, lacrosse like they used to (in the summer)," he said. "We're in board meetings now looking at ways to try to make sure that they're not playing competitive hockey 12 months of the year."

Part of the problem is overzealous hockey parents with dreams of their son becoming the next Sidney Crosby. They're the ones forking out the cash for the summer hockey programs, which aren't cheap.

"I think a lot of it comes right from the parents," Nicholson agreed. "It almost seems like it's worse now with the 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds. The message doesn't seem to be getting down to the parents right now."
It's not that the kids don't like playing hockey, it's that they don't like playing it ALL THE TIME, and they don't like the constant work involved. Most kids don't like practices, and most kids certainly don't want to feel pushed into training year round. It just saps the fun out of the game entirely, doesn't it?

Think of how many kids play at the highest level of junior hockey in Canada. It's a very small percentage of the total population of hockey players in that age group. Now, think of how many of those kids will ever make the NHL. It's a very small percentage.

The fact is that if your kid can't possibly be one of the elite players during the course of a regular season, those few extra months are not going to make him the next superstar. That extra training might help the very best young players, but it's not going to help the mass majority become THAT much better.

Again, we must look over to Europe to see how they do things right.

In the summer, even the pro teams never set a foot out on to the ice. In Europe, the players play soccer and tennis ... they go mountain biking, they go jogging, they have fun doing other stuff that isn't even related to hockey.

The result? The players are happier because they get a break from the game, and the players are better trained.

Better trained?

Yes. Soccer and tennis, especially, develop athletic traits that aren't always worked on so well in hockey. Both sports are great for developing agility and stamina, allowing players to develop quickness on a different surface. Biking is obviously great for developing stamina and vitality, something short-burst hockey training doesn't always do.

Having a kid play hockey 12 months a year will leave them rather 1-dimensional in terms of their athletic training, not to mention bored to tears. It's hard for any mind to develop creativity and creatively when it is constantly focusing on one type of task.

Edit: OK, I totally mis-read the Cherry quote. Woops. What do you make of this, anyway? sheesh
Last March, on the Grapeline radio show, host Brian Williams asked Don Cherry what he thought about hockey parents whose kids missed games during spring break to go on a family vacation.

"What do I think of them?" Cherry roared. "You want to know what I think of them? I think they're selfish rats that can't be counted on. The parents that take the kids out of the team and go on vacation are rats that can't be counted on. Can I say it any clearer?

"That's not only my opinion," Cherry added, "but real hockey people think they're selfish rats who can't be counted on."

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Don Cherry is right in saying that the kids/parents are selfish for going on vacation?

They ARE kids, after all... Aren`t vacations just as important as playing a Peewee hockey game?
Don Cherry typifies what's wrong with the Canadian game/development system... He's an old buffoon who rarely makes any point at all, and when he does, it's intelligible and usually incongruent with the rest of the conversation...

In this case, he's just plain stupid. Mentally recharging is equally important to any physical offseason regimen, and realistically, his comment only illustrates and underlines what you're saying Jes.

Or, I could be wrong, and kids shouldn't have family vacations...
Did Don Cherry just admit that he's not a "real hockey person?" It's about time...
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