Does your player have the passion necessary to become elite?
Posted by Dean Holden at November 21st, 2013
by Josh Devine, 14 November 2013
In the recent Star Tribune article about seven-year-old Sara Woll (Nov. 5, 2013 – “A life (already) committed to hockey”), the Woll parents are confronted by a friend who asks them if Sara really likes hockey or if they are just pushing her into the sport. The parents stated they sometimes doubt themselves but are reassured when they ask Sara if she still likes hockey and Sara’s expression apparently reads, “Of course, I love hockey!” To understand how this may be misleading, let’s consider the question from the viewpoint of a Minnesota youth hockey player today.
Many youth hockey players see the enthusiasm their parents have toward the game. They can see the time, energy and resources that are devoted to it. Athletic trainers, coaches, parents in the community and fellow teammates all re-enforce the importance and cultural superiority of hockey. In a world that values hockey so intensely, how hard do you think it is for a child to admit they don’t love the game? Children know that they’ll be disappointing their parents and others in the community if they quit or even if they say they need a break.
Often children continue playing but without the same passion or love for the game. We can’t quantify the loss in athletic gains due to psychological burnout, but as a hockey coach it is frustrating to witness. Passion is the No. 1 ingredient needed for success in hockey. It is incredibly important for youth hockey players to be given the opportunity to nurture an inextinguishable love for the game.
If we are truly serious about developing elite hockey athletes, then the prevailing hockey training model, demonstrated in its extreme form in the Star Tribune article, is dead wrong. We need to provide more pond hockey sessions and parent-free training environments where children can explore the game without the pressure of making mistakes. If given some autonomy and freedom, players will actually “train” for extended periods of time without even realizing it.
I remember playing roller hockey in the summers and shooting pucks at the Bloomington Ice Gardens for hours with my buddies. When we wanted to take a break, we did. When we wanted to play a different sport for a bit, practice backhanders instead of forehand shots or try out some crazy stick-handling moves that we’d obviously never do in a real game, we did. By the way, a majority of the guys went on to play collegiate or professional hockey.
Organized coach-led hockey training is necessary, especially in order to teach basic fundamentals like edge work and proper skating posture. However, we have over-emphasized this type of training to the neglect of more creative and less structured training methods.
By incorporating a greater percentage of free play time into training schedules, players will develop skills difficult to learn in structured practices. They will also cultivate a true passion for the game that is necessary if they ever want to become elite hockey players.
Josh Levine is a former Jefferson Jaguar, Princeton University graduate, founder of The Fortis Academy and author of “Save Our Game: What’s wrong with hockey training today and how to fix it.”
<Does this follow-up to yesterdays article change your opinion? – DH>