Ice cream drowns people
Posted by Dean Holden at January 24th, 2014
by Josh Levine, 16 January 2014
When I speak with parents and present the risks of early specialization in hockey (overuse injuries, psychological burnout and stunted athletic development), I often am asked: “But the best players all seem to be doing this year-round hockey training. Doesn’t that show the benefit of training year-round? I don’t want to disadvantage my kid because I didn’t put him or her in one of these programs.”
It’s tempting to think along these lines, especially in today’s hockey environment. However, the previous statement makes about as much sense as me saying ice cream drowns people.
We know when ice cream sales at the beach go up, so too do drowning accidents. Now the more likely cause of both the ice cream sales and drowning accidents is warm weather. With warm weather, more people eat ice cream, more head to the beach for a swim and unfortunately more drown as well.
All this is to say, playing year-round hockey and specializing early may be correlated with the best players at a given level (I say this because the “elite ranks” continuously shift), but it certainly isn’t causing players to become elite.
There is a big difference, as the ice cream example highlights, between correlation and causation. What happens more often than not is programs are identifying the top players in any given age bracket – not too difficult a task at the young ages where there are wide maturity differences between players. You almost don’t even need to see them skate. Just assessing their physical maturity levels and birth dates will get you pretty close. Once these “elite” programs find their top talent, they seem to all but claim to have conceived the little guys. And too many of us are buying the spin.
Ultimately, many factors affect the development of truly elite hockey players. Stating that any one of them single-handedly causes a player to become elite should be viewed with skepticism. The kind of skepticism you would have if someone told you ice cream was found guilty of drowning people.
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.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
<I had the opportunity to speak with Josh on the phone last week where we found we shared similar beliefs and experiences while trying to educate people on the pros and cons of early specialization in late specialization sports. Regardless of opinions, one must give the nod to science. There are far too more studies showing the results (risks) of early specialization far outweigh the benefits. Caveat Emptor to those participating in spring and/or summer hockey programs… at the very least, look to mix it up with different modalities of training (other sports, fun pursuits, remember to provide enough active rest, etc.) and try to minimize the repetitive movements – especially on ice! The goal should be to create a well-rounded, athletic citizen, not just ‘a hockey player!’- DH>
Category: athleticism, communication, diversification, early specialization, education, evaluation, expertise, injury, opinion, parents, philosophy, physical literacy, planning / periodization, play, research, Skills, specialization, sporting culture, statistics, talent, talent ID, talent selection, transfer