Planning for the offseason? Move it or lose it
Posted by Dean Holden at March 18th, 2014
by Jack Blatherwick, 12 March 2014
‘Hockey athleticism’ is the ability to move your body quickly and efficiently in all directions … on skates. When it is combined with rink sense, competitiveness and stick skills, it looks a lot like Pavel Datsyuk or Sidney Crosby. Of course, only two in a million will attain that level, but every young player should train to move in that direction – at least until you turn 22 years of age.
Twenty-two? Well, maybe 21 or 23 or 17 – but recent computerized scanning technologies have shown that the brain and lower nerve centers are capable of great changes (plasticity) well into adolescence and slightly beyond.
Not long ago it was thought that skills, coordination and other intricate motor development peaks at early ages. Some of it does, but there are also peaks later on that must be considered by anyone interested in athlete development (or cognitive development for that matter). Observations of large populations of children have led folks to believe that certain athletic skills MUST be addressed at certain ages or the window of opportunity closes. USA Hockey’s American Developmental Model (ADM) references those studies. The ADM offers some good ideas, and some that are misleading, so it should never be legislated. Consider it to be just one piece of advice.
Because of technological advances in many areas of neuroscience, including computerized imaging, knowledge in this field is changing so fast, it is naïve to think there is a single answer to athlete development that will not be modified in upcoming years. Better to keep an open mind, watch this field closely, allow for creative ideas from different sources and then use your own garage logic.
Why ‘garage logic?’ After working with thousands of athletes at all ages, I’ve found that the most important factor in development is motivation, not chronological age. The window of opportunity for improvement of skill, speed, explosive strength and skating is not closed until the athlete loses motivation or work ethic – or until the ripe, old age of 22 or so.
Recent imaging research verifies that the cerebellum is very plastic until about that time, certainly changing a great deal just before and throughout adolescence. We know that the cerebellum is critically involved in the coordination of motor and mental activities, hand-eye coordination, etc. Dr. Jay Giedd is a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, and I strongly suggest reading his thoughts and branching out from there. I will leave this wonderful opportunity to you (Google his name), but Dr. Giedd’s most important advice is this, “Use it or lose it.”
What does that mean? Whether a young child or adolescent is reading a novel, studying physics, playing an active sport, lying on a couch, sprinting at top speed, stickhandling while moving the feet or manipulating an iPod, the cerebellum, spinal cord and other brain centers are changing to ‘streamline’ this activity. You will become what you do most often.
Keeping in mind that ‘hockey athleticism’ is moving your body quickly and efficiently, this means that moving the body must be a major part of your planning for the offseason. We’ve been oversold strength and muscle mass in the high school weight room, because that’s what football coaches promote. Strength is important, but at this important age for learning motor skills, it must be combined with explosive movement of your body (jumps, sprints, agility drills) off-ice and on-ice. Playing other active sports is a good idea, but don’t think you shouldn’t play hockey as much as you want any time of the year. That concept is also oversold without evidence.
Train to be like Datsyuk and Crosby until you’re 22, and if, at that time, you see that you’ll make a better goon someday, you still have plenty of time to bulk up.
Category: athleticism, brain, deliberate practice, eye-hand coordination, Fitness / Training, fundamental movement skills, growth & development, learning, LTAD, motivation, neuroplasticity, passion, physical literacy, planning / periodization, practices, research, science of hockey, self-improvement, skill acquisition, Skills, specialization, talent, technology