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Deflections: Springing into action?

Some things I get. Some things I don’t.

I get that parents want the best for their kids. I did. Still do. I don’t get that trying to have the best for your kids translates into “more is better.”

I also get that if your child has talent in something, being around or associated with children of a similar bent may benefit. I don’t get that just because a child may appear to have talent now, everything else should be set aside to nurture just that talent.

Which brings me to spring hockey tryouts and leagues. I don’t get either. Never have.

I know coaching colleagues who have taken teams for spring leagues and loved the experience. So, too, they claim, did the kids and parents. How nice for them. I suppose if my nine-year-old were “selected” (ie. scouted) for the Nickeltown Beavertails AAAAA team, he’d be thrilled. As a dad, I suppose I’d be proud.

And just what we needed after seven months of hockey was another three months of it.

I’ve done some skills sessions with spring league teams. Why? The coaches knew me and wanted someone with a certain expertise in an area. Teaching is teaching, as far as I’m concerned. The kids were fun, as they usually are. The environment was a positive one. Still, it was June and to my old-fashioned mind, these children belonged outside on their bikes, playing soccer or baseball, or doing just about anything other than more hockey.

While there are scientific studies that have examined the effects of children focused on one activity, none has come up with a definitive conclusion. But sometimes it’s perfectly okay not to lean on science and rely instead on common sense.

Early specialization cements only specific skills in a specific manner. The kids may become very good at a narrow range of things, but that’s about it. We know all too well in child development that the broader the range of exposure to a multitude of skills, the better it is. Besides, anyone who actually believes pre-pubescent children are becoming elite athletes is delusional. This doesn’t happen in most activities until the teen years. The misplaced and emotional - again! - opinions of those involved in spring hockey ought to step back and read and listen to what the experts in child development, hockey instruction and even the pros have to say about it.

Certainly none of the current or past professional players I’ve spoken with ever said anything like, “Thank goodness I played spring hockey all those years. I never would have made it otherwise.”

Put the skates away. Bring out the sneakers. And save yourself some money at the same time.


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