As the idea of physical literacy gains momentum, it’s not usually the traditionalists in sport and physical activity who lead the charge. But Brent Sutter – one of hockey’s most established “old guard” members – is changing that perception.
In a recent Edmonton Journal article, Sutter said that kids who specialize in one sport too early actually hinder their development and limit opportunities to succeed.
“You just don’t have as many players today that are as good athletes as they used to be,” Sutter said. “Too much today, especially in young players, is focused on hockey 12 months a year. They don’t play soccer, they don’t play baseball or tennis or the other things that people used to do.”
When Sutter talks hockey, people listen. His NHL playing career spanned more than 1250 regular season and playoff games over 18 years, and included two Stanley Cups and an All-Star nomination. When he wasn’t playing hockey as a kid, he played other sports. Plus, he grew up working on a farm.
Since his retirement from playing in 1998, Sutter has coached 13 years at both the junior and professional levels. He has scouted and coached many players during that time.
“You really notice the guys who are true athletes and the ones who are not,” he said. “The ones you can take … and play baseball or soccer with them and they get it. This is noticeable even at the NHL level. The true athletes are a little bit further ahead.
“What happens with a lot of kids now who play hockey year round is they wear out. The fire in their bellies by the time they are 19, 20 or 21 isn’t the same as it was when they were 12 because they’ve been doing it every month for six, seven and eight years, and eventually, it wears them down. These kids need to do other activities, experiment in other sports and have other friends outside of hockey.”