Well-rounded athletes make the best hockey players

The best junior hockey players on the planet have gathered in Edmonton and Calgary to compete for the 2012 World Championships. Canadian players are rated at the top of this elite group. It may surprise you to learn that as kids, most of these rising stars played other sports in addition to hockey.

We had an opportunity to talk with some of the junior players on Team Canada. They told us that they played a variety of sports in their younger, formative years. Soccer, lacrosse, baseball and golf are some of the sports that were most often mentioned.

How can playing other sports contribute to their hockey game? The players said they learned other skills that made them better hockey players. And they gained extra confidence, which is key to hockey success. Without their experiences in other sports, many players feel they wouldn’t have become elite hockey players.

Two brothers on the team, Dougie and Freddie Hamilton, are a great example. Dougie told the Globe & Mail that their parents told them to just play the sports they loved. “They never pressured us into playing hockey,” he said. “We played pretty much every sport growing up.”

Their parents told TSN that they simply emphasized having fun and doing their best.

The fact that well-rounded athletes make better hockey players has been known for a long time. Gretzky, Orr, and many others all played a diversity of sports before specializing in hockey. In fact, Hockey Canada has made playing a broad range of sports a cornerstone of hockey player development.

“Hockey Canada believes that physical literacy for young boys and girls will lead to greater success and longevity in hockey and all sports,” Corey McNabb, who is charge of coaching and player development for Hockey Canada, told us.

McNabb also said that “the ability to learn agility, balance and coordination that comes from playing a variety of sports, builds a solid foundation for athletic success, physical fitness and more importantly, staying active for life.”

For Hockey Canada, the recipe is simple: ensure your son or daughter practices a diversity of sports during the off-season. They can begin specializing in hockey around the age of 12 or 13.

Parents who want to help their kid succeed in hockey can learn a lot from some of the best junior hockey players in the world as well as from a long list of hall-of-famers: Well-rounded athletes do make the best hockey players.

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