Should Your Child Play More Than One Sport?
My 11-year-old-son, Jacob, is an ice hockey fanatic. He is on the ice three to five days a week and also plays road hockey for fun with his friends. He's very talented, but a bit smaller than the other players. His progress seems to have slowed down a bit as of late. I feel he could be stronger and faster on the ice. What exercises can he do to get stronger, and what hockey programs should I sign him up for?
Here are my initial thoughts: Whenever I get inquiries like this from parents, my first reaction is to wonder where the "concerns" are coming from. As a parent of three kids in different sports, I have seen the pressures put on kids to "be the best" and to outshine everyone else. I often wonder if it is the dream of the parent or child to make it to the "big league"?
In many cases, parents tend to lose sight of what's important; the fact that their child is interested in something positive and taking care of their health by exercising on a regular basis. Parents need to focus on supporting their kids, not putting unnecessary pressure on them.
The main point I get across to parents is the importance of multilateral development. This is a term used in the training field that describes a phase of training whereby kids play as many different sports and games as possible in order to accumulate as many skill-sets as possible. By the time Jacob turns 14 or 15, he can apply the acquired skills to hockey. In Europe, many professional ice hockey players also played soccer at a very high level. When you watch them kick the puck to their skates or step quickly side to side, it's easy to see where their efficient footwork came from.
I would also suggest that you try not to worry about plateaus in your son's development, as he is at an age where he may be hitting puberty. In this case, some motor skills "appear" to deteriorate. In reality, his body is trying to adjust to longer legs, longer arms and more hormones flowing through his body. When kids go through this "awkward" stage, I tell them to be patient and even to switch focus to aerobic-based games and activities. Running and cycling are great examples. Not much coordination is needed to get the benefits of more endurance and stronger legs; both of which are important for any sport.
I think part of the problem is that parents have seen footage of Tiger Woods sinking a putt at the age of two and Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby scoring a goal at the age of four. This sends the wrong message, as most parents feel that in order for their child to be great, they have to live and breathe the particular sport from day one. The reality is that these athletes are very unique and they probably played other sports at a high level as well. So my best advice is to forgo looking for another hockey program, as Jacob is already on the ice three to five days a week. In fact, I'd recommended that you sign him up for another sport.
Exercises for Young Athletes
In terms of exercises, the following list includes general exercises that kids can safely do at any age that help strengthen the entire body, and are beneficial for all sports.
Push-ups (regular or modified from the knees)
Medicine Ball Partner Throws
Reggie Reyes is a certified kinesiologist and personal trainer. He is the president and founder of pt4kids a company that creates specialized training programs for kids all ages and fitness levels.