June 17, 2024

Matt Thomas

"The summer used to be called the offseason...For many, the summer can often just feel like another season of hockey."

The summer used to be called the off-season. But with summer tournaments, leagues, showcases, compulsory club obligations—there’s a zillion forces trying to get you on the ice every day. For many, the summer can often just feel like another season of hockey. In the words of Billy Shakespeare: that way madness lies.

While the rampant early specialization in hockey is bad enough, pursuing hockey by constantly
playing hockey
on an endless 12-month loop is worse. Overuse and burnout are the scourge of the modern amateur game. It takes a toll on players, their families, and eventually steals so much physical literacy and broad-spectrum athleticism from the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model that players ‘hockey’ themselves into oblivion.

Here are some tips to reclaim your summer, maximize your off-season experience, and best position yourself for a great season come September.

Build Strength
A hockey season is a marathon, and it takes a toll physically. At the conclusion of the season, most players find themselves in the worst shape they’ve been in since that date a year earlier. Picking up the pieces, rebuilding the athletic foundation, and expanding physical literacy and strength has to be the top goal every summer.
That might mean working with a specialist or enrolling in a supervised program, but whether you’re doing it with a pro or doing it solo, the goals should be balanced and ambitious. Legs, core, speed and stability, power, interval conditioning—all are keys to baseline hockey strength. And the summer is a great time to connect and refine complementary lifestyle habits like nutrition, sleep, and daily mental and emotional maintenance. All that work raises the ceiling for the season ahead.

Get Off the Ice
Give yourself permission to put the skates away for a while. That doesn’t have to mean a summer-long hockey boycott, but be judicious with your energy over the summer.
Think of it as addition, not subtraction. You’re giving yourself and your family a mental break to recharge for the upcoming season. You’re giving your body the chance to fully commit to cross training, strength training, and new athleticism. A good rule of thumb among older players is 1 hour on ice for every 5 hours in the gym enough to calibrate and coordinate your on-ice execution to your improving physical condition, but not so much as to steal from other priorities.

Be Selfish
Every player is going to hit the ice at some point, and the younger players more often than the older ones. That’s ok—but stay focused. After all, there are no summer championships worth caring about.
Make decisions in your own self-interest. Use low-pressure summer programming to acquire new and deficient skills and use the length of the summer to master and impose those new skills. Create goals to advance your capacity and expand your game– don’t just aim for past roles or where coach has you penciled in, train for the role you want. Be selfish in your goal- setting and pursuit.

Play Another Sport
The sprawl of the hockey calendar means a lot of young players have to quit their fall or spring athletic passions to accommodate. Use the summer to balance that scale.
New or different sports offer unique physical, social, and mental challenges. For younger players, those other sports are vehicles for a more balanced hockey athlete. For older players, those other sports may become a lifelong outlet, proving mental and emotional restoration.
Those other sports don’t need to be as programmed and professionalized as your hockey commitment. Pick up a racket or lacrosse stick and work on your eye-hand coordination. Grab a golf club and work on mental toughness and self-reliance. Grab a basketball and realize you’ve picked the right winter sport. Be a kid. Climb a tree, ride a bike, enjoy the pool… but try
something new.

Recharge the enthusiasm
Finding a balance of the previous 4 tips (hopefully) means time away from hockey.
As you craft that unique balance for your family, consider this: The most reliable predictor of the quality of a player’s upcoming season is his/her ratio of preparedness to excitement.
But without a conscious plan, that ratio can get pretty screwed up. Some players work their butts off all summer, playing like last season never ended, but are burned out the minute the new season starts. They don’t have a good season because last season never stopped. Conversely, some players basically quit hockey for the summer, hibernate athletically for a few sedentary months, and return fully recharged but wholly unprepared. They’re excited to start, but not prepared to succeed.

Ideally you hit the season with a 1:1 balance—prepared and recharged. That road will look
different for every family, but if you build your summer with that end goal in mind, you’ll be
poised for a great year.

Enjoy the summer off-season!


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