If the lives of youth hockey players and parents used to be all about “go, go, go” and figuring out how to pump the brakes from time to time, the current situation is the complete opposite.
With the majority of states issuing stay-at-home directives in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of families suddenly have a lot more time – but also a lot more challenges when it comes to helping kids burn off energy and stay active while options seem limited.
So this month, I surveyed several USA Hockey American Development Model regional managers for recommendations on everything from stay-at-home activities to dealing with the mental and emotional challenges of suddenly being temporarily without hockey or any other organized sports.
If you’re the parent of a 12U player, here are some specific things to consider and try:
For players at this critical age of development, the loss of on-ice time could be particularly difficult. As a parent, you might feel like progress is being stalled, while 12U players themselves might feel like they can’t continue to work on the things they were doing on the ice.
To an extent, that’s true. Nobody will be able to – nor should they try to – replicate the exact conditions that were routine just a short time ago before this new temporary reality threw us all for a loop.
There are things that can be still done off the ice, particularly in small spaces, that are well-suited to isolation and plenty of time on our hands.
“Copy the moves of NHL players or create your own moves,” says ADM regional manager Bob Mancini. “What you do off the ice will help determine the player you are on the ice. Shoot pucks, puck-handle and follow off-ice training recommendations for body weight exercises.”
Even things as simple as walks and bike rides – which are becoming more plentiful as the weather continues to get warmer – are beneficial for both mind and body, says ADM regional manager Joe Bonnett.
For 12U players, the physical challenge of being off the ice might not be the biggest hurdle. Instead, the mental and emotional fallout could be even more important to navigate.
They’re distanced from longtime friends and teammates, dealing with isolation and hearing a lot of negative news while having abundant free time, Bonnett notes.
If they were having successful seasons – either individually, as part of their team or both – the abrupt end might be even harder to deal with.
“These challenges are real,” said Kenny Rausch, USA Hockey’s Youth Ice Hockey Director. “Kids aren’t geared like adults are to deal with such out-of-the-blue changes. Losing the rest of the season, kids may go through the stages of grief.”
So how do you navigate that as a parent? Make sure kids know that it’s okay to miss their teammates and to mourn the loss of the season, Mancini says.
What can players do to stay connected to teammates and their sport?
“Create a group chat with your teammates and friends,” Mancini suggests. “Challenge each other to do fun stickhandling stuff. Make and share hockey videos.”
You can find NHL moves in a lot of places, but the NHL’s Super Slow Mo series of Smoothest Stickhandling and Slickest Stickhandling is pretty sick. Juggling like T.J. Oshie takes a lot of practice and hand-eye coordination – a perfect game to try at home now.
Here’s a compilation of off-ice stickhandling drills they can try.
For more off-ice work, USA Hockey offers a terrific age-specific dryland training resource to work on everything from agility to passing to puck-handling and more.
If you get discouraged, remember: Everyone is in the same boat, and all you can do is try. It doesn’t have to be perfect or look perfect.