Website Manager

East Grand Forks Parks & Recreation

East Grand Forks Parks & Recreation

News Detail


Dec, 2023

Midway Point: Staying Fit, Healthy and Fully Engaged

Midway Point: Staying Fit, Healthy and Fully Engaged

By Steve Mann, 12/05/23, 11:00AM CST


The midway point of the youth hockey season can be a time of rewarding reflection – looking back at the memorable moments created, the fun had and the lessons learned, both on and off the ice – with an eager eye on what’s to come.

How adults approach this time of the year can be critical to ensuring that their kids keep themselves in proper shape and health, both physically and mentally, and stay on the path to a successful full season of development.

The Importance of R&R

Eden Prairie High School assistant coach Connor Clark says there are a variety of things to consider at this time of year for players, parents, coaches and administrators. One often overlooked, but extremely beneficial tactic, is some good old rest and relaxation.

“Sometimes just taking a break from hockey and focusing on family and other activities can be massively beneficial,” said Clark, who is also the Hockey Programs Manager for Minnesota Hockey. “There are some associations that shut down entirely around the Christmas holiday season to give kids a chance to rest, recover and come back fresh. Some of the smartest coaches I know are intentional about building in some rest for the players. Too many families are running their kids through the ringer, with 9:30-10:30 evening practices, then morning power skating lessons, and more. I would encourage them to keep a pulse on how much activity is going on and look for ways to formalize rest and recovery.”

Proper Health and Nutrition Is Key

Clark believes nutrition and hydration are also keys to making sure young players stay fully engaged and healthy throughout the long season. He says this is especially important at the older levels, when players are asking their bodies to do “wildly impractical things” for half the year.

“By the time players are 15 or 16, if they have built in good nutrition and hydration habits and educated themselves along the way, the body will more likely work more efficiently,” he said. “By and large, it’s minimizing fried stuff, eating more fruits and vegetables than kids probably want to do, looking at carb intake and being diligent about hydration. A lot of athletes think hydration is a momentary thing. They say, ‘I did my pre-game hydration, so I should be good.’ But it’s really a continuous process. Building in a focus on hydration on an ongoing basis has an opportunity to transform how kids are able to be successful at hypercompetitive levels.”

Stretching is another critical component of training and pre-competition preparation and a way to stay physically ready over the long haul, according to Clark.

“Some of the more successful teams I’ve seen have gotten in the habit of, even for a typical practice, if it starts at 9, they are in the facility at 8:15, using the first five minutes to get their equipment tidied up, then doing a dynamic warmup as a group,” he said. “I believe kids who are exposed to good athletic development habits early will continue on even when there’s not as much of a formal structure provided for them. We want them to teach kids good preparation habits with the hopes that they’ll internalize them and own them going forward.”

Then there’s the mental side of the game, which can be negatively impacted if a player doesn’t feel they’re improving or if their team loses a lot. Clark believes adults can play a major role in setting kids up for success.

“Whether it’s a coach, team manager, mom, dad, grandma or grandpa, these are the folks that have the greatest ability to control how results impact a kid’s energy level,” he said. “Everyone needs to be on the same page about what adversity means and how to work through it. The thought in every kids’ head can’t be, ‘My value to the world is based on wins and losses.’ That sets your kids up for failure. I don’t expect any youth hockey player to be able to functionally work through every challenge, but adults can and should be thinking about these things. Every adult has an opportunity to play a role in helping young people reach their potential as an athlete and a person.”

How to Keep Players Engaged

Keeping players engaged over many months at a time can be a challenge, especially in this day and age of instant gratification and over-reliance on screens and technology.

Clark believes it is important for coaches to provide a great training environment that requires athletes to make their own reads and decisions, provides an optimal challenge, takes into consideration the number of puck touches and repetitions and maximizes activity tempo, so kids aren’t just standing around.

However, according to Clark, above all else, the best way to keep youth hockey players engaged throughout the season and continuing to enjoy the sport for the long term is to focus on fun.

“You can’t optimize development without fun being present all the time. It’s not just imperative, it is table stakes,” he says. “The way kids have fun is different depending on age level, but in general, when kids are no longer having fun, they stop playing the sport. Even in the most competitive programs, those athletes are there because they’re having fun.”

“I’ve seen a lot of teams sprinkle in different traditions, such as putting some tunes on for the last 30 minutes of a late practice, opening things up for some unstructured skills work, then maybe a pizza gathering before the kids go home,” Clark added. “There are little things you can do to keep kids aware that their experience is important. Fun doesn’t have to be compromised to be competitive.”

Copyright © 2024 East Grand Forks Park & Rec  |  Privacy Statement |  Terms Of Use |  License Agreement |  Children's Privacy Policy  Log In