The idea of athletes specializing in one sport at an early age and adopting that sport as a year-long activity at a young age is becoming more commonplace
Hockey players end their season and sign up for spring hockey and also play in the summer months as well. That's not the Wayne Gretzky method. He played hockey in the fall and winter months, put away his gear and jumped right into lacrosse and baseball. That cross-training approach worked out well for Wayne, and he's part of wave of old-school thinkers who believe kids become better athletes and develop their skills for a multitude of activities faster if they play more than one sport.
BC Hockey and the Prince George Youth Soccer Association are on board with that philosophy and have teamed up to offer a one-day hockey-soccer skills camp on Friday during the pro-D day for school-aged kids.
It's a full day of activities from 8:45 a.m.-4 p.m., with three skills sessions on the ice at CN Centre taught by the Northern Capitals midget triple-A hockey team coaches and players and three indoor soccer sessions at the PG Dome provided by certified youth soccer coaches.
The ultimate goal of the camp for both minor sports organizations to to encourage more kids to get up off their couches and away from video games to take part in some fun activities that will teach them skills that not only will help them enjoy sports now but throughout their adult lives as recreational athletes.
"Hockey Canada has done this in Ontario and Calgary and it was an a opportunity for us to try something in B.C. that's never been done before," said Allan Bristowe, BC Hockey's regional centre north program manager.
"Hockey Canada is always encouraging multi-sport (activities) and we're hoping we can keep kids involved in sports longterm. Most of our focus is helping kids develop and improve their skills but not everyone is going to go on to longterm professional careers. This is about keeping them in it as long as they can."
Long-term athlete development guidelines warn against single sport specialization which has been linked to an increased risk of overuse injuries in young athletes, more likelihood of adult physical inactivity and a greater likelihood of burnout brought on by stress, decreased motivation and sports becoming less enjoyable.
Terrol Russell, the PGYSA's director of club operations, says the different movements required to play hockey and soccer complement each other. For example, hockey players sometimes have to use their feet to kick a puck onto their stick. Players who don't learn that soccer skill come to regret that when the lose puck possession in a game situation because they lack the co-ordination that comes with training and the repetitive movements with a ball that soccer players have to learn. The soccer segment of the camp will try to maximize the time each player spends on ball touches with games situations played in small spaces.
"We need to provide our young people opportunities in order to get the co-ordination and agility and abilities to be able to see and respond to different situations," said Russell . "In soccer, we do a lot of handball as warm-up activities because you do throw-ins and as goalkeeper you use your hands. A player might also transition into baseball or basketball. Everything we do within our training environment hopefully allows the athlete to have the ability to transition into any any activity or sport."
The camp will be the fifth in two years Bristowe has overseen. The other four focused exclusively on hockey and were taught by the Prince George Cougars and Cariboo Cougars/North Central Bobcats midget teams. BC Hockey will also link with Jordan Yu's Northern Bounce basketball program when they join forces for another pro-D day camp on Jan. 27.
"We're lucky that we have these two partnerships in place and this is the most positive we've seen for a reaction for any camp that we've done," said Bristowe.
The cost to register for Friday's camp is $110. Go online to conta.cc/2JHB4uN to register.
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