A Warning To Parents
Hockey … To The Exclusion Of Everything Else?
There has been a disturbing trend in sports in recent years leading to absolute and complete immersion and dedication to one particular sport.
This trend has been going on for some time and then got new legs and a big boost from a book by Malcolm Gladwell published in 2008 titled The Outliers. In this book Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is to a large extent, a matter of practicing for a total of around 10,000 hours.
It seems a great many people took that to mean that all they have to do is spend 10,000 hours at an activity to achieve greatness at that activity.
Gladwell’s conclusions have pretty much been completely debunked and even rejected by the prominent psychologist Anders Ericsson upon whose work Gladwell based the book
This myth though, still continues. To quote an article by Rachel Nuwer:
“So despite the new evidence that the 10,000 rule is bull, like the studies and articles that came before it, that message will likely fall on many deaf ears. The 10,000 hour rule seems to have entered into the common lore about success: it’s a nice idea, that hard work will actually pay off. And no peer-reviewed study has so far succeeded in toppling that catchy message.”
When it comes to hockey, we have Hockey symposiums where supposedly the best and brightest of the sport get together to discuss the state of the game, new advances and how to move the game forward. Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory was presented at one of these symposiums with the examples of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechin. Crosby and Oveckin were offered up as some kind of proof of this theory.
Ironically; in response to severe criticism and debunking of his book, Gladwell is quoted as stating: “There is a lot of confusion about the 10,000 rule that I talk about in Outliers. It doesn’t apply to sports. And practice isn’t a SUFFICIENT condition for success”. However my recollection is that Gladwell used of Wayne Gretzky as an example for proof of his theory.
Some Of My Experience
One year when I coached a double A minor peewee team that went on to win the MTHL championships and went on to the All Ontario Championships, we ended up playing well over 100 games by the time everything was over. The season started in August and finished some time in April. We started with our preseason camps in August, followed by preseason exhibition games which was then followed by a 42 game regular season. The play-offs went 4 rounds to win the west division championships followed by a 5th round for the City championships which was then followed by the All-Ontario championships. Interspersed between all of this there were at least 5 weekend tournaments. During all of the time from the beginning of the season to the end, the norm was 2 practices a week. That’s one hell of a lot hockey and time in an arena.
Summers in Canada are short. Why would you want to spend all of your time in a hockey arena during the summer? My recommendation is to get away from hockey after the season and do something else. There are all kinds of activities and some great outdoor sporting activities that have cross-over benefits. Soccer is great for conditioning, coordination & balance as well as positional play. Field lacrosse is fantastic because it has all of those elements plus hand-eye coordination and body contact.
I spent a lot of time on the ice with Steven Stamkos and got to know him quite well. He and his family always had a great balanced approach to sports and life. Steven would always play baseball with his buddies in his home town of Markham, Ontario during the summer months. Even after being drafted and playing with the Tampa Bay Lighting, Steven would still play baseball with his buddies during the summer and as far as I know that may continue to this day.
We All Want Our Children To Succeed
But Don’t Develop A Misfit
I feel that complete and total immersion in any one singular activity almost to the exclusion of everything else will tend to produce a misfit.
Get the hell away from hockey during the summer. Do something else with your kids during that time. Don’t get sucked in by the coaches and the parents talking about the 3 on 3 or 4 on 4 summer hockey league, or the “special elite” summer hockey tournament team. This is especially true in the early years and there will be plenty of time in later years if your child shows the proficiency and the interest. In the early years do your best to make sure your child has a well-rounded experience.
There is lot more that I would like to write to say on this topic; however for right now this is my considered advise. I’m sure I’ll cover this more in the future.
Don’t Do Things To Develop A Misfit
There’s a lot more to come. In Part 3 I’ll write about the learning process; some history and the reality of how it functions.
Also, I’ll have a future followup on my blog about the Humboldt Bronco’s hockey tragedy. Initially, there was a lot more that I wanted to say, but felt the time just was not right.
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