NHL Player Sam Carrick believes kids should play as many different sports as they can.
Hot chocolate in hand, Suzy sits in what used to be stunned silence, an emotion that has now turned into embarrassment. It’s 2:47 on a Sunday afternoon and the two teams on the ice are giving it all. Most of the capacity crowd of approximately 30 people are enjoying the matchup between two minor peewee house league teams. But not Suzy. Suzy loves to watch her son play hockey, but every time he steps on the ice, Suzy’s husband Rick becomes a different person. While all the other parents are talking, laughing, and cheering on their children, Rick nervously paces and yells out instructions to their son throughout the game. The other parents used to stare, but everybody has gotten used to Rick’s outbursts, now everybody just shares knowing looks and sarcastic eye rolls. Somehow, Rick has made their son’s favourite game about him.
Okay, I made that story up. However, if you’ve ever stepped foot into a hockey arena to watch minor hockey, you could probably visualize that entire story. Rick’s behaviour is nothing new, over-involved sports parents have been ruining their children’s experiences playing sports for years. What should be all about the kids, turns into mom and dad’s aspirations of their son or daughter advancing to high levels of competition. This isn’t a hockey problem, it’s a sports problem. Speak to any kid who plays organized soccer, football, gymnastics, basketball, or any other sport, and they’ll all have stories about that “crazy parent.” Because that’s how kids describe it, the “crazy parent.”
However, it’s not just some parents’ behaviour while their children are playing, it’s the decisions being made off the field that are also becoming a problem. A newer trend we’ve seen developing over the last 15 or so years is parents and clubs turning kids into one sport athletes at a very young age. While the decision to have kids focus on one sport may be made with the best of intentions, it’s not in the best interest of the athlete.
In an exclusive interview with Job Skills’ Compass Magazine, professional hockey player Sam Carrick said “I’m a big believer in playing as many sports as you can. I don’t believe sticking to one sport is good for anyone, especially as a young kid. I feel like they’ll lose interest a lot quicker. For me, playing other sports made me aware of which one I wanted to pursue more as I got older, and I believe that helped a ton.
Sam is a former first-round draft pick of the then-Brampton Battalion of the OHL. After serving as captain, Sam was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he is now playing full-time in the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks. Growing up in Stouffville, Ontario, Sam played hockey, lacrosse, rugby, and after some debate whether it was a sport or not, motocross.
Sam, like many top-performing athletes, learned different skills from all the different sports, which led to Sam being a better hockey player. “Even a sport like golf, helps you with your hand-eye coordination,” said Sam.
It’s easy to get caught up in doing what we think is best for our kids, and it becomes even more difficult when you have- clubs and coaches pressuring kids to become one sport athletes. However, there has been a lot of research done into this, and being equipped with the proper information is a great place to start.
“Playing multiple sports as a young athlete offers several advantages. It helps in developing various skills, reduces the risk of burnout and overuse injuries, enhances overall athleticism and versatility, and prevents early sports specialization. By engaging in different sports, young athletes can become well-rounded, and adaptable, and make informed decisions about their athletic future. However, it is crucial to maintain a balance between sports, academics, and rest to avoid becoming overwhelmed.”
Sam says that his parents were very supportive while he was growing up playing sports. They would hold him accountable for his effort, decisions, and attitude, but the dream to play in the NHL was his, not his parents. Sam said he didn’t feel any pressure from his parents while he was playing minor hockey or any other sports. “I have definitely heard some crazy stories of what some parents are doing to kids, and keeping them to one sport, Sam said. “With my kids, it’s going to be, play as many sports as you can, play whatever you want, let’s figure out what you want to do.”
I am in no way an expert on children’s psychology, and I have not studied athlete development. However, Sam Carrick is living out his dream and playing professional hockey. Other greats like Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, and Sidney Crosby, have all spoken out against forcing kids to focus on just one sport at a young age. So, as far as I’m concerned, if some of the greatest professional athletes in the world are advocating for kids to play multiple sports, who am I to argue with them?
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