Now, hear me out here, because I’m just wondering about something, and I’m hoping I can get some other opinions on the following…
To begin, a few seasons ago I had a young player who demonstrated a ton of physical shortcomings — I’m talking some serious motor-skill problems, and mostly things that I suspected as genetic. (It’s also quite possible that for some unknown reasons he missed-out on certain critical periods in motor learning.)
As an FYI, I would say he was 12, 13 and 14-years old during the years I worked with him.
Actually, over those 3 seasons, the boy, his parents and I managed to lop-off a number of coordination issues, with most of the lad’s gains made at home and in my off-ice training center, The MOTION Lab.
As examples of the things I had him work on… He rope-skipped a ton (as do all of my players), and I had him do lots of balancing and proprioception work, especially on inflatable disks, on a teeter-totter, and on a mini-trampoline. To improve his sport vision, I had him wear an eye patch over one eye at a time — while catching a ball and bouncing on the mini-tramp, while doing some simple juggling movements, and while dribbling a ball or puck on the trampoline. Again, we made some nice headway in those areas.
However, there was always one thing that truly bothered me, it was something I wasn’t quite sure about at the time, but it’s something I’m thinking very, very seriously about right now.
That boy, like lots of others I regularly see, seemed to have a serious problem with his strength. Not that he was small or really weak (actually, he was decent sized for his age). But it was more like he — or his body — didn’t really know how to generate strength or deal with the slightest resistance. (I can still see his legs tremble as he did some pretty simple exercises.)
So, what I’m wondering about right now is whether a very basic weightlifting program might benefit such kids (or maybe all kids). Not that my aim would be to have them lift seriously, or to put on added muscle.
To understand what I’m getting at, perhaps adult members could envision a time when they readied to lift something rather heavy — be it a barbell in the gym, or a piece of furniture or equipment at home or at work. Picture what you initially did… You likely adjusted your body position and your grip, and you likely did that a number of times before you felt ready to give that heavy weight a serious try. To me, there’s some learning going on there — as we adjust and re-adjust to the expected resistance.
Can you appreciate what I’m getting at here? I mean, I have a sense that younger athletes would gain by just learning to address resistance, be it in the form of a very lightly loaded half-squat movement, in a few Olympic lifts, or in some other full-body movements. Again, I wouldn’t be aiming to make the kids bigger or stronger, and I probably wouldn’t use anything heavier than an empty bar. But it is that sense of addressing some resistance — and learning to adjust the grip and posture — that I think might help a lot (if not all) young athletes.
All that said, I would love to hear other opinions (especially if we have some members who are truly knowledgeable in this area).
Q: An Arizona-based hockey mom writes seeking some oft requested advice… She says that her boy has been complaining about his skates a lot lately, and that he’s even cried at times because his feet hurt so badly. Then, noting that the current skates are hand-me-downs from a cousin, she asks for advice in the purchase of her son’s first pair of new hockey skates.
A: Not that there is a single piece of UNimportant hockey gear, but… If I had to prioritize equipment purchases, I’d allot the majority of my budget to 1) good quality, properly-fit skates and 2) a safe helmet and mask assembly. Thereafter, go with used or hand-me-down stuff. (As an FYI, my next focus would be on those articles of equipment that can either slow or help quicken hand and foot movements.)
Now, passion for the rink is paramount to any player’s growth. I mean, it’s essential that he or she really look forward to getting to their next practice or game. However, as this hockey mom is discovering, skates can have a huge bearing on a youngster’s comfort and enjoyment during the learning process. They’ll even affect a beginner’s ability to execute various movements and to thusly gain the confidence to take-on far greater challenges.
So, starting with the initial problem, let me bet my house on the likelihood that my young Arizona friend’s skates are either too small or they are being tied improperly. I’ll deal with the first point shortly, but let me initially explain the skate-tying process…
Appreciate that nothing — I said nothing — can be done to overcome skate-boots that are either broken-down or too large. Additional support can’t be found in extra pairs of socks. And, pulling the laces too tightly over the arch-area will likely cause pain in of itself, and also cut-off blood flow to the toes. This in mind, the lowest eyelets should only be tied like sneakers or dress shoes. Just about all of a skate’s support is found in the boot’s ankle-area. So, it’s essential to seat the heel all the way back into the boot, and then snug-up about the top three eyelets so that the leather (or whatever) is pulled firmly around the ankle. Don’t wrap excess lacing around the ankle, but instead tie a double-bow or acquire the correct length laces.
As for proper fitting, appreciate that we can’t feel through the toe of a skate as we might shoes or sneakers. So, it’s necessary to reverse the measuring procedure… Remove most of the lacing so that the tongue of the boot can be pulled all the way forward. Next, have the player slide his or her foot all the way forward until the toes hit the end of the boot. This done, measure the excess space left between the player’s heel and the back of the boot. To derive the most support and feel from the boot, this excess space should be no more than about the width of a pencil.
Then, on socks and growth… Fitting might be done while the player is wearing thin sport-hose. As growth occurs, the thickness of the socks might be reduced. (FYI… A lot of my advanced players have worn women’s knee-highs — for a lot of reasons. And, a great many advanced players prefer making themselves feel “one with the boot” by going barefoot.)
Finally, I’m guessing something within the above helps that hockey mom solve her lad’s problem. Still, if she or her husband has a related question or needs clarification, I invite them to email me directly. Good luck!