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Hockey: A Better Way of Life

Gosselin encourages families to be active, whether that means taking gymnastics or swimming lessons, playing baseball or another sport in the summer, or simply participating in recreational sports like hiking.

For those who live and breathe for the moments they spend on the ice (or watching their pride and joy do so), it comes naturally to refer to game we love as a lifestyle, a way of life or even, hockey is life.

Those statements are far truer than people realize, and not because of the amount of time people spend involved in the game.

The reality is obesity rates in the United States have nearly tripled, only a quarter of kids ages 6-12 are considered to be active to a healthy leveland sports participation is a significant predictor of how active kids will be when they reach adulthood. Put simply, kids who play sports such as hockey, which provide regular access to fun physical activity, are healthier and are more successful in a variety of areas later in life.

“If you take a look at the obesity in our culture now, just the unhealthiness of our kids, those numbers are going up,” said USA Hockey Regional ADM Manager Guy Gosselin. “We’re aware of it and people are trying to make changes, but it’s a huge problem.”

“We’re seeing kids that don’t have motor skills. We’re seeing kids that can’t throw or catch. We’re seeing kids that can’t do basic gymnastics or tumbling moves; kids that can’t do somersaults, cartwheels.”

Even if you don’t count your kids or your family among the more intense in hockey circles, the truth is playing hockey 3-4 times a week is a lifestyle, an active lifestyle, and that’s a good thing for their future.

An Active Start

The foundation of all sports, and all physical activity, is physical literacy. It’s critical for kids to learn how to move functionally and confidently in a variety of ways and environments, starting at a young age. That’s one of the main reasons the American Development Model strongly encourages children to play multiple sports.

“Physical literacy is a big deal for kids,” said Gosselin, who represented the U.S. twice in the Olympics. “That’s the time in your development where you have this accelerated learning process for movements. If you don’t tap into that, later on it’s hard to get it, and it takes a longer time to obtain.”

Unfortunately, today’s generation of kids don’t have the same opportunities previous generations did. Schools have been reducing time dedicated to physical education for years, to the point only one state follows the recommended guideless, and unstructured play at parks, playgrounds and fields has decreased dramatically.

“It’s kind of shocking to see some of the deficiencies that kids have and the restricted movements that kids have,” said Gosselin.  “If they’re not getting it in school where they’re at all day, then they need to get it outside of school.”

A Sporty Lifestyle

The good news is youth hockey associations have a road map for providing kids with what they need at each age to develop physical literacy and athleticism. Perhaps, the even better news is, this is an area parents can help by encouraging their kids to go above and beyond scheduled practices and adopt what Gosselin refers to as a sporty lifestyle.

Gosselin encourages families to be active, whether that means taking gymnastics or swimming lessons, playing baseball or another sport in the summer, or simply participating in recreational sports like hiking.

“It’s about forming good habits,” said Gosselin. “Are you going to have a kid that sits around all the time or are you going to have a kid that gets out there and gets after it?”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), kids should be active for at least an hour a day, and free or unstructured play are an important component of that. Days without organized practice are the perfect opportunity to go for a bike ride or go swimming or sledding once winter arrives.

Taking Ownership

As players get older, having a solid foundation of physical literacy and a sporty lifestyle will enhance their likelihood of success on and off the ice, but it won’t happen automatically. Kids entering their teens must learn to take responsibility for their habits and lifestyle.

“It goes from parent responsibility and coaching responsibility to player responsibility and coaching responsibility as they get older,” said Gosselin.

Strength, conditioning, hydration, nutrition and sleep all take on added importance at the same time, forcing players take ownership of the day-to-day decisions that affect their health and performance.

“You can’t eat like garbage and expect to perform at your highest capacity, especially when you’re going through puberty as a teenager and you’re trying to mold your body to be stronger and be a better athlete,” said Gosselin.

“As far as a healthy lifestyle and kind of a holistic method, you have to eat right and you want to be active in other sports. Obtaining motor skills and skill sets is a big deal. So later on, when you want to tap into that stuff and excel in sport, you have those tools.”

Over time, players will learn to use those same tools to maximize their performance in the classroom, at home, at work and eventually it truly becomes a way of life.

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