Have you ever wondered if you're working your child too hard at his sport? Sadly, too many parents are unable to resist the temptation to push their kids to practice too much, play on too many teams at the same time, and/or play season after season in the belief that it will pay off in prep school and college scholarships and lucrative professional contracts
The fact is that taking a break from all those practices and games is crucial to preventing the burnout that causes so many young athletes to quit their sport, and to avoiding the overuse injuries that often result from year-round play. Athletes, regardless of age or ability, need to include downtime and rest from their sport to perform at their best.
Angela Ruggiero is a case in point. A key member of the U.S. Women's Hockey Team for the past decade - during which time she has been part of three medal-winning Olympic teams, played on two World and one NCAA Division I championship teams, and been ranked the #1 female hockey player in the world - Angela knows just how important it is to take time away from her sport to refresh both her body and mind.
After the 2007 IIHF World Women's Championship, she took six months away from her sport to relax. "I got to a point where I discovered that it's important as an athlete that you're always refreshed and you're where you want to be," she says. "Your mind has to be in the right place. If your mind isn't, your body won't be."
Staying physically active
Taking time off from hockey didn't mean Angela wasn't staying in shape. She still made sure to stay active by doing off-ice training. Angela stresses that as important as it is for hockey players to take a solid month off from skating after the season ends, it is just as important that they follow an off-season training regimen including:
Cross training. During off-season downtime, Angela engage in some form of cross training (sprints, interval training, and biking), four to five times a week.
Aerobic/endurance training. Angela maintains her endurance by aerobic training so that, when she resumes on-ice training, she doesn't become winded at the end of a long shift; and
- Skating. Finally, when she feels ready, Angela gets back on the ice to skate once a week, which is just enough to maintain a smooth stride. She advises against taking more than a month off from skating, however, because she found that, if she did, her stride was choppy when she resumed skating, and it took a lot of extra work to get it back.