To avoid burnout, kids should become multi-sport athletes: Hockey PEI

In response to a national initiative carried by Hockey Canada and other national sporting groups, Hockey PEI is urging young Islanders to unlace their skates and take up other sports.

'We don’t want to see them burnout and leave the game because they’re not enjoying the experience'

'The pressure that people put on kids nowadays in sport is obviously a concern at times and I think we got to let kids be kids and kids have to have fun,' Rob Newson says. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

In response to a national initiative carried by Hockey Canada and other national sporting groups, Hockey PEI is urging young Islanders to unlace their skates and add other sports to their resumé.

"For years we've always said that hockey … is the number one sport in Canada, but at the end of the day kids shouldn't be playing hockey 12 months of the year," said Rob Newson, executive director of Hockey PEI.

"It's good for kids to try other sports."

Newson's comment follows a new Canada-wide campaign urging young athletes to play more than one sport to build and develop physical and social skills as well as avoid burnout and injury.

The campaign is called Change It Up and is supported by several national sporting organizations including: Hockey Canada, Baseball Canada, Canada Soccer, Canada Basketball and the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Change It Up is supported by several national sporting organizations including: Hockey Canada, Baseball Canada, Canada Soccer, Canada Basketball and the Canadian Olympic Committee. (Cameron Perrier/CBC)

The Change It Up website points to research studies which highlight the benefits of kids being multi-sport athletes rather than specializing solely on one.

Among other things, it also points to the damages caused to the body and mind by intense and repeated training in one sport.

"When kids specialize early in one sport they miss out on important skills and many get injured, burnout or quit," the website reads.

"Top athletes and sports experts say the same thing: let kids play as many sports as possible." 

'Let kids be kids'

On the Island, Newson said even if hockey is someone's number one sport, kids should ditch the stick — at least for a little while — and pick up another sport.

That's because the burnout youth face playing one sport every week and month of the year on P.E.I. is something he's seen first-hand.

It's been the case for some young Island hockey players, Newson said, who become "high prospects" in their teens but often become so exhausted that they want out of the sport as they become young adults.

If they're pressured 12 months of the year in one specific sport, we can lose them very quickly.— Rob Newson

"The pressure that people put on kids nowadays in sport is obviously a concern at times and I think we got to let kids be kids and kids have to have fun," he said. 

"If they're pressured 12 months of the year in one specific sport, we can lose them very quickly that way."

That sort of mentality can at times stem from those trying to emulate the success of dominant hockey talents like Summerside's Noah Dobson — a projected top-10 pick in the 2018 NHL draft.

18-year-old hockey player Noah Dobson, of Summerside, P.E.I., is expected to be a top-10 pick in the 2018 NHL draft. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

"Some kids are natural talents at various sports and obviously we encourage people to reach as high a level as they can and push to get there but at the same time … we have to remember that these are kids," he said.

"We don't want to see them burnout and leave the game because they're not enjoying the experience anymore."

The burnout can occur both physically and mentally, and that's why he encourages young Island hockey players to play new sports, gain new friendships and learn from different experiences.

"Sport is about building good life experience and preparing kids to be better adults," he said.

"There's more to life than just sport and I think it's very important that we don't put those pressures too early in our kids to succeed too early.… Let them be kids."

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