Q: My son doesn't want to lose his edge during the off-season, but times are tight and we can't afford to put him in summer hockey! What sorts of home exercises can he do to stay sharp for next season?
Andy, peewee AA hockey parent, Calgary
A: Good question Andy. Here's a couple things your son can do to sharpen his skills, courtesy of fitness expert Ed McNeely.
The first is the "crossover step-up" exercise. McNeely explains:
"This is a simple exercise that can be done at home with a small box, bench or stool. The box or bench used for this exercise needs to be high enough to create a 120 degree angle at the knee when the foot is placed on the box. Initially you won't need any weight for this exercise, body weight will be plenty.
"Cross one leg in front of the other and place the entire foot of the leg that has crossed on the top of the box, shifting your weight to the leg on the box. Powerfully extend the knee, hip, and ankle of the foot on the box, and bring your body to a standing position on top of the box.
"Step off the box, keeping all your weight on your working leg and lightly touch the ground with the non-working leg, do not put any weight on the non working leg, it is only being used as a guide to tell you when you have gone low enough. Immediately stand back up. When you have completed all the repetitions for one leg move to the other side of the box and repeat the exercise for the other leg."
The full exercise explanation is in McNeely's blog.
Second, if you have a bike—stationary or otherwise—you have a great conditioning tool at your disposal. Bike sprints are a great way to keep yourself in top shape during the off-season. McNeely has a nice entry on bike sprints that will help your son stay ready for the fall.
Q: I'm a bantam coach, and my kids are really into sports drinks. They're always bringing in Gatorade, Powerade, any sort of "ade" really. I was OK with it until I saw one of my guys bring in a six-pack of Red Bull to share with the team. Something about that one scares me, and I banned it from the room.
The chatter I hear around the rink is mixed when it comes to the sport drink subject. What's the final word? Are they good for you or not?
A: Dave, you were right to ban Red Bull from the dressing room. Energy drinks should not be in the hands of children. The main ingredients in the vast majority of these drinks are caffeine, sugar, and natural herbs/supplements.
Many studies have shown that caffeine isn't good for kids. It compromises their bone development, and increases risk of osteoporosis. Sugar is an empty calorie, with no added benefits other than the quick energy boost it gives. And it obviously attacks developing teeth, causing cavities.
As for herbs and natural supplements, many drinks add "guarana" or "kola nut" which are just herbal sources of caffeine anyway. And there isn't enough scientific data on how these supplements actually affect adults, let alone youth, so you might be doing more harm than good.
Regarding sport drinks like Gatorade and Powerade, they're not necessary-but if it helps your kids stay hydrated during practices or games, that's fine. For a lot of youth, drinking tasteless water on the bench can be boring, so they gravitate towards the sport drinks because of the various flavours available. Flashy marketing helps too.
But here's an important thing to note: sport drinks aren't ideal for recovery after a game or practice-they're made to be consumed during activity. Your guys shouldn't be touching any sort of sport drink in the dressing room. Instead, put some vitamin-rich drinks in their hands, such as fruit juice or milk (chocolate or white will do).
Special thanks to our nutrition expert, Jennifer Gibson, for her help with this question. For more info on energy drinks, take a look at her blog on the subject. You might also like to check out our article on sport drinks too.