Why you should play sports other than hockey

Yes I know, this entire website and Youtube channel is dedicated to helping you improve your hockey skills, so what kind of lunatic would tell you to play different sports? This one (and many others). Don’t get me wrong, playing hockey and training for hockey is the single best way to improve your skills, however something I strongly encourage for all athletes is something called BALANCE.

If you are a newer hockey player, chances are you are completely obsessed with playing, that is great, play and practice as much as you can, however don’t discount the benefits and advantages of playing other sports. Other sports CAN aid in your hockey development!

Advantages of Playing Other Sports for Hockey Playershockey-playing-other-sports

  • Specializing in hockey early will restrict development of other muscles
  • Playing a number of sports will help create a well rounded athlete
  • Playing multiple sports will help reduce injuries. Other sports will build some areas of the body that may get neglected in hockey
  • Playing hockey all year can result in over-use injuries. Areas of the body may never have time to recover (knees, hips, back)
  • Most team sports help build play making abilities, ability to read and react to situations, mental quickness, hand-eye, speed, explosiveness, other areas of the body
  • Kids and Adults get a break from hockey and come back with a greater desire and passion to start again
  • Some skills will be “over trained” in other sports compared to hockey. The skills will carry over well
    • Hand eye coordination in racquet sports, Lacrosse and baseball
    • Foot skills in soccer
    • Change of direction, footwork and acceleration in Squash, Tennis
    • Body fakes and deception in Lacrosse, Soccer, Football, Basketball
    • Overall team work will be experienced in all team sports

From reading the above points it’s easy to see that playing other sports can actually help you become a BETTER hockey player. In fact some of the best hockey players were multi-sport athletes.

Examples and Quotes

Wayne Gretzkygretzky-hockey-sports

Gretzky did not play summer hockey, he played baseball and lacrosse in the summer. According to Gretzky’s biography he was a very skilled baseball and Lacrosse player and spring was one of his favourite times of the year!

“If a sport has a high point of the year, it must be the first week of spring. When I was growing up, I used to love this time of year. It was when I put my hockey equipment away and I was absolutely ecstatic to see the end of the hockey season. One of the worst things to happen to the game, in my opinion, has been year-round hockey and, in particular, summer hockey. All it does for kids, as far as I can tell, is keep them out sports they should be doing in the warmer weather. I could hardly wait to get my lacrosse stick out and start throwing the ball against the walls and working on our moves as we played the lacrosse equivalent to road hockey. All the good hockey players seemed to play lacrosse in those days and everyone of them learned something from the game to carry over to the other – things athletes can only learn by mixing up the games they play when they are young.”
— Wayne Gretzky, National Post, March 2000

Bobby Orrbobby-orr-play-other-sports

“Kids play far too much [hockey]. I mean, kids are playing 12 months a year—little ones. They don’t need it. Play other sports. Have other coaches. Hang around other kids, other parents. I think that’s all healthy. I never went to a hockey school until I turned pro and I went as an instructor. Kids don’t need to play all year, they can have a program of light exercise and play other sports. If you look at the best players in all sports, they’re athletes— they play other sports.” Source: Bobby Orr: How we’re killing hockey

John Tavares

tavares-playing-other-sports“People always talk about my hand-eye coordination and how that translates from lacrosse to hockey and from hockey to lacrosse, which is true,” said Tavares, who played lacrosse for 13 years before switching focus solely to hockey. “But the biggest thing that translated for me was using my body to protect the ball, spinning off checks and moving through traffic.

“All those things translated into skills on the ice that have helped me excel in many areas in hockey, such as puck protection, moving through traffic and gaining time and space from tight checking.” Source: NHL Star honed hockey skills in box lacrosse

Coach Brent Sutter

brent-sutter-quote-other-sports“It is so noticeable on a hockey team that the kids who have played other sports and experienced different things are always the smarter players on your team, and they are able to handle adversity better,” Sutter said. “They deal with adversity better because they are thrown into different environments and they trust their skills that they may have learned elsewhere to get them through certain things.”

“I’ve really noticed it since leaving (to the NHL) and coming back to the WHL how it has changed,” he said. “We are lacking in areas that we never used to lack in. I want our scouts to look at athletes not just strictly hockey players.” Source: Wanted for NHL: True Athletes

NY Times

“Some young athletes now face surgeries befitting their grandparents. Young hockey goaltenders repeatedly practice butterfly style — which stresses the developing hip joint when the legs are splayed to block the bottom of the goal. The sports surgeon Marc Philippon, based in Vail, Colo., saw a 25-year-old goalie who already needed a hip replacement.”

“In the Loyola study, sport diversification had a protective effect” Source: Sports should be childs play

Active for Life

“How could specialization reduce your success?

It’s connected to physical literacy and the need to develop a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional skills within sport. When researchers look at top athletes across a range of sports, the majority of them are distinguished by broad athletic ability from playing a variety of sports as children. This kind of broad athleticism doesn’t happen when kids specialize in one sport from an early age.

(Please note: We haven’t even mentioned the problem of overuse injuries to tendons, ligaments, and bone growth plates due to premature specialization. There’s enough research on that subject to write a book. Premature specialization is also linked to kids dropping out of sports early.)” – Source: Active for Life: Why early specialization is a bad idea

What about adults learning the game?

It depends on what type of shape you are in and if you have played other sports in the past. The quickest way to improve is to play and practice as much as you can (within reason)

For adult players who are new to the game, I still recommend balance. In this case we want to help aid development, but also reduce the chance of injury. Being in better shape, and a better overall athlete will certainly help reduce your risk of injuries. When you are injured you can’t play, and when you can’t play you can’t improve. Consider a sport like soccer, basketball, ultimate frisbee or some racquet sports to keep you in shape and developing a number of skills and abilities that you can carry over into your hockey development. You can also practice hockey at home over the summer to fine tune some skills while also enjoying some other sports.

Playing other sports is also great for your social life, and mental well being (healthy body, healthy mind)

The Final Verdict

Yes there are some specific hockey skills that you can only learn on the ice (or practicing at home), however many skills you will learn in other sports will lend themselves to learning your hockey skills

Whether you are a young hockey player, or an older hockey player, playing other sports will help improve your health, mental well being, and of course, HOCKEY SKILLS! 

More Reading

  1. Reply Rachel B. April 3, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    So true! I was disappointed when my daughter decided to go for Tae Kwon Do instead of hockey this year (honestly, I mainly missed getting to skate every Saturday, since we’d go together).

    Anyway, I decided if I was bringing her to classes anyway, I’d do Tae Kwon Do, too. Turns out it’s really helped my flexibility in hockey. It seems like I can skate faster now, since I can bend my knees further– even though I haven’t been skating as often!

  2. Reply John April 3, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    Hey Jeremy
    Interesting article.
    I grew up in South Western Ontario, played Jr hockey down there too. Played every sport in high school and lacrosse in the summer. That said I played hockey every single day of the year. Road hockey and taking shots, in the summer pond hockey, I loved it. Don’t get me wrong I loved lacrosse too and basket ball and track and soccer. But hockey was a constant. I coach now and offer my sons as much as they want in any sport, or music or wherever their desire takes them. I’ve seen a lot of video of Gretzky at three skating until dark in a backyard rink.

    I think the main issue is with organized sports. Let kids do what they love and get out of the way. Don’t over think it.
    Oh ya. Baseball sucks.

  3. Reply Brian McGoveran March 25, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    A perfect example is the Russian Hockey Team, if you could go to their hockey camp, you would find out that they do not just practice hockey, they play many sports and do so all year round!

  4. Reply Ian Wotherspoon June 30, 2014 at 12:21 am

    Jeremy, that is very kind of you and I would be only too happy to give you some thot from my many years of coaching. Btw, I coached in Canada so the age levels are slightly different than the U.S. I believe. As I mentioned I’ve coached at most levels beginning with Atom age players and right up to JR-B. The JR-A teams I worked with I didn’t actually work with the team as such but I did work with the goalies. When I was a young boy I was a forward because I was one of the better skaters. I was taught to skate by my uncle Joe Irvin who played for the early years of the Ottawa Senators, so that is why I was better than everyone else. But as I got older I wans’t as fast due to my heavy build so I moved back between the pipes and there I stayed until my knees said “NO MORE.”
    I began coaching hockey in 1964 as a helper then moved to assistant as I found that I really enjoyed coaching. I saw almost immediately that there wasn’t much help, if any for the goalies and felt that this is where I could do my most good. Over the next few seasons I began to look for books and then videos (VHS) God bless the DVD and now the iPad as they are so much easier to use. I could tell you some horror stories of what I had to do to plan the season of teaching/coaching my goalies using VHS tapes but at another time.
    Btw, I love your site and I have a young player from my church who I have teaching over the past couple of years all from what you show in shooting, stickhandling & skating drills. I’m also working with two fathers one here where I live and one in Newfoundland.
    I began doing this in 2010 with a goalie in England and it worked quite well, he was pleased and that’s what counts. Well, the dad’s film their goalies and then send me the film which I go over several times to see if I can find anything. What I mean by anything it means the good and the skills he needs to work on. One of the things I’ve always done when I coach is to never mention things like your doing this wrong or thats a negative whatever. I will tell a goalie what he’s doing right and then I will tell him but you need to work on this. Then show him what he’s doing and then show him what it’s supoose to look like and then what he will have to do to change from his way to the way that will help him stop pucks better. It’s late and I hope that makes sense to you. Late being that it’s 1:52am and past my bedtime.

    A little about me for you to know: I began coaching in 1964, took 4 years off in the late seventies and then came back because I missed it so much. Plus a friend asked me if I could come out and have a look at their two goalies to see if I could give him some tips on coaching them. What I saw was that he was going to hurt the goalies if he continued to work with them. I was pretty much hired on the spot. This was a Minor Atom AAA Spring & Summer Hockey Team. We had a great run winning I think it was 3 out of 4 tournaments. I didn’t look back. I stayed with organizations until somebody would call and ask where are you coaching next year. I coached in 8 different associations during the winter months and another 4 during the Spring & Summer.

    I finally hung up my whistle & clipboard after the 2008 – 2009 season. So actually I have 41 years but I didn’t really stop there because I work with goalies over the Internet and still do at the now young age of 72. Remember, you are only as old as you feel and some days I feel like I’m around 45 – 50 which means (at that age) I still have at least another 10 yrs. Btw. I have a Snoopy calendar on my desk and on June 27th it says:
    So you see, it’s only my birth certificate that says how old I am.

    Goalies are what I really know and a lot of what you teach as far as skating goes can benefit every goalie that plays the game and we go from there. If you want to know a little more about my years coaching a hockey site in Boston who I was working with wanted to put me in what he called “The Goalie Of The Month” and asked if I could get someone to write something about me and so a former player wrote something for him. I kept telling him to put kids in this spot because they get such a thrill when they see their name and picture up on the Internet, but he insisted so I complied. If you would like to see and read this I could send you a copy, if I can find it.

    I look forward to hearing back from you and possibly I can put something together for you in the near future. Just to drop a name at you that I’m sure you know. I medt this little boy one day and then found out that he was a goalie. So I came to see how good he was. He was 6 or 7 at the time, I think. I wasn’t expecting much but what I saw was amazing for such a young goalie. Over the next number of years up to Major Midget AA I spent many hours working with Darren Pang known today by most as “Panger.” I worked with him over the years with some of the teams he played on as well as my Goalie School I ran with the Nepean Hockey Association. He was the first goalie I worked with that made it to the NHL. I’m just name dropping here but I can say I was very happy & proud the day he signed with Chicago.

    New time: 2:20 am Sleep well Jeremy.

    Footnote: I think I corrected most of my spelling mistakes but if I missed any would you correct them for me. 🙂

  5. Reply Ally Stern June 28, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Totally agree with this article! I know a very talented 4 year old hockey player that was burned out by the time he was 5 years old! He quit the sport! My sons (ages 9 and 6) love hockey and are very devoted hockey players but they also do other things all year long.

  6. Reply S. Soules June 27, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Hi Jeremy,
    My son is 12 years old(AA) loves hockey! We played spring hockey this year and it was great! There were kids from all over southern ontario on our team. The coach was great and Mathew made new friends.(we only put him in because he broke his collar bone in sept and missed 8 weeks of his hockey season) having said that he’s already asking if he can play again next year. The only time we can get our power skating/shooting clinic in is in the summer. We are too busy with our regular hockey season to fit it in. And every summer we play 3on 3, once a week. We now also play floorball, with different friends and Mathew really enjoys it. We can’t play outdoor sports because my son is allergic to grass and every other weed and pollen, from spring to fall. Now that I’m writing this down, it does seem like a lot of hockey. My son also enjoys bike riding and skate boarding, but time outside is limited to 1-2 hrs max. Do you think we are playing too much hockey? We never force Mathew to play, he’s the one who wants to be on the ice so much.
    S. Soules

    • Reply Jeremy Rupke June 29, 2014 at 10:14 pm

      Understandable, he has a fire and passion for hockey which is great. Let him follow his passions, and make friends. It does sound like a lot of hockey, maybe missing a hockey camp would give him a little break and a chance to recover. It is absolutely up to you though, but just think about injuries and the chance of him getting burnt out. If they play hockey 52 weeks a year for 15 years they might grow tired of it and give it up.

  7. Reply Trevor.G June 26, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Hi Jeremy I’m 14 and I play spring hockey than I have a 3 week break than I come back and do summer camps, I don’t play any other organized sports but I do play at least one different sport for one hour a day and I never lose interest in hockey so is this too much hockey and not enough other sports?

    • Reply Jeremy Rupke June 29, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      As long as you are still having fun and your passion is still there. Playing other sports also helps balance your body out and gives your muscles a break so the 3 week break should help you. The sports don’t have to be organized, just something different to help all areas of your body develop and not overuse certain muscles and joints.

  8. Reply Mark Shmigelsky June 26, 2014 at 11:41 am

    You know what? If my kids want to play Spring hockey for a couple of Springs in a larger center and they get a higher level of hockey, experience different coaches and most importantly, they meet new friends and have fun. Then I don’t really care what the experts say. Im not raising a prized race horse, I am raising my kids.

    • Reply Ian Wotherspoon June 26, 2014 at 9:43 pm

      As a Hockey coach with over 40 years experience at all levels in cluding JR-A I, totally agree with this article. I’ve seen too many kids burn out before they turn 16 just from a steady diet of hockey all winter then when that’s over and Spring hockey gets going they’re back on the ice and then in July and August there are hockey schools to attend. That’s way too much hockey, let the kids choose another sport come Spring even if they want to continue on with hockey, don’t let them. Suggest that they choose another sport that will help them develop their hockey skills but in the game of Lacrosse or Soccer which are two sports that will definitely help a hockey player inprove his skill level. From 1964 up to 1989 there wasn’t any Spring hockey where I was living and so the kids had to find something else to give them the motivation to carry on. In 1970 I took up coaching Soccer and found that several of my hockey players were soccer players as well and they loved playing. In the Fall they sometimes had to juggle a soccer game with a hockey tryout but in the end, it all worked itself out.

      Any parent who is reading what I am saying PLEASE think before you sign your son and/or daughter up for summer hockey and sign them up for another sport. Hockey will be back soon enough. And so that you know I had three boys playing hockey and they all played another sport in the summertime.

      • Reply Jeremy Rupke June 29, 2014 at 10:06 pm

        Thanks Ian. Would you have any interest sharing some of the 40 years of coaching knowledge on the website? If you want to write on any topic you feel strongly about I would be happy to add the article to the website.

  9. Reply Bean June 26, 2014 at 10:36 am

    As an adult (female) hockey player still building my skills, there is both the opportunity and temptation to play all summer, to try and catch up to the girls who’ve been playing since they were young. However I’m noticing increasing fatigue and less explosive power when I play. I think it’s a sign that this summer it’s time for a break. But I find it very hard to say no to opportunities for ice time! Instead, I’m giving yoga a try, with the idea that it should improve my flexibility for moves like the Mohawk turn… plus I’ve taken up lifting weights (squats, deadlifts, pullups, pushups) which aside from being fun, has noticeably helped my power and stability on the ice.

    I did get a green biscuit for my birthday though, and some nights you’ll still find me practicing stickhandling or passing with my husband… 🙂

  10. Reply Michael June 26, 2014 at 9:44 am

    As a coach and player I whole-heartedly agree with this article. USA Hockey makes a point to mention this at every opportunity they get (I’m sure it’s the same north of the border). However, I also think that some of the best training available for young hockey players becomes available during the summer months. I wouldn’t necessarily say stop playing hockey in the summer (unless the child wants to), but play other sports in addition to hockey. My child plays lacrosse in the spring and summer, along with hockey camps and 3 v s3 leagues. He also plays any other sport he can get in on a pick up game and compete. But, getting him away from the rink is an exercise in futility… That’s where he wants to be and I have seen it pay off during the fall when hockey starts back up.

  11. Reply Trevor June 25, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    Hey Jeremy,
    I am 15 and playing in a 4 day tourney. I havent played (skated) since April. Do you think this is too much hockey? I no longer play organized soccer; I stopped this year after playing as a freshman since I was not having fun and I did not feel apart if the team, but I continue playing pick up sports and such with friends. Is this enough?


    • Reply Jeremy Rupke June 25, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      Hi Trevor, that’s not too much at all. Some kids play more games during their season than NHL players, and then join a summer league as well as summer tournaments and camps.

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