Study: Hockey Specialization Does Not Equal Success

At Sparx Hockey we are passionate about the game of hockey and whenever we come across interesting articles or important topics about the sport, we want to make sure we share this information with you, our loyal customers.

For many of us, summer is a time to enjoy the weather, get away from the rink, put on our cleats for baseball, soccer or lacrosse, and regroup for the season ahead. However, there is a continually growing population of youth hockey players that don’t hang up the skates, and instead continue to hit the ice three, four, or even six days of week during the summer. While many parents believe this is the best approach to lock down that college scholarship or secure the coveted junior hockey spot, specializing in hockey at an early age does not equate future success, and in fact may hinder reaching the most elite level.

According to a study conducted late last year by Penn State College of Medicine (November 8, 2018) only 12% of NHL and NCAA hockey players specialized in hockey prior to age 12. In other words, the vast majority of elite players in North America didn’t just play hockey growing up – they played other sports throughout the year for most of their time as youth hockey players.   

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that the mean age of beginning any sport was 4.5 years, and the mean age of specializing in ice hockey was 14.3 years. Most of the athletes played two to four sports as children, with soccer and baseball being the most popular in addition to hockey.

The mean age of specializing in ice hockey – around 14 – was consistent across professional, NCAA Division I and NCAA Division III players.

Matthew Silvis, a researcher on the study and the team physician for the Hershey Bears minor league hockey team, told ScienceDaily. "We've seen a lot of professional athletes coming out in support of this, saying that by playing a lot of sports you'll learn many skills and work different muscle groups that will help you if you specialize in one sport later on."

"In many sports, there's a belief among many parents and coaches that in order for your child to make the team or have the best chance for a collegiate scholarship, you have to pick a sport really early in life and only focus on that one sport," Silvis said. "That actually runs counter to what we think in terms of sports medicine and sports performance, and this study supported our line of thinking."

Get out there and enjoy the summer!

To read the full study, click here.