Chalk Talk: The road to junior hockey is not easy, but is rewarding
When these players succeed at these levels, their new goal then becomes junior hockey. The junior hockey level is one of the hardest levels for a young hockey player to adapt to. A lot of them have to move away from home, which can be hard. As these young players move up in the ranks of hockey, it just gets more difficult and intense. The players get better and the coaches get more demanding.
I hate to say it, but it becomes a job at the junior level for these athletes. These young athletes need to know that nutrition, the mental aspect and off-ice training is just as important as the on-ice ingredients.
Players need to be great athletes. There is so much, but so little when you think about hockey players. The first thing that comes to mind is that they’re athletes, as that is fact for a lot of great hockey players. There are some players out there that think by being skilled this will get them to the level that they want to be for juniors. These young players need to know that they just can’t rely on being a hockey player with skill – they also need to be an athlete.
This is where off-ice comes in, which doesn’t mean that you need to be big and bulky, but lean. Off-ice is where a player is made. The training that it takes to become an affective junior player is difficult, and it takes dedication and time. Off-ice is one of the tools that is missed when developing into an elite-level hockey player.
When moving up in the ranks, you need to be aware of nutrition, and you need to take care of your body. Your body is your biggest tool. With the on-ice and off-ice training that you’re putting your body through to play at high levels, nutrition comes in to play. The schedule that a junior hockey player has is hard, practicing at least three, maybe four days a week, and 2-3 games a weekend. This can be a lot on the body, but if you’re able to take care of your body, you as a player will be more effective. Nutrition is what feeds your body. If you’re eating and drinking right, your body will do wonders for you. This is also key because taking care of your body will also help lessen the risk of injury.
Mentally, the junior hockey level will be hard, but the successful athletes are mentally tough. Just like I talked about earlier, the schedule of a junior hockey player is unforgiving. The ups and downs of a hockey season are hard, the coaches ask more of you, and so do your teammates. That is where being mentally strong is crucial. Being a junior hockey player, you’re also gone from home, so you don’t have the support of your family and loved ones to help you through any obstacles. This is where you as a player need to become a young adult, which can be a lot to ask of a 16 to 20-year-old, so being mentally strong is probably tops on the list to be prepared to get to the junior hockey level.
As young players, you all need to know that hockey can be a demanding but a very fun sport. This game, in my eyes, is the closest thing to the real world. As a coach, our job is to give you as a player the best opportunity to grow into young adults on and off the ice.
Good luck to everyone’s hockey season this year, work hard and have fun!
Cam Clemenson is the goalie coach and 20U head coach for the Colorado Thunderbirds.