This seems to be a great topic especially around this time of year. As youth hockey has probably ended and many kids are well into their Spring sport at the moment. I feel it is necessary just to weigh in on the topic and give a tiny "rant" per say about the whole "kids should play two sports" debate we can call it I suppose...
I am not saying kids should not play two sports and their is definitely research out there showing that kids who play two sports or who do not "specialize" in just one sport are more functional, flexible, at risk for less injuries as well as a great way to reduce stress revolved around their Winter heavy sport. In this case I am talking about the athletes who choose hockey from August to March and then play a second sport end of March to July or so. I am all for kids going out and trying a new sport but I think we need to be a little more clear and honest with parents and kids when we say "yeah go and play cross country in the Spring, it will be great for you!". Sorry, that I do not agree with, a kid who is perhaps 8-12 years old yeah they may benefit from it, but a 13+ year old will definitely not and here is why. (1) Running and long distance running requires different muscles, slow twitch muscle fibers more, a knowledge of basic running mechanics before jumping into it. (2) Doing cross country for the first time at age 13,14,15,16 or up will not benefit you. You need to know how to run, breathe, have strong supporting muscles to help running like strong hip flexors, back, ankles, knees and the more you run and breakdown and beat up those muscles the greater risk of injury you yield later on. (3) At the age of 13+ this is when puberty, muscle size, height size and most importantly your joints and hormones are under so much stress, therefore adding a new stress to the body, a stress it is not used and has no idea how to react to, may cause some recruitment pattern issues.
Like I said, I am not advocating for one sport athletes but I am advocating for more understanding, context and awareness around the "play two sports" advocates. If you are a hockey player, perhaps think about basketball, it requires a lot of motor skills, muscle movements and recruitment patterns similar to hockey. Like, change of direction, weight shift when changing direction, lower body strength, fast twitch muscle fibers for short periods or bursts or running. As well it now works on shoulder mobility for shooting, ball control and ankle mobility which will lead to better on ice performance. Or maybe even lacrosse, as we know that is a popular sport for hockey players because it requires control with the ball, quick changes of speed, short bursts of energy, as well working in tight, playing through pressure, taking body contact, getting out of scrums, or vision down the field (which translates to on ice), keeping your head up, using your teammates.
But, with that. I do have to say if you are going to play "two sports" then commit to the second sport full-time for 3 months April-June and then pick back up your "main sport" (hockey in this case). Do not try and do 4+ days of lacrosse practice, 2 lacrosse games and 4+ on-ice sessions a week in that April-June time span. Play lacrosse and fully commit to lacrosse, play 5-6 days a week of lacrosse and do 1-2 on ice sessions or 1-2 workout sessions a week. I am seeing this happen way to much with youth athletes who are trying to juggle two sports full time at once and are just completely draining themselves and essentially half-a**ing both sports which in the long run is doing nothing for them. Therefore with that said, if you are 13+ years old and you do the whole play two sports gig, or even play hockey in the fall/winter and lacrosse or basketball in the Spring. You need to fueling your body correctly, you are at a huge growth period in your life the food and beverages you put in your body will have a direct affect on your energy levels, performance, muscle growth, brain function and more.
The rant is ending here, and I hope this makes more sense to parents and youth athletes. But we cannot continue to tell kids to play two sports and then completely push their body/mind to the limits. They need time to sleep, relax and also be a child. Therefore as I said, commit to your second sport in the Spring do it 4+ times a week, enjoy the heck out of it for 3.5 or so months and do not focus so much on your second sport. DO NOT try and play two sports at the same time though, for example lacrosse 4+ times a week and hockey 4+ times a week, it is one or the other. And please be cautious of what sports you are playing as your second sport. For hockey players, basketball, lacrosse, soccer are great sports or you could be like me and play roller hockey in the Spring but that is a topic for another day because I know a lot of parents and coaches are so against roller hockey because it "messes up skating mechanics". On that note, youth athletes and parents play two sports but BE SMART! Work smarter not harder!!