And just like USA Hockey and its American Development Model, Guzzo recommends that athletes avoid early specialization in a single sport. “We encourage three-sport athletes,” said Guzzo, head coach of the North Shore Storm. “We're not pressuring kids ...
â€œYou donâ€™t want to stay in your comfort zone. For me, Iâ€™m not the best baseball player, but I give 100 percent and I get out of my comfort zone.â€
Ironically, Guzzo this past season had three varsity football quarterbacks on his hockey team: Ketola (Silver Bay), Keller Conrow (Two Harbors) and Josh Prom (Cook County).
â€œThe kids make a real commitment,â€ Guzzo said. â€œThey practice at rinks in Silver Bay and Two Harbors. The Cook County kids have to travel 90 miles to Two Harbors and 60 miles to Silver Bay. It shows their commitment, especially for a three-sport athlete, and it works.
â€œMost of our hockey players are big-time football players. They put a lot of time into their sports.â€
Ketola might be Exhibit A.
â€œYou get certain things out of other sports that you donâ€™t get in hockey,â€ he said. â€œThere are things you learn in football and baseball that will help you on the ice. And you want to stay in shape all year-round."
â€œFootball keeps me in shape over the summer to play hockey. Swinging the bat helps on the ice in terms of eye-hand coordination. In baseball, you also learn how to block pitches in the dirt [Ketola is a catcher].â€
Besides being a defensive end/tight end at Two Harbors (and being selected for the 2016 Minnesota Football Showcase All-Star Game), Keech also played goalie for the North Shore hockey team.
â€œKeech played soccer and he didnâ€™t start playing football until he was a junior in high school. He didnâ€™t play goalie until he was a bantam,â€ Guzzo said. â€œHe put on the goalie pads and worked hard to become a good goalie.
â€œI think somebody can find their sport later in life, whereas somebody who specializes might not make that discovery. And I always think skills go hand in hand. Tennis, for one, is good for eye-hand coordination, which is a skill thatâ€™s valuable in almost every other sport, too.â€
Keech, who will play football for the University of Minnesota Duluth this fall, was quick to offer his reasons for playing multiple sports.
â€œI think the main reason was I wanted to stay active,â€ he said. â€œI feel some kids say, when they only play one sport, it gets old. In my case, [playing multiple sports] makes other seasons more interesting.
â€œI want to keep trying new sports because itâ€™s fun changing sports from season to season.â€
In addition to football and hockey, Ketola has dabbled in tennis and golf.
â€œI just like to compete and do something year-round,â€ Ketola said. â€œHockey always has been my favorite, but I love playing football and baseball, too.
â€œIâ€™ve always been more competitive than most people. Youâ€™re always active and staying in shape. Youâ€™re part of a team and never feel like youâ€™re isolated.â€
Guzzo believes burnout is a distinct possibility for an athlete who specializes in one sport.
â€œI think the freshness for an athlete coming into a new sport helps,â€ Guzzo said. â€œIf you donâ€™t get a break, you get a stale player that winter.
â€œOur multi-sport athletes, theyâ€™re pretty fresh because theyâ€™ve come off a winning season in football and they feel weâ€™re going to keep winning.â€
Specializing in one sport is the last thing on Keechâ€™s mind.
â€œIt takes the fun out of things because you canâ€™t try new things,â€ he said. â€œIf you specialize, you donâ€™t get a chance to develop other skills. If I had not tried football, I wouldnâ€™t be able to play in college. The football thing was an eye-opener.
â€œEven watching the state tournament now, I see (long-time) goalies who are getting scored on as much as I did. I only started playing goalie four years ago, but playing other sports helped me play goal. You have to be good at other things. If youâ€™re an athlete, youâ€™re an athlete. You have to enjoy yourself a little bit.â€
Story fromÂ Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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