This past Sunday felt like the first day of the off-season . The short Manitoba season of ‘non-winter’ appears to finally be upon us and our three boys, aged 12, 8 and 4 were out playing golf, baseball, and soccer respectively – outside, in the sun.
Full caveat – this happened after a morning of hockey camps. Although hockey is starting to slow down, the kids never really seem to be off the ice for long! As I was roaming around the rink that morning, I happened to see an article from Hockey Manitoba promoting other sports: http://www.hockeymanitoba.ca/news/better-athlete-better-hockey-player
Good article, but as an economist, I’m skeptical that this promotion will have a noticeable effect. Economists study how people respond to incentives – simply telling parents that other sports are a good idea might not be enough.
We wrote a much larger blog about this a few years ago (here) but given the recent push for summer sports, we thought it was worth repeating. The older post is wordy so, in short, multi-sport development provides long-term benefits but it is probably that there are short-term benefits to playing hockey in the summer. The kids who have been on the ice all summer are likely to have a short burst of improvement that will serve them well in the September tryouts, while those who spent the summer playing soccer or baseball may still be getting the kinks out – especially if they had a growing spurt in the summer.
It’s all about incentives. If Hockey Manitoba is serious about promoting multi-sport development and promoting the long-term development of athletes over the short-term development of kids who can do well at tryouts, the organization should move hockey try-outs from September to March or April. Finishing the tryouts at the end of the season would remove that fear of ‘falling behind’ and not being ready for tryouts, making other sports more attractive to the players (and their hockey parents).