Junior Seau’s tragedy put an exclamation point on what I was already thinking as I reflected upon the presentation at the recent American Hockey Coaches Convention. I am speaking about the buzz word in sport right now–CONCUSSIONS.
The Concussion Presentation by Chris Nowinski of the Sports Legacy Institute was informative, interesting, and from a personal perspective it really hit home for me. My daughter was diagnosed this year with post concussion syndrome. She is a junior on the Nobles Girls Hockey team; after being diagnosed she could not return to school and had to take a year off to rest her brain and recover from her injury.
So I got to thinking about kids and parents, playing sports, and how can we display the attributes of hockey in a positive light to our future participants.
Concussions, head injury, brain damage are in the forefront of the news. Everyone is commenting on this phenomena. Sports like hockey and football have a bad rep. So why would a parent choose to have their child play a sport that could potentially give them brain damage?
Chris Nowinski in his presentation spoke of how we can try to reduce the incidences of concussions. One of the ideas tossed around is reducing the amount of equipment athletes wear. The idea is that we would be protected less causing us to take less risks in hockey and this would ultimately lead to better protection for our heads. It will be an interesting discussion on our campuses with our administrations. Reducing equipment to help prevent injury (in the way of going from full masks to half shields) has not been passed but has been presented by the sport of hockey several times. The role that the NCAA plays in the facilitation of this discussion will certainly be part of a targeted solution.As coaches, it is our job to provide support for our athletes and look for ways to be part of the solution to make hockey a more health conscious and less dangerous game. This can help hockey become a better sport for all to embrace and enjoy.
Personally, my solution involves thinking out side of the box. When the older generation of hockey coaches (primarily men) speak about the women’s game, they talk about it being a more pure form of the sport. They talk about it being a different game without the full ice hitting; it requires angling as a defensive tactic, not checking. It is “how we used to play the game”.
So why don’t men play hockey the same way women do?? This type of mindset may be the next logical thought process as an approach to grow an develop our game. It is my hope that all hockey lovers open their minds if they want our great game to succeed. We could all play the game the same way. It would not be mens or women’s hockey; it would just be hockey—same rules, no differences. No checking in hockey is an improvement to our rules to enable our sport to grow. Right now, we are classified as a collision sport like football. This limits our growth and development. Parents will continue to be hesitant to have their kids play a sport that is in the news and perceived as dangerous. Today’s parents of athletes are more educated. They are aware due to constant media exposure of concussions and brain injury. If we care about our future players and the continued growth of hockey we will not only consider but implement these kinds of rules changes to our game.
If we do not make educated choices to implement positive change, the next Sydney Crosby may be a soccer player, or a basketball player–not a hockey player And we’ll never know it!