Wendell said she’s the biggest fan of kids playing multiple sports because there are so many wonderful things about it.
“I think I was a better hockey player because I played baseball and other sports, and I think I was a better baseball player because I played hockey,” Wendell said.
The benefits are wide-ranging in Wendell’s view, from the hand-eye coordination to the mental side of the game to protecting the wear-and-tear on an athlete’s body. Using the same muscles to do the same thing over and over again for a single-sport athlete can wear on them, “especially when you’re young and developing and growing,” Wendell said.
Wendell didn’t have many injuries growing up, and she credits a lot of that to using different muscles and not overtraining.
Mentally, there’s also an excitement to coming back to a sports season when a player gets the chance to take a break from it, according to Wendell.
“My dad said, ‘It’s OK to miss it a little bit,’” Wendell said. “That means you still like it and you love it, and you’ll appreciate it when you have it.
“But if you have it 12 months of the year, you’re not going to love it the same way you would if you missed it for a little bit.”
By the time Wendell focused solely on hockey, she was out of high school training with the U.S. national program in New York ahead of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. She loved hockey, but the daily pressure to perform and focus on one sport wore on her a little bit, losing some of that love for the sport. She said she was glad she didn’t have to face that until she was an adult and could better understand her need for a break.
Wendell has seen how sports have changed over the years, and she thinks people are so worried about being the best “that they lose track of what sports are really about.” Sports are an extension of the classroom where kids meet friends and take in life lessons, Wendell said. Success is great but shouldn’t be the main focus of why kids play sports, she added.
Wendell is bringing some of those same insights into raising her three daughters — ages 12, 10 and 8 — with husband Johnny Pohl, a former Gopher and NHL player. While their daughters all play hockey, the two older girls also took an interest in playing soccer. They’ve dabbled in lacrosse and golf as well. The youngest has played football, soccer and has shown interest in playing baseball, too.
“Johnny and I hope that we can raise our kids with the same expectations our parents had on us, and that was just to be a good teammate, have fun and appreciate the opportunities given to you and expect nothing back from it,” Wendell said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.