For those lucky few hockey players that are still playing right now in the playoffs, or Provincial Championships for Minor Hockey, congratulations. For the majority, the season has come to an end, and attention has been shifted to next season.
Next season starts now.
The off-season is a great time to add more layers on to a (hopefully) good strength & conditioning foundation. In this hockey centric nation that we live in, it seems like everyone and their cat provides off-season hockey conditioning programs. But how can you be sure you are registering yourself, or your child, in a quality program?
Here are a few criteria to consider while doing your due diligence to find the right fit.
Professionalism: You wouldn’t trust your body to a physiotherapist that did not go to school and get certified. You wouldn’t invest your hard earned money with someone that was not accredited and didn’t have a proven track record of success. Similarly, you should demand that the person responsible for your physical training is a Professional in the field. This means that they have gone through academic programs, they continue to learn and evolve in the industry, and have a proven history of success in training for the sport of hockey. Just because someone used to play hockey, or they liked “working out” does not make them a professional. You only have 1 body, 1 chance at a career in hockey. You deserve the best.
They follow the Long Term Athletic Development model (LTAD): I mentioned previously about laying a solid strength & conditioning foundation. Similar to building your dream home, you must take the time to ensure the foundation is solid. This foundation comes from encouraging young athletes to play as many different sports as possible. The physical literacy that is built through engaging in many different movement patterns as well as learning different sets of rules and social norms is extremely important. The basics such as jumping, running, kicking and throwing are what advanced sport skills are based upon. Children under the age of 13 do not need to enroll in a specific strength & conditioning program full time. While a part time program will add benefit, it should be secondary to playing a different sport or activity. Children learn through play. Let them.
Once the foundation of physical literacy has been set, the aim is to add layers onto this. Rome was not built in a day, and neither is a body or athletic success. Training a Bantam hockey player is not the same as training an NHL player. While the demands of the sport remain constant, a young athlete’s body cannot and should not be stressed the same way. The key to successful physical training is applying the right amount of stress at the right time. Each player will develop physically at a different rate. A professional coach will ensure that the player is loaded in a way that will maximize their development.
There is ALWAYS a plan: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle. To achieve excellence in any endeavor, one must carefully select the means that will best translate to the end goal, and then repeat them in order to become extremely proficient in them. In the world of strength & conditioning, good professional coaches will choose exercises that have the best carryover to the sport, while maintaining the laws of individualization. These core exercises will be completed until the adaptations are no longer being seen, at which point they will be modified to ensure more growth.
A good off-season hockey program will have a plan in place for the entire season. This serves as a guiding tool, however some changes will be necessary along the way. A program in which no foresight has been demonstrated, and the day’s training session appears to be random assignment of exercises will not lead to optimal adaptations, and ultimately sub-optimal results. ALL of the best athletes in the world train with a systematic and planned approach. There is a finite amount of time to train in the off-season. Make sure it is used wisely.
Beware of Fads: The fitness industry is notorious for the emergence of the “next big thing” or the “guaranteed results” fads. A good professional strength coach will always be on the leading edge of innovation and technology. They will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and bring to you only those tools that have a proven utility in training for the sport. There a many systems and technological advances that have made the coaching industry better, and at least as many that have made it a joke. Training doesn’t have to be “sexy”. Scoring goals and being better is sexy.
Select an appropriate environment. An athlete surrounded by other aspiring athletes will be a more conducive environment leading to success than one in which chasing dreams is not the primary motive. The hallmark of most successful athletes is their ability to push themselves, and therefore serve as motivation to all others around them. Hard work is contagious. When a young athlete gets to train next to a professional and sees how much hard work goes into their training, and sees the dedication that they possess, it elevates the entire system. The passing on of culture and enthusiasm for the sport and training is indispensable.
Trained by a personal trainer certified by Wal-Mart. (above)
Trained by a Performance Enhancement Coach from Aspire Health & Performance. (above)
There certainly is no shortage of available training opportunities for off-season hockey training. I would encourage people to do a thorough and comprehensive review of the programs before they spend their hard earned dollars. If you consider the 5 criteria above, you will be well on your way to participating in a program that is right for you, and will lead you to the results that you deserve!
Shane Pizzey MKin, CSCS, CEP
Director of Sports Sciences