Interactions with athletes are littered with opportunities to have a positive impact on their lives. It requires being present to their needs, what they’re asking, and what they’re open to at the present moment. Your athlete might be preparing to start an event requiring a little bit of last minute technique and mental preparation coaching. Or on the flip side of the event an athlete that just DNF’ed (Did Not Finish) might require some immediate empathizing and encouragement to allow the distress of the event to wear off before exploring what caused the DNF. These are prime opportunities to have a lasting impact on the athlete’s future performance, whether it’s the event they’re about to start or the event after the DNF’ed event.
Last minute preparation is a very individualized process, however sometimes there are certain obstacles that can potentially derail our routine. When this happens I encourage athletes to have the courage to bring their concerns to the coach to work through whatever is going on. What a coach does with this opportunity is crucial to the athlete’s performance. The coach must acknowledge the athlete’s awareness of their own process, be very attentive to the athlete’s specific needs, and ensure that the athlete’s needs are met by the conversation. In this scenario the coach must take a holistic approach to ensure that the athlete is mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming event.
DNF’s can occur for a variety of reasons depending on the sport. The cause that is being addressed here is physical and mental preparation. This is a vulnerable time for an athlete because this is what they have prepared for. This situation calls for a much different response than the previous, but both require complete and total presence to the athlete. It’s the coach’s responsibility to figure out what happened, and wait for the opportunity to educate the athlete on what and why it happened. Then the coach must work with the athlete to implement a plan to ensure the same mistake doesn’t reoccur.
Allow this post to be an invitation to be present to each and everyone of your athletes. They’re individuals with different needs. It is your responsibility to meet those needs. I believe in your coaching ability. The question is do you?
Power Skating – Our approach to power skating is technique based. Our teaching method is a tradition passed down from over 50’s years of figure skating and hockey history. We teach from the understanding that skating is an art.
Edges are our tools for connecting us to the game
Stroking is how we use our edges to paint the ice swiftly and smoothly
Turning is using our edges to stroke with the intention of changing direction
Starting is our first step towards getting where we need to be
Transitioning enables us to face the game without coming to a stop
Off Ice Conditioning – Our approach to off ice conditioning is based on the Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) model. Educating young athletes on the importance of strength & conditioning is key to developing a life long commitment to being physically active. A secondary benefit from this educational process is improving athletic performance.
Warm-up & Pre-hab have many physiological benefits that improve performance and decrease the risk of sustaining a sport induced injury.
Power is a key component to our maneuverability in ice hockey. Learning how to become more powerful requires technique work, and understanding how we generate power physiologically & biomechanically.
Strength is our ability to stand our ground in times of being challenged for position. We’ll explore ways of improving our strength for all aspects of ice hockey and general conditioning.
Hockey Specific Training is about isolating the little nuances of the movement patters that are special to ice hockey, for example our bodies are broken into three sections in order to maintain a heads up style of play (head, torso, lower body). Understanding sport specific training opens up the possibility of knowing how to train specifically for other sports as well, feeding perfectly into the LTAD model.
Cool down & Stretching teaches our bodies to go from a high stress state down to a relaxation recovery state. This important step will enable us to perform optimally next time we are required to do so, withreducing the risk of sport and potential overuse injuries.
Nutrition 101 – Nutrition is a corner stone to a healthy lifestyle. These sessions will be targeted towards the whole family.
Macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats
Let’s talk about conditioning for ice hockey, shall we? I want you to ask your self a couple questions about off ice conditioning: 1) Are you running your players endless? 2) Are they running at a steady pace? The answer should be “NO” to both questions. Here are two things you should be doing instead:
Do right by your athletes by spending time working on skating efficiency. No matter how hard you run them off ice, if they can’t transfer the benefits of off ice conditioning to on ice performance via efficient skating, then it’s all for not. But if you train them off ice effectively, and team them to be efficient on ice then it’s a win win situation.
Off ice you should be focusing more on a fartlek style interval training. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s randomized interval training comprising of sprinting, running, and walking. Think about the sport in question, ice hockey, we sprint, glide, skate at a steady state for a moment.
Number should be a no brainer, simply stand around yelling at your athletes to sprint, run, or walk at various random intervals for 10 minutes, then let them rest for 5 minutes then repeat 2 more times. Be creative in those five minutes. However there is a dilemma with number 1! Are you qualified to teach your skaters how to skate efficiently? Having been a skating coach for 9 years, I’ve had the privilege of producing some phenomenal skaters. Most of my skaters have gone on to play AAA, high level prep school, and juniors back east. I’ve also spent lots of time undoing bad skating habits accumulated from years of bad skating instruction. If you have any doubts about what efficient skating looks like, then go talk to a figure skating coach. Yes, I’ve only played ice hockey, but I’ve had the same skating coach since I was 8 years old, Gary Visconti. The skating instruction I pass onto my skaters is a tradition. It’s that simple. If you want to discuss effective ways of creating efficient skaters, please feel free to contact me.
Today’s theme was about connecting the dots. So much of what we do in the world of strength and conditioning is playing connect the dots to formulate that optimal program that will enroll the coach to inspire his athletes to come to us so that we can help fill the gaps with a little S&C to boost them to that next level. Coaching an athlete towards reaching that next level takes understanding, empathy, compassion, knowledge, and building rapport. Few athletes care about the process we go through so that we can provide them with the tools they need.
We begin to see the dots the moment we know the sport we’ll be working with. Name a sport and the dots will start to appear. It’s these dots of information that need to be connected in order to achieve the desired outcome.
At this point you’re probably asking yourself; so what? What’s the practical application of this theme “Playing Connect the Dots”? Take a moment to think about it…
Think of an adverse situation that you’re currently facing. Now that you have it, sit with it. Do you see the dots? If not, you should look at it a little closer. Once you decide to slow down to have a closer look, you’ll notice that this chaos is simply caused by you not taking the time to connect the dots in the way they’re supposed to be. When you connect these dots, everything will become clear.
Remember that these dots represent the life you’re living. See what you want to see.
Last week I made the commitment to begin posting two blogs a week: Monday & Thursday. The topics will cover are whatever I’m feeling that day, a current project, a frequently asked question, an interview with a fellow strength & conditioning coach, or a piece by one of my athletes.
This new commitment was the result of a conversation with parents of a youth cross country (XC) mountain bike racer. It was brought to my attention that I preach about youth athletic development, and the need to encourage athletes to sample various sports and follow their desire to try new things. Apparently I have a lot to say on that topic.
I see that I have two main priorities when it comes to youth athletes: First to decrease the risk of sport induced injury and improve athletic performance, both by teaching them how to move properly in time and space (proprioception and kinesthetic awareness). And second is to educate them on the importance of living a healthy balanced life through nutrition, stress management, and joys of staying fit.
Athletic ability is something that can be improved at any age. I’m still improving! The picture above, aside from being beautiful and encompassing the heart of the Pacific Northwest, is an example of why I spend time in the gym. Being able to participate in sports that I’m passionate about is key to leading by example. All the effort that I put into minimizing my risk of injury and improving my performance inspires my athletes to do the same. This will have a trickle down effect for generations to come.
In today’s world of multi sport youth athletes, the fundamentals of movement development have been put to the side to make room for the sport specific movements. I see this predominantly in the sports that I spend the most time training: Figure Skating and Ice Hockey.
So what is my role as a strength and conditioning coach for these up and coming athletes? It’s my responsibility to ensure that when they leave our sessions, they have a clear understanding of what the future of strength and conditioning holds for them. We spend the time to break down the fundamental human movement patterns, from rolling, to crawling, to squatting, to walking, to running, then lifting. And onwards to the more complex Olympic lifts.
To the parents of young athletes: Investing in a sound strength and conditioning program for your young athletes is a smart investment.
What can you expect from your investment:
Reduce the risk of sport induced injuries, including concussions
Improved self image (self-esteem and confidence)
Improvement in athleticism
Increase the possibility of making that next level team or performance category
Learn proper exercise techniques and lifestyle habits that last a life time**
**That last item is not only the key to athletic performance but the key to reversing the epidemics that our society is facing. Yes, those elephants in the room: obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, that are caused by the overall sedentary lives that a majority of our population is living.
Take the time to find that Strength & Conditioning Coach that is going to coach your young athlete to a life of athleticism and health.