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HockeySTRONG, Sport Performance Training, Youth Development
6 considerations for hockey off-season training
April 27, 2018 | by Molly O'Brien

In the sport of hockey, the competitive season generally lasts 8-10 months, leaving only a short off-season window to dedicate to valuable improvements.

The hockey off-season is a large investment, both in financial terms, and in regards to an athlete’s development. Selecting the right training program should not only provide a great off-season experience, but also equip an athlete with an excellent support team for many years to come.

So how do you make sure you are getting the most out of your investment? Here are six things to consider before committing to a program.

1. COMPREHENSIVE PLAYER EVALUATION

While the general need for hockey players to exhibit mobility, strength, speed, agility and conditioning is the same, it doesn’t mean the same training plan will produce excellent results for all athletes.

It is extremely common for athletes of all ages to enter the training process without knowing their strengths, areas for improvement and specific rate-limiting factors.

A comprehensive player evaluation done in the initial days of the off-season training program will help an athlete to identify the key areas that will lead to the greatest improvements on-ice.

A great evaluation should include assessment and testing of an athlete’s injury history, quality of movement, performance qualities (strength, speed, power, agility, conditioning, etc.), sport-specific ability, and feedback from the athlete themselves!

Key questions to ask:

  • How do you evaluate your athletes / what sort of testing and assessment do you perform with your athletes?
  • How do you communicate evaluation results and recommendations to athletes/parents?
  • How do you use the results of your evaluation in your training approach?

 

2. DEVELOPMENT OF A PLAN

The general off-season training plan should largely be complete prior to the athlete evaluation, however the evaluation provides information that allows each athlete’s plan to be adjusted to more specific needs and objectives, and may include recommendations for referrals or follow-up evaluations to be performed.

Creation and communication of an off-season plan to the athlete and to other professionals involved in the athlete’s preparation is crucial – this is what anchors the athlete mentality and brings all professionals to focus on a cohesive goal. It is also extremely important for athletes to understand their individual goals and their personal responsibility to the process.

Key questions to ask: 

  • How do you ensure that athletes are making progress throughout the off-season?
  • How do you communicate with other professionals involved in your athletes’ preparation (therapists, coaches, etc.)?

 

3. EVIDENCE-BASED COACHING

There are a lot of trends, fads, and misguided pieces of information around the “best way to train”. When researching off-season programming, ask the program trainers about their rationale for their methods and practices.

It is wise to look for a program where staff are consistently looking for evidence of best practices, are able to use a variety of methods to meet varying athlete needs, and collect data to support the efficacy of their training program.

While there are many effective methods, it is also important to note that no one method will work for every athlete. You may need to sample one or two, before you find the right fit for your goals.

Key questions to ask:

  • How would you describe your key program components / methodologies (you may also want to inquire about specific program elements such as Olympic lifts, heavy strength work, etc)?
  • Why do you use these methods/practices?

 

4. LONG-TERM MENTALITY WITH SHORT-TERM AWARENESS

During the off-season, there is simply not enough time to address every area of improvement to a maximum degree. With a short window, it’s important to have short-term awareness of goals and important upcoming events, while layering in a foundation of long-term development.

For example, rather than attempt to train each athlete to reach the highest performance standards in each area simultaneously, it focuses on creating a strong foundation of pain-free quality movement, then layers in appropriate levels of strength, speed and power to maximize development and match on-ice requirements.

When executed properly, this approach decreases likelihood of injury, efficiently improves on-ice performance, decreases time and energy spent on unnecessary training, and provides the athlete ample room to progress for years to come.

Key questions to ask:

  • Would you make any adjustments if I / my child has a camp during the course of the off-season program?

 

5. MOTIVATIONAL ENVIRONMENT

At the end of the day, the motivational climate matters. If an athlete is going to spend 8-16 weeks training, it’s important that the athlete feels motivated.

This motivation can come from a competitive and well-matched group setting, a coach that resonates with the athlete, a clear and well-established goal and plan of attack, or can simply be intrinsic to the athlete themselves.

Regardless, it is important that the athlete is aware of their own motivational needs and finds a program that fits this need.

Key questions to ask:

  • How do you establish / match training groups?

 

6. EDUCATION, PROFESSIONALISM AND CUSTOMER SERVICE

Lastly, but certainly not least, is professionalism and excellent customer service from an educated coaching team.

An excellent off-season program will provide a professional environment where staff are certified, demonstrating a high level of education and working knowledge in their profession, and a successful record for working with hockey players.

Staff should be capable, confident, and timely in answering questions regarding the program, addressing athlete-specific concerns, or making referrals if an athlete’s needs extend beyond what the program can provide.

Red flags in communication or professionalism prior to the onset of a program are important to note, as it is unlikely to resolve throughout the off-season.

Key questions to ask:

  • What level of experience and education do your staff have?
  • Do all individuals leading groups have this level of experience and education?
  • Who would I be able to speak to if I had a question about my / my child’s progress during the off-season?

OFF-SEASON TRAINING AT FORTIUS

 At Fortius Sport & Health, our HockeySTRONG Off-Season program combines all of the above principles and practices to deliver an individualized training product for athletes from youth to professional levels.

Registration is now open for summer of 2018! Visit our HockeySTRONG page to learn more.