With the season ending, you might think that it is time for a vacation from the early morning skates and hard work, but you would be wrong. If you plan on playing at the junior, college or higher level then you need to take the time to devise a practical and useful off-season plan. It isn’t 1980 or even 1995 anymore, which means riding the bike and a little shinny hockey throughout the summer just wont cut it. But I think I’m preaching to the choir on this issue. The fact is everyone trains on and off the ice during the off-season, just to keep up with everyone else, let alone get ahead of the curve. For my clients, I like to sit down with them and come up not only an off-season plan but a Comprehensive Career Development Plan. This is typically a 3-5+ Year framework that outlines our goals and personal developmental responsibilities during that time. If you haven’t begun working on this type of process, I suggest that you do, it should give you an interesting perspective on where you are and where you want to end up in the future. To jump start that process, I hope this series of articles will help you to begin at square one, constructing a realistic off-season training plan. Some of the topics we will discuss in this series of articles are: Choosing a personal trainer; skills development; Summer Camps; U16-U17 Provincial/State Camps; Spring Leagues; Putting your Plan together Properly.
Personal Trainer & Skills Development
There are so many people in this side of the industry today that without much difficulty, you should be able to find someone qualified to work with. I have two good pieces of advice in choosing your personal trainer. First, whomever you choose, make sure you have a good personal connection with him or her. There is a difference between someone who works you hard in an OLD-School way and someone who is not personable and stresses the wrong process and plan to get you to where you want to go. The easiest way to figure this out is to make sure you put in at least 1 or 2 sessions with your trainer before you commit to a full off-season program. Second, get value for your money. There are a LOT of people offering this type of service and the prices can be quite competitive. I don’t suggest you take the cheapest guy or gal out there, what I do advocate is getting spending your money wisely. Take the time to compare programs. I’ve been through enough brochures to tell you that they all sound good. Make sure they provide the service that you want and need. It is your money, spend it wisely and don’t be afraid to shop around for the best package.
Choosing the right trainer ties directly into our second topic, realistically identifying the areas that you need to work on and then working on them effectively. It is as simple as that! Ideally, you need to get an assessment by an outside source from someone you trust. Most people ‘know’ what they need to work on, but having a coach or scout or trainer that you trust give you an ‘unbiased’ assessment as to what you need to work on during the off-season would be a great idea. Obviously, this assessment will change every summer as you grow and develop as a player and young adult. As a good starting point, you can fall back on the standard areas that most players need to improve upon that we discussed in the last Hockey Advocate article; Speed, Skill and Smarts.
I think it is important to address the financial aspect of your skills development. Unfortunately, from a financial standpoint, off-season training has become a necessary evil today. However, whether you have zero budget or an unlimited bankroll to work from, players can improve their game and development if you put a little time in building your off-season plan. Most areas of skill development can be found on the internet. The USA Hockey website has a Resource Centre which does have some useful information. Hockey BC has a good link for developing your own Long Term Athlete Development. Here is another free resource: Sports Fitness Advisor. It doesn’t take that much work, just go to Google and spend an hour or two looking up free program advice. Once you have done this, you can either build your own plan if you are on a tight budget or take your well researched plan to a training professional and have them discuss what they can do to help you get to where you want to go.
On a small budget, if you spend an hour or two a day working on your shot, face-offs, stick-handling and passing in your garage at home or in the drive way coupled with a pass to the local gym, you can build an effective off-season workout for little to no cost. High-tech skating treadmills and other such techniques are beneficial, but nothing beats hard work and dedication. If more players spent their time working on perfecting their saucer passes and back hands instead of focusing on zero body fat, they would be better served. Don’t get me wrong, you need to be in peak shape, but hockey skills are cumulative, you need to continually practice them to perform at an elite level.
Next week we will look at Spring Leagues….