Hockey is a fast, unpredictable, multidirectional sport. It requires strength, power, agility, quickness, speed, balance, flexibility and endurance. The best place to acquire the important components of a great hockey player is, surprisingly, not on the ice. Parents, do you enrol your children in Power Skating or Hockey School early in the off-season? This common practice might actually be hindering your hockey athlete more than helping him/her. We recommend enrolling your children in on-ice hockey school or power skating school no earlier than late July. I’ll explain why.
When the players finish their season they need a break. Even strong young bodies require recuperation time. The Pro’s already know that. Certain muscles have become tight through repetitive movements, while other muscles may have become weak and are now less dominant. Putting players right back on the ice, doing the same moves they’ve been doing all season, is just exacerbating this problem. Your son/daughter needs this period of recuperation even when you don’t visually see any problems. I guarantee that skate practice, at this point, will not make them a better hockey player or significantly improve their skating. In fact, the players who follow our guidelines will be the stronger contenders when the season starts up again.
If your son/daughter is working on becoming a better skater, he/she needs to spend time building strength and improving flexibility and coordination. Among other things, your young hockey player can work on agility to improve balance before returning to skating and on-ice hockey practice.
The off-season is the right time to work on land-based conditioning, which he/she can do through the use of resistance training, agility exercises, anaerobic exercise and a good flexibility program.
Down-time offers the optimal occasion to start looking at a nutrition program aimed at improving athletic performance and overall well-being. It takes practice to develop good eating habits. He/she will have the specifics under their belt by game time. All this will definitely lead your son/daughter to meet their goal of becoming a better hockey player. In addition, they will begin to understand the importance of exercise. As they become stronger, this whole process of athleticism will start to work it’s magic. When the players improve their strength it starts to snowball into improved skills and attitude, which as you know, builds confidence and improves performance.
Rather than signing up for power skating or hockey school too early in the off season, take a serious look at what a Strength and Conditioning Specialist can do to help your son/daughter overcome his/her weaknesses. Watch them bloom as they gain strength and an abundance of self-confidence. The game is a lot more fun when the athlete is properly conditioned and ready to play at full tilt. Off-ice conditioning will give them the advantage when building important skills such as passing, shooting and stick handling. If the muscles are properly toned and conditioned players will perform the tasks with greater expertise.
Off-ice conditioning will automatically result in improved skating speed and agility as well as improved endurance. This added confidence will buy additional time to allow the player to make the accurate pass.
Shooting hundreds of pucks is not the best way to make your son/daughter a better goal scorer. A good, hard shot requires powerful trunk muscles for optimal rotation, and extreme grip and forearm strength. Shooting pucks over and over results in overused tight muscles. Making a move around a hockey opponent requires speed, in tandem with agility, to be able to handle those quick direction changes that are the making of a great goal scorer. As your son/daughter gets into more competitive leagues and starts to play at a higher level, the usual inside out move will not work on more experienced defensemen. Changing directions quickly and shooting are all improved when the athlete has trained the muscles involved. (Take a look a Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche. He is one of the best at quick, agile manoeuvres.) When the athlete knows how to move efficiently off the ice, it transfers to improved performance on the ice.
Having extremely strong core muscles along with toned and strong legs and upper body will make all the difference when the player is in a scramble for the puck. You don’t get as physically strong on the ice as you can with resistance training and flexibility training. Power Skating teaches proper stride technique and edges, but no matter what, if the player is not strong and flexible, the skate stride will be affected and he/she will not absorb the full potential of skating lessons.
When you meet with a Strength and Conditioning Specialist the strengths and weaknesses of the athlete are assessed, and an individualized program is designed to change those weaknesses into strengths and to build on the abilities he/she already has to move closer to the level of excellence he desires. Periodically, the program is changed to allow him/her to continue to build on what has already been accomplished. By building muscle, balance and flexibility the offshoot is improved self-confidence, resulting in an all ‘round better athlete who has a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Bystol Performance Center BPC