Hockey requires speed, agility, and quickness – there’s no doubt about that. Nevertheless, some coaches may not be preparing their players in an efficient manner that will set them up to enjoy the most success possible.
Why Traditional Conditioning Doesn’t Work
A coach’s typical perception of “conditioning” is lining players up and having them skate sprints at the end of practice. A natural byproduct of this, however, is poor skating mechanics, as players end up either standing straight up or hunching over, neither of which is correct. This muscle memory carries over to games and as players fatigue; they will resort back to this improper form.
“The development process should not be rehearsing each isolated skill before moving on to the next isolated skill,” says Jack Blatherwick, who wrote the book [literally] on interval training in hockey and spent time coaching U.S. National and Olympic Teams and the University of Minnesota.
“This will develop fast skaters with excellent skills, but no ability to integrate those skills into a game.”
Why Interval Training Works
A hockey game consists of a series of short bursts at high-intensity energy followed by a rest period, and since coaches so often impress on their players to “practice like they play,” why not apply that same philosophy to conditioning?
Interval training helps players develop athleticism by pushing them out of their comfort zone and therefore is inherently forcing them to improve their skill development and conditioning. Players will get their conditioning in without even realizing it while boosting their speed and endurance, which is more likely to translate to a game situation.
Implementing Interval Training Into Practice
Incorporating interval training into practice isn’t hard and will make a world of difference in each player’s speed, quickness and agility. The simplest way to do it is to choose a work interval, about 6-8 seconds of quick movements and run them periodically throughout practice in between drills.
“Incorporate as much creativity, anticipation, decision-making, faking, cutting and deking as the players can handle at their stage of development,” says Blatherwick, who currently an exercise physiologist with the Washington Capitals.
Rest intervals need to be kept short to at least a minute and players need to keep moving. Coordinating a team activity during the rest period may be difficult (skills or keep-away drills are just some ideas) but the main point is that doing anything is better than standing around.
“The highest priority is to plan a practice so exciting and constructive that players can’t wait for the next practice,” Blatherwick says.”
Taking Off-Ice Training To New Level
USA Hockey, in conjunction with the National Strength and Conditioning Association and Cramer Productions, have created USA Hockey Off-Ice Training for the Complete Player and Coach DVD.
The computer-based program, which is a follow-up and companion to USA Hockey Skills and Drills for the Complete Player and Coach, features more than 400 hockey-specific skills and exercises. Each exercise is designed to improve a player’s strength, conditioning and agility, which are crucial elements to on-ice performance.
The DVD enables users to search for select skills by entering a category, keyword or age range. The skills presented are applicable to all players ages 8 and older, and will challenge even the most elite players.
USA Hockey Off-Ice Training for the Complete Player and Coach, as well as USA Hockey Skills and Drills for the Complete Coach and Player can be purchased online at usahockeyskillsanddrills.com.
Individual DVDs are $49.95, with the pair offered for $89.95.
COACH OF THE MONTH
Karl is his 15th year coaching Bantam A hockey in Minnesota.
He got into coaching for the love for the game and wanted give back to youth hockey in some way.
“It is a pleasure to work with kids in the 13-15 year-old age group,” says Karl. “They are still impressionable, and I believe you can still have a positive influences on their lives going forward, and not just in hockey alone.
It is refreshing to see some of the old players come back and hear their successes with college, work and life.
“I have been blessed to coach some exceptional players in a successful program with parents that care about more than just their own child, and care about the entire team’s success.”