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May 17, 2016

Lies Your Off-Ice Trainer is Telling You

I have a Bachelors Degree in Kinesiology. I began training at a young age, believing it would help my hockey career. I also started coaching at a young age, believing I was helping.

I’m starting to think I was wrong. Very wrong.

The best player I ever played with (now in the NHL) was very lazy in the gym. So lazy, I think he skipped many workouts. I was not lazy. I trained religiously. I write blog articles. He scores goals in the NHL. So who should you imitate?

I hear parents tell their kids now that all the gains are made in the gym. That they need to be doing functional training in the gym at a young age to off-set their single-sport participation. I might have even told the parents this.

I don’t think that I agree with that. At least not anymore.

I think that success in hockey is set pretty early on. There are two factors that I believe contribute most to hockey success. I have no way of proving this, but nobody else has evidence to disprove me, or prove anything else. It’s very confusing, so I’m not even sure why I’m writing this. Mostly to think out loud.

The two factors are: 1) self-image 2) mindset

You might think these are the same things. They’re both “mental” “intangibles”.

Mindset can be measured. Dweck’s research is pretty clear on this. Players who have a mastery mindset, instead of a fixed mindset will be more resilient in the face of adversity and challenges. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should probably educate yourself on this.

Self-Image ties into Mindset. But it is different.

Self-image is how you view yourself as a player, and how you view your own ability to face challenges. Some players develop a fragile self-image. Others develop a robust one. Some players develop a self-image of a scorer early on. Others develop the self-image of a grinder early on. Coaches often influence it. Coaches often fuck it up and pigeon hole a player for their entire career. I think this is shitty and should not happen.

Once a player has settled on their self-image, it is a struggle to get them to adopt a new one. The setting of the self-image often happens early. If their self-image happens to contain a fixed mindset, the player is likely to be screwed when adversity inevitably hits.

There are many benefits to strength and conditioning. A properly run program will safeguard against injuries. A properly run program may prevent imbalances and postural issues from developing. A properly run program may even improve performance on the ice. In my experience, only the top 1-2% of strength and conditioning coaches are actually capable of creating a “properly run program”. In my experience, most players can’t afford to train with the top 1-2% of coaches. Or, the top 1-2% of trainers are naturally only available to the top 1-2% of players. Maybe the top 4-5%. But who knows for sure.

Most players would benefit more by taking a gymnastics class, or reducing their time using technology. I spend about 85% of my time as a strength and conditioning coach correcting imbalances that occur because athletes are no longer well rounded. They don’t have the ability to quickly learn new physical skills anymore. They often have screwed up posture. When we get the odd athlete with good posture, who can learn skills quickly, we praise them for being a super athlete, these days. They’re the exception to the rule. Not long ago, the sucky athletes were the exception to the rule. It’s all backward these days.

Maybe strength and conditioning is a necessity for todays athlete. My business model depends on that assumption. But top performers are not made in the gym. Not in hockey. At best, they are maintained in the gym. At best, they’re prevented from falling apart in the gym.

I can make you faster. Way faster. I can make you stronger in the gym. Way stronger. I may be able to affect your mindset a bit.

But I can’t make you think the game. I can’t do much to change your self-image. You and your coach have more control over that than me, as your S&C coach.

This summer, we changed everything. Well not everything, but a lot.

We shifted our focus to teamwork, accountability, and mindset. We are playing more soccer. We derive lessons for hockey from soccer. We are playing more tennis. We derive lessons for hockey from that too. We have more group competitions. We emphasize consistency. It’s pretty different.

We still lift. We still train. We still pay attention to the details of that program. Ask our players, and they’ll tell you how hard they work, and the attention to detail placed on everything we do. But I think that that portion of the summer (training & lifting) has been relegated in importance to a more appropriate priority level. We focus more on other stuff. Stuff that makes a bigger difference. It’s more fun that way.


P.S. If you liked this article because it was different than most Drone Coach advice, and you’d like to get to work on becoming a Hockey Wizard, then click here to check out the benefits of becoming a Train 2.0 Member.