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November 30, 2015

Reality Distortion Field – More Coach Hypnosis (for Parents too!)

Like many of you, I have been entertained by the reaction of the hockey world to what I have to say about coach hypnosis, selling yourself, and how to get more ice time. I find it very amusing that so many people are so resistant to the ideas, even though it isn’t very surprising. Based on the reaction to my previous articles, most of you (60%) will find my contrarian opinion intellectually entertaining, and about 5% of your will find this article truly helpful. Another 35% of you will find this article offensive and you will barely be able to articulate why you are angry at it. If you don’t like those percentages, I’d suggest you stop reading.

In my past articles, I have not downplayed the importance of skill development or improving yourself. In fact, I am a skill and development coach myself, concerned with producing explosive improvements in physical, skill, and tactical ability. But when my tactically physically, and skillfully advanced players are not getting recognized for their improvements, I asked ‘why’. It became apparent that the way they dealt with their coach left their playing time up to the whims of the coach on that day. As a player who mostly enjoyed ample amounts of ice time throughout my career, I was not prepared for situations where I wasn’t given what I wanted. I learned afterwards that you can actively manage your coach to get more of what you want, and less randomness.

I have provided strategies for managing your coach with things like: asking the right questions, establishing a good relationship, and getting into their heads.

Here is yet another…eye contact.

Before you go and roll your eyes (haha) at me…actually go ahead and roll your eyes (keep them warm).

The number one thing I hate as a coach is when players do not look at me when I’m talking. It isn’t an ego thing, it’s just a frustration thing. “I’m talking, why aren’t you listening?” is what is going on in my head when I see you not looking at me.

The interesting thing is that if you go to any major junior or Junior A practice, you will see all the players giving their coach good eye contact when the coach is talking. Presumably all the players with poor eye contact didn’t make it that level or learned to give good eye contact before they made it there.

So we know that eye contact is a trait of higher level players. Can you super charge your eye contact with coaches to improve your relationship with them?

Check out this quote from Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” on the toughest teacher in his school:

What I did, basically, was to convey that I respected his authority, but that he didn’t intimidate me. It was a delicate balance. Like so many strong guys, Dobias had a tendency to go for the jugular if he smelled weakness. On the other hand, if he sensed strength but you didn’t try to undermine him, he treated you like a man. From the time I figured that out – and it was more an instinct than a conscious thought – we got along great.

What is going on here? Donald massaged his teacher’s ego, while demonstrating strength. This is a tough thing for you to do as a young hockey player, but there is one way to do that…without saying anything at all: become a master of eye contact.

I once had a coach who said he could tell if players were ready by looking at their “eyeballs”. Likewise, I can tell when a player is confident by looking at their “eyeballs” – or at least I assume that I can tell when a player is confident, which is just as valid if I’m going to make a decision based on that fact. When I think a player is confident, I am more likely to play them. Simple as that. My coach who studied “eyeballs” said the same thing. So now does it make sense for you to work on your eye contact? What if you could convey even more confidence by tweaking and improving your eye contact? What would that do for your ice time? What would that do over the long run for your career?

Here is an article on learning to generate eye contact so strong and powerful that it is deemed the Reality Distortion Field.

Image from Huffington Post

Master of the Reality Distortion Field: Steve Jobs- Image from Huffington Post

Central to the article is: #1 awareness of eye contact and #2 practicing it.

For parents too:

I do not purposefully play favourites. I am not purposefully vindictive to players because their parents were douchebags to me. But I’ll also tell you that this equation does NOT play in my head: that parent let me know they’re pissed off at me=I’m going to play their kid more.

I am more apt to pay attention to and help their kid develop if they were pleasant, calm and demonstrated confidence to me. Shifty, nervous parents make me shifty and nervous. Unless demonstrated otherwise, I’ll assume that their kids are the same way. Not because I’m shallow, but because that’s the cognitive bias that affects me. My guess is that even though no other coach will tell you this, they share this bias too…they just might not admit it. So for parents, it is to manage your demeanour with coaches to portray calmness and confidence. A good way to make to do this is mastering eye contact.

So if you imagine that mastering eye contact can improve how your coach perceives and likes you, you might consider it a soft skill to work on. Remember that you can’t realistically practice hockey 9 hours a day, and you’re going to spend at least some time interacting with people in your day, so you may as well use that time to upgrade your eye contact, and improve how your coach views you, to get more ice time, and to play more hockey!

Read this article. Study it. Apply the key takeaways. These 5-10 minutes might make a big difference in how your coach perceives you. And we know from self-fulfilling prophecies that getting a perceived edge can lead to a real edge.


If you want more uncommon advice, check out my free tools.


July 13, 2015

Quick Wins or Big Wins – A New Way of Looking at Your Development

Are you looking for big wins or quick wins? By wins, I mean improvements, or results due to a course of action. What do I mean by big or quick? I always talk about getting better at a faster rate than the next guy. So you might think I’m a proponent of “quick” wins. But I’m not. I think that massive improvement comes from string upon string of Big Wins, not short-lived quick wins.
I was introduced to this concept by Ramit Sethi of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich”. On his blog about personal finance, he encourages people to focus on Big Wins like:
  • Getting started saving, even if it’s a very small amount
  • Improve your credit score
  • Automating your finances
  • Choosing boring, time tested, low cost index funds
On the other hand, many other personal finance “gurus” recommend things like reducing your spending on lattes and making restrictive budgets. Ramit contends that these actions might be quick wins, but don’t actually contribute to much – and they’re hard to do. Improving your credit score (big win) can save you thousands over your lifetime and is easy to do – meanwhile tracking every penny you spend in a restrictive budget is mentally demanding and won’t last long.
This is similar to taking an 80/20 approach to getting results: find the most important things to do that give you the biggest results – focus your effort and attention there.
Coaches, parents, and players, with the best intentions of improving as fast as they can, make short sighted decisions –  quick wins. Examples of quick wins include:
  • Playing a short bench early in the season as a coach
  • Starting plyometric and olympic lifting before an athlete has basic movement skills mastered
  • Getting the best latest piece of equipment or gimmick rather than working on the foundations of skill
  • Early specialization in sports
It seems that the tendency to choose quick wins occurs because they seem sexier (no one thinks the basics are sexy) and because they often give the appearance of immediate results (and people just aren’t patient enough to wait for results to materialize in their own time).
On the other hand, big wins:
  • Do not always provide immediate improvements, but always lead to massive improvement on a slightly longer timeline. Overall, they lead to a faster improvement if you choose to look at a larger time scale.
  • Focus on the most important variables that contribute to disproportionate results. In the end, focusing on more attention on less variables leads to a larger and faster improvement.

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June 26, 2015

My Secrets of Explosive Skating Speed – In a Video Training System ONLINE NOW!

I’ve poured all my knowledge into a simple, 8-week, online, video training system, which I’m pleased to announce is online now!

You can access it right here !

Upgrade your off-ice training to develop Explosive Skating Speed that will take your game To The Next Level…

Would a faster first step, acceleration and top speed help your game? Of course it will! But how are you going to do that?

“I train with a trainer”

“I already have a workout plan”

“I do sprints and plyometrics”

Of course you do. You’re dedicated to improving your game and that’s why you’re here: to see if I can win your trust and actually make you faster.

I’m not going to tell you to: Train more, Lift more, Sprint more, or do more drills. Not because those things aren’t important, but because the secret to speed is hidden in the TECHNIQUE used by the fastest skaters. That is the resource that you’re missing, and that’s why you’re here.

If the following describes you, then this program won’t help, Sorry.

  • You do not pay attention to detail with your off-ice development
  • You are not motivated to improve your game

But if some of these other things describe you, then reading on could turboboost your training:

  • You work really hard in your training sessions, but you aren’t improving as fast as you think you should
  • You’ve been told that you have a weak core
  • You’re just starting to train off-ice for hockey
  • You suspect that by improving your technique, your workouts would make a bigger difference on the ice
  • You appreciate attention to detail
  • You are highly motivated to improve yourself

So, more is more? No. Not when you have faulty technique.

Speed starts with technique. We all know how important technique is for your golf swing. Would you do bench press to improve your golf swing if you had horrible swing technique? Of course not! You’d see a pro to fix your technique first, and then add strength and power through other exercises. So why would you do MORE and WORK HARDER to improve your skating speed, when you could improve your technique first.

Think Different. Everyone else is skating more, doing many drills. No one is working on the basics of technique. If you’re happy with the same results that everyone else is getting, then do the same things they’re doing. If you’re ready to stand out, then you need to find another way.

Skating is a skill that requires technique first. Once you have the foundation of excellent technique then different exercises and drills can help your skating speed. But if you don’t have good technique, it’s like building a house on a shaky foundation.

I share the secrets of developing effective skating technique in just 10-15 minutes of exercises per day. THIS CAN BE EASILY ADDED TO OR BLENDED WITH YOUR WORKOUT, or done throughout the day: it’s up to you!

If you’re tired of working so hard to only get small improvements, its time to work smarter. Working hard AND working smart is the turboboost you need to stay ahead of your competition. I’ll teach you how to work smart with this 8 Week Skating Speed Development Program, so that your hard work goes further.

Jason Yee , Train 2.0

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June 3, 2015

Blog Article: Everything Popular is Wrong – Skating Technique and Knee Bend

Here is yet another reference to a Tim Ferriss Concept, this one from the Four Hour Body. I continue to learn things with regards to hockey development, or my life…and I can hear one of his sayings resonating in my head from a book I read 4 years ago. “Everything popular is wrong” was ringing in my head as I realized that one of the most common skating technique cues was something that was really messing me up. Here we go…
“Bend Your Knees”
Ya, I’ll go ahead and tackle this one. I’ve taken a shot at the forward arm swing, and now I’m gonna tell you that knee bend doesn’t matter. Well actually, I’ll tell you that knee bend does matter…but more is not better.
If you go back and look at old games, you’ll very rarely see players with a deep knee bend. They may look hunched over, but that is due to hip flexion. Hip flexion is the angle between your upper leg and your torso. If you look at clips of speed skaters, you also rarely see a deep knee bend, but rather a deep level of hip flexion to allow their torso to come forward.
We got mixed up, somewhere…
The same well known power skating school that I beat up upon (but honourably leave unnamed) preaches the idea of at least a 90 degree knee bend and an upper body angle of 50 degrees. Why? I have no clue. It seems like they arbitrarily thought that both of those angles were ideal. Or maybe they did some research. Who knows, but both cues have trickled down, and many power skating coaches now use those cues.

50 degree upper body angle and 90 degree knee bend? Doesn’t look like it to me.

NHL – What works? What do we see?
Let’s take a look at Toews. This guy is absolutely nowhere near the upper body angle recommended by power skating coaches. How much knee bend does he have? Not much. What he does have is hip flexion. He hinges at the hips and sticks his butt back to maintain balance.

Crosby, Ovechkin, Kane, Benn, Tavares, Datsyuk – all have different levels of knee bend depending on their bodies. But all have good hip flexion and less knee flexion than you think.

Knee Bend? Yes! 90 degrees? No! But more importantly: hips back in hip hinge.

Force Production
By having straighter knees, and more hip flexion, the body is in a more balance position. This allows the skater to generate force more quickly from their support leg with their hip. Meanwhile, a more flexed knee needs to travel back behind the body before being able to generate forward force from the hip. With a deep knee flexion, the leg can generate force, but with the knee extensors (quadriceps). The hips (glutes) are much more powerful than the quads at generating force.
Straighter knees allows the musculature of the lower leg to be recruited earlier. For example, researchers at the fine University of British Columbia found that soleus is recruited when the knee is in a bent position and that both the soleus and gastrocnemius are recruited in an extended knee position. So having the leg straighter has the lower leg in a more advantageous force producing situation. Also, with the knees straighter, the hips have to sit back to compensate, putting them in a more advantageous force production situation. When both knees are highly flexed, in order to extend the leg behind the body, the skater either knees other wordly flexible hip flexors (which, when tight impede hip extension), or they compensate by generating force laterally or not at all. Less knee flexion allows the legs to extend more directly behind the body.
When a skater has more hip flexion and less knee flexion, they can shift their balance by subtly moving their hips forward and back. When a skater has more knee flexion, they have to use larger ankle movements to shift their balance forward and back. The ankles, being further away from the centre of the body provide less leverage and are therefore not optimal for shifting body weight, but are instead useful for locomotion. So a larger knee bend shifts the responsibility of weight shifting to the ankles, which are not ideal for the task. Meanwhile, being in hip flexion allows the responsibility of weight shifts to originate closer to the body’s centre.
I had a teammate comment that he thought I got too low and got stuck on railroad tracks too often. He was right. I thought, because I had been told, that my strength as a skater came from my knee bend. But this knee bend actually made it more difficult for me to change direction.
Why we went wrong:
Very easy for someone without expertise to do, we confuse what we think we see with what is actually going on. We see deep levels of hip flexion from a speed skater, or a skater who looks strong, and we think its knee bend, because we don’t actually know very much about hip flexion of hip hinging. We describe what we know, and we know knee bend.
Making the adjustment
If you’re buying what I’m saying, experiment with skating with less knee bend. Make sure to compensate for less knee bend by sticking your bum further back. Make sure to also keep your ribcage down when you’re skating. Don’t eliminate knee bend, but play with a more extended position. Let your hip hinge dictate your knee bend. Pay attention to the ease with which you can generate force. If you find yourself in a position that’s easier to generate force, try that position out for a bit. Also, pay attention to how your stick handling and shooting improves or doesn’t with less knee bend, more hip hinge and a bit more forward torso angle.
If you know that you already have deep knee flexion, try sticking your butt further behind you and up, keeping your spine neutral. If you know that you don’t have knee flexion and your coaches are telling you to bend them more: politely nod, ignore them, practice the hip hinge, work on sticking your butt further behind you while skating.
Hip Hinge
If a skater cannot hip hinge correctly (flex the hips while maintaining neutral spine), this whole article will not help them. The skater who cannot hip hinge should first learn how to do so before attempting to improve any other aspect of their game.
  • “Bend your knees” is not an effective cue to teach an effective skating stride. It may cause a skater to emphasize knee bend over hip hinge. Hip hinge is a primary consideration for skating speed, power and balance, and knee bend is a secondary consideration.
  • Too deep of knee flexion leads to suboptimal force production angles
  • Too deep of knee flexion leads to less balance and control while skating dynamically
  • Learning to Hip Hinge is crucial for skaters
  • Applying the Hip Hinge to the skating stride will result in more speed, balance, puck control and improved shooting
  • Do not eliminate knee bend. Rather experiment with different levels to see what works for you. More knee bend is not better!

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.

May 8, 2015

What We’re Doing this Summer with Our Hockey Player and Why

Yesterday, I volunteered at my old high school to instruct some PE classes. Then I went to the gym and instructed our elite hockey players.

In both situations, I found myself explaining the same thing: cardio and interval training does not improve strength & power.

I found this odd. In my mind, it is ridiculously obvious that fatiguing your body is not the best way to increase speed and power. But obviously there is a disconnect between what I think is obvious, and what a younger generation thinks is obvious. This post is to address that disconnect:

The Path

In my mind, I have constructed a logic chain on how to develop strength and power that looks something like this:

  1. Teach athletes to move with proper movement patterns. These proper movement patterns should:
  2. Teach the athlete to be able to handle more load with proper movement patterns
  3. Teach athletes to move loads at higher speed, maintaining correct movement patterns
  4. Develop an athlete’s capacity to handle high loads, at high speed, while under fatigue

I find that athletes and parents associate fatigue, intensity and volume with workout value. Here’s the thing: anybody who can yell at athletes is capable of making people fatigued and sweaty. And yes, there is a chance that said person is going to develop the strength and power of their athlete. If they are really lucky, they’ll inherit an athlete with great movement mechanics and great work capacity, and that athlete will respond to that training, and will then go on to do well in fitness testing…thus “proving” the efficacy of the fatiguing, high intensity workout. The huge problem with this (and I know, because I’ve previously been the coach to prescribe high-intensity, fatiguing workout after high-intensity, fatiguing workout), is that the players who don’t move well and are not able to adapt to the increased workload, well, they get left behind. They just “aren’t working as hard as those other guys”.

If we go back and look at point #1 (Teach athletes to move with proper movement patterns), there is a new challenge for coaches with today’s athletes. I have noticed that there are less and less multi-sport, natural athletes. As a result, I’m inheriting athletes who might be excellent hockey players, but lack BASIC HUMAN MOVEMENT. The main problems I see with young hockey players is that their hips are so tight, that they have to use their knees and spine to generate their movement. Of course, the hips are capable of generating much more power than both the knee joint and the spinal muscles combined, so players with tight hips are leaving a lot of strength and power generation on the table if they are not correctly moving their hips. And simply put, we cannot train the athletes to properly move their hips if they do not have the mobility to do so.

Someone might tell me that by doing squats, deadlifts and lunges you can fix this problem. I’d agree, but only if the athletes are doing squats, deadlifts and lunges like they are meant to be performed by the body. Again, the tight hips often prevent squats, deadlifts and lunges from being performed properly, so the body learns and reinforces sloppy movement mechanics. Under fatigue, this problem gets even worse because the body is already not using its most effective and efficient muscles, so now those muscles start failing and recruiting even less effective and efficient muscles.

For me, I cannot, in any sort of good faith condone or prescribe consistent workouts that do not first address movement quality. I believe it would be negligent of me to do so. Of course, I believe that athletes should still be placed in challenging and fatiguing situations to prepare them for camps. But this type of work should be done with conscious attention towards minimizing risk, and it does not need to be done all the time. Furthermore, I of course believe in developing a high aerobic and anaerobic capacity in our athletes, but there are more effective ways of improving that specific capacity than running them into the ground every day.

Measurement and Value

Like I mentioned, fatigue is often associated with the value of a workout. Let’s please change that.

I can understand that void of any other metric, valuing a workout by the amount of fatigue it generates is a very reasonable thing to do. And I can also imagine that if a trainer is not actually wanting to put a lot of thought into how their workouts make on ice contributions, then they’ll want you to think that fatigue is a useful value measuring stick.

What metrics actually matter? Some will say that a strength and conditioning coach should only worry about the fitness variables they can effect. So they will tell you they have improved the athlete if they improved their squat weight, their bench weight, their clean weight, their broad jump, and some measure of aerobic capacity. Others use those metrics as well, but also consider their role to be to help the athlete in their sport. They may take a bit of emphasis off of the bench, squat, clean, jump and VO2, and spend a bit more time and effort trying to translate or transfer the skills to the sport.

I fall into the second camp. But, not radically so. I believe that improvements in athletic movement principles (needed for hockey) will manifest themselves in improved lifts, jumps, sprints, and aerobic tests. Therefore, those tests may provide an indicator as a proxy for improved sport performance. The reason that I fall into the second camp is because I am in (what I think is) a fairly unique position of having almost amassed my 10,000 coaching hours (I’ve been coaching for about the last 9 years consistently) and also having amassed my 10,000 hockey playing hours, meanwhile I’ve studied Kinesiology. Because I am also continuing to play while doing all this, I’d say that I am very in touch with the process of what it takes to get better. I’ve made committed almost every mistake by enthusiastically following every person who has a claim that they can help improve my game. I have ruthlessly thrown aside any and every method that does not provide immediate and lasting results. I’m also 100% in touch with the demands of the athlete, and the psychology of the athlete. So I remember the days when I crushed a fatiguing workout, went to the farm to work and pushed a lawn mower and carried a weed whacker and didn’t have time or energy to develop my skills. I remember dropping 400lbs on my back in a back squat with incorrectly adjusted spot arms and no spotter. I remember lunging around my backyard with a friend (who never worked out with me again), for 2 hours, and then not being able to walk for a week (my mom literally carried me up and down the stairs…embarrassing for a 12 year old).

After almost 20 years of hockey, I’ve realized that the most valuable physical skills I learned were actually very different than what a strength & conditioning coach might suggest. They are:

  • Not to tense up in pressure situations.
  • Not to “try” too hard. Give 100% intensity instead.
  • Not to tense muscles that are not immediately involved in performing the skill.
  • Generate and receive contact through the core.
  • Learn to generate elasticity through the core on shots and passes.
  • Don’t bend your knees too much, use your hips to generate power.
  • Under fatigue, stay calm, breathe deeply.
  • Correct posture (shoulders, pelvic alignment, ribcage alignment) matters as much to physical performance as it does to psychological performance.

All of these things are movement quality related. They were sprinkled throughout my career, with many of them only coming into crystal clear focus very recently. Disappointing, then, that all the fatiguing workouts I did never taught me those things. Some I learned when I used to play the violin, others I learned through martial arts, golf and soccer. A few teammates have given me pointers on others. The rest I learned by researching information  from the best minds in sports and strength and conditioning.

Of course, I’m now also blessed with great aerobic capacity, strength and power. While these occurred as a result of my training, I still believe that my training was NOT the most efficient way of improving all of those things. For example, I learned that I didn’t actually need to lift as much volume as I thought I did. I also wish I had adopted a different running style when I was back racing, as that would have made running so much more enjoyable. In any case, all of this was a valuable learning experience because I can now do a lot more with a lot less time and energy.

So what are we doing this summer? We are trying to boil down 20 years of my enthusiastic pursuit of excellence through training…into one summer. We are drawing the straightest line through the sand. I’m hoping it can help everyone we are training get better faster.

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.

May 5, 2015

Principles before Plays – My Philosophy of Learning, Teaching, Coaching

Specific plays, memorization for studying, adopting fads, copying people… these all have one thing in common, and I think it holds most people back.
In Joshua Waitzkin’s “The Art of Learning”, he describes making smaller and smaller circles. This means that he would rather learn one skill deeply to internalize its principles, rather than learn many skills just to show off. Bruce Lee also said, “I fear not the man who practived 10,000 kicks, I fear the man who practiced 1 kick 10,000 times.” The idea behind these statements is that understanding principles trumps other types of learning.
My first foray into principles based learning was in my second semester of my second year at UBC. My first year, I followed my high school dogma that most of my fellow students also seemed to be following: memorize everything! The question always was: how am I supposed to know everything in this textbook for the final?? However the word “know” is most often thought of as “memorize”, so most students are really asking: how am I supposed to memorize everything in this textbook for the final. That semester, I took an economics course from a professor who was known to have very challenging exams. His exams were abstract, and he’d ask questions like, “Joe believes in the Sun God. Explain why Joe should not believe in the Sun God.” Then, he would provide a whole page for an answer. This proved very troublesome for a student who had memorized terms and graphs in order to study for the test. That was, until I went to look at an old midterm to see how it was marked. What I learned that day changed my approach to education and life.
The way that those questions were marked, was by checking to see if the student had written down three principles. The prof called them “Brainwave Principles”. That’s it. Three principles. No page long ramblings…three simple principles. A student only had to write three lines to get full marks on a ten mark question.
I then realized, that he had 12 “Brainwave Principles” in his textbook, and that you could answer every question by applying those 12 principles. If I truly understood those 12 principles, I understood the whole book. I tested this on my next exam in his class and aced it. Specifically, I knew what Principle applied to what question, and I was able to explain that in my answer.
My second brush with principles based learning was after listening to this Ted Talk with Elon Musk. In it, he talks about using First Principles based reasoning to come up with his ideas for business. He said that reasoning by analogy is just like copying everyone else. But when you copy everyone else, you follow their same thought pattern and therefore see limitations where they see limitations. By instead boiling everything down to first principles, Elon claims that he has been able to see the problem from a completely different perspective and is therefore able to examine if the perceived limitations of an idea are in fact true. This talk inspired me to dive deeper into the idea of First Principles reasoning.
Finally, after talking with a teammate, he mentioned how some of the really intelligent students in his program didn’t need to study for their courses, because they DERIVED their answers. They completely understand the principles behind the questions that a prof is asking, and therefore are able to piece together how to answer. In contrast, students who memorize answers to questions have trouble answering those questions if they are presented slightly differently than what they expect. They are less flexible, and their knowledge if more fragile. Meanwhile, a student who understands principles is flexible and robust because they can answer any iteration of a question testing their knowledge of a principles.
I then purposefully aimed to make my studying more principles based. The process looked something like this:
  • Understand the terminology so that I could understand the language of the concepts, the principles, and the problems
  • Aim to understand the overarching principles of the subject at hand
  • Aim to have a working knowledge of the concepts inherent within those principles
  • Enjoy my free time!
I applied this process to all of my courses. I was able to study much less…meanwhile, my marks actually went up. Why? Because I internalized the principles and it was easier for me to bring forth information in test taking scenarios. Because my knowledge represented a deep understanding of the principles on which the question was based, I could answer any type of question about that principle because all I had to do was apply it. On the other hand, memorized information was always more fragile because if I took in too much information, there was a chance it would be crowded. Also, without any sort of association, it’s fairly easy for your memorized information to go POOF in a test taking scenario. Principles based learning creates associations.
Strength & Conditioning
How this translates to strength and conditioning is just that…through translation. Coaches (myself included) often get bent out of shape over what exercise, modality, intensity, volume, etc etc, is best for training. In my eyes, it simply doesn’t matter. If we accept that the goal of strength and conditioning is to improve sport performance, then we’d also probably agree that sport performance can be improved when athletes can completely express themselves physically, in their sport, without hindrance of any kind. This usually translates to the idea of effectively and efficiently using the body in a coordinated and controlled manner to express force. To do so, the athlete should have internalized various movement principles. Things like: holding tension through the core while under load in order to stabilize the spine, mobile joints should be mobile and stabilizing joints should be stabile, be able to dissociate different parts of your body smoothly, etc.. Therefore, the idea that athletes “must train this way” is absolute bogus. A coach who is saying “all athletes should squat and lift heavy”, is really probably saying that “athletes should be able generate lot’s of force into the ground, and hold tension through their core to maintain a neutral spine while doing so.” I think that there are principles of movement that athletes must master in order to perform in their sport optimally. With those in mind, I aim to find the most effective way to train those movement principles. A mistake that coaches make is that they think “these drills are good for hockey”  because it looks sport specific and then end their thinking there. If those drills do not lead to an improvement in hockey performance through skill translation, those drills are a waste of time. But if those drills lead to some sort of translation (let’s say, increased ability to generate lateral force, and increased control and power in the hips in certain movements), then those drills are useful. The key is translation of athletic/movement principles, not mimicry of sport movement in non-sport contexts.
The strength coach should therefore understand what movement principles their athletes can develop that will translate to their performance. Then the strength coach should explore the best way to instruct and implement those principles into an athletes training program. Instructing exercises for the sake of instructing exercises, or improving numbers on lifts for the sake of improving numbers of lifts is absolutely useless unless an athlete can translate a skill or ability to generate force to their sport. So improving a squat does nothing for the athlete unless it now allows the athlete to learn to hold more tension in their core to keep themselves stable and put more force into the ground. If the athlete has increased their squat weight without actually improving in their sport, the squat was a waste of time for the athlete.
Hockey Coach
This also translates to being a hockey coach. When coaching, I’ve struggled with teaching plays to my players because I found that those plays would often fall apart when the players entered a game. If I’m particularly good at constructing clever players, and if the players are good enough to execute them, I may get a quick win. But as soon as another team figures out those plays, if all the players have previously relied upon was the plays, they are now standing on one leg. If instead, the players are taught principles, the players can adapt their play to the situation that meets them. Like a student who has internalized principles of a subject versus memorization, the player who has internalized important principles in hockey is more flexible and robust to any situation. This creates an empowered player and team who have the trust of the coach to solve their own problems.
The coach should aim to teach principles that will lead to the biggest effect in a team’s game. I do not think that chipping the puck out, or dumping and forechecking are good concepts to be preaching. Both of those concepts teach the principle of chasing. I think that passing and possession are principles that coaches should be aiming to teach. If I teach the principles of passing, support, and creating triangles, then if a specific play isn’t working, but the players are flexible in finding their solutions, the players are more adaptable, and the team is more likely to succeed.
Ideally a coach would ask themselves what principles they should teach in order to get a desired outcome. Not, what play or action should they teach. For example, a coach struggling with the breakout could either: a) tell their players not to make turnovers and to chip the puck out or b) teach their players principles of making plays to exit the zone. Similarly, a hockey player struggling with stick handling can: a) try to pick apart each aspect of their stick handling that they are deficient in and try to train each piece or b) figure out the principles of puck control on a deeper level – for example, posture and relaxation. A student should look at the principles and concepts taught my their teacher and aim to understand them completely rather than memorize every word in the book.
I’m aiming to improve my ability to use principles based learning, teaching and coaching. I hope this has inspired you to do the same.
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.
April 18, 2015

Hacking Movement Quality, Expert Performers and What You Need to Know to Move Like Them

One pattern that has stood out to me recently is related to the idea of movement quality. The term gets thrown around a lot, but how exactly is “movement quality” exploited by expert performers? How can a skills coach teach better skills? How can a strength and conditioning coach have gym “movement quality” transfer to performance?

One answer is: teach the “proximal to distal gradient”

WTF is the “proximal to distal gradient”?

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March 12, 2015

Sequencing: Your Hack for Rapid Improvement

This article is about how I got 400% better at golf in 2 hours.

It’s also about “sequencing”, and why sequencing can hack your learning rate.

In previous articles, I’ve already outlined that the most important variable for success is your RATE of improvement, and that the best coaches give feedback on HOW, not just WHAT. Sequencing is a powerful tool to increase your RATE of your improvement, and also for coaches who are concerned with coaching the “how”.

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December 30, 2014

Play 1on1’s like an NHL Defenseman – Gap Control

I want to write this article for players at about the Bantam and Midget level who want to improve their defensive 1on1 play off of rushes. I have noticed that players at this level struggle with setting and reducing their gap against forwards effectively. Not being far removed from Bantam and Midget myself, I remember well the learning steps I have gone through recently, specifically watching and learning from NHL defensemen that I’ve had the opportunity to skate with.

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March 12, 2014

Team Confidence

I’m writing right now for my team that I will be coaching in May and June. It is a team of midget players that will be competing at a tournament in Whistler at the end of June. All the players are AAA or higher players, and most are wanting to play at a higher level. My mission in coaching these players is to provide them with useful coaching for their upcoming careers. I want to give them information, skills, and insights that will help them make and excel on a major midget or junior team come mid-august of this year. Part of this will be that I’m going to institute a rather radical system. I know that if the players buy in and have confidence in the system, they will have confidence in their ability to win games in our upcoming tournament. This article will describe my model for team confidence, what it looks like and what factors contribute to team confidence (more technically known as team efficacy).

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