WHAT TRAINERS WISH COACHES KNEW ABOUT THEIR PLAYERS
Every player moves differently on the ice. Dry-land training doesn’t focus on hockey sense or on-ice skill sets, so athleticism and great performance in the gym don’t always translate perfectly to the ice. I’ve had coaches ask me, from time to time, why their player doesn’t seem to have explosive get-up-and-go, or first-step quickness. They might ask why their player just seems to get pushed over on the puck while battling for possession. Sometimes, a coach is quick to point out what they think their players need, and that communication is vital for designing an off-ice training program.
What coaches need to understand about the whole process is this: the problem might actually be something completely different than what they think it is. For example, the coach believes player ‘X’, who gets tired too fast and loses energy during practice or games, needs conditioning, but maybe what he really needs is better nutrition. My job is to discover these things during our team testing and performance evaluation, before in-season training begins. A coach might think player ‘X’ needs more core strength, when actually they just lack body awareness and don’t know how to transfer their body weight. Again, it’s important for me as a strength coach to relate all this information to coaches so they have a better idea of why certain players are not performing up their potential.
My goal as an off-ice training specialist is to build strength and power, increase flexibility and mobility, educate about nutrition, and help players learn how to perform exercises correctly to prevent injury. I can make a player super strong, which will make them faster with a more powerful skating stride, but what I try to help coaches learn about their players is that this doesn’t solve poor on-ice mechanics or body awareness. If a player is a great skater then I can make them faster and more explosive, but I can’t magically make a poor skater faster. If a player gets pushed off the puck easily it might not be core strength, just poor timing. So again, I can make them stronger but not a better player. and my goal is to address those issues throughout the season. It’s important for coaches to know that their players might need more work on the ice to improve these things.
It’s also important for coaches to be present during testing components before their team dry-land program begins. Seeing the lack of mobility and flexibility some players have will help them understand why some players are lacking movement or explosive speed on the ice. Knowing how their players are eating and sleeping will help coaches understand why certain players are lacking effort.
The best piece of advice I can give any coach is this: talk to your teams’ trainer and get feedback from test results. Learn what players need to really work on, and hold them accountable for taking action to fix those weak links, if not in the gym then on the ice. Coaches should also get their players to keep track of their nutrition, sleep patterns and work-loads throughout the weeks. These kinds of things can be critical for determining why a player isn’t performing up to expectations.