The best way to measure results on and off the ice is by testing a player’s performance level. Team coaches and strength coaches should consider doing some pre-season skill testing to get an idea of what their players need to work on.
Aside from evaluating on-ice skill level, coaches should have a specific plan for determining each player’s speed output. Using timing gates or a stop watch, record times for:
- Acceleration and deceleration drills.
- Re-direction drills
- First step quickness drills
- Full-on explosive power skating.
A strength coach can then analyze this data by to determine how to improve a player’s time. Some players are quick off the line, change directions speedily or have better top end speed (which isn’t always practical in game situations). Understanding how to analyze the data based on speed times will let coaches know whether a player needs to improve their flexibility or mobility, work on their strength and power or simply improve their skating technique. All these things can be improved over a season in the gym, and feedback from the test results is hugely important to designing a specific training program.
Evaluating these outcomes can help a strength coach learn what kind of exercises players should be doing in the gym and how to apply specific principles to get the most out of their performance. Never underestimate the importance of a customized training program for each individual. Test results prove once and for all that no player is the same.
Coaches need speed coaches to share and interpret test results so they know why a certain player’s performance is lacking on the ice. A player who struggles with explosive power or first-step quickness might simply need to improve on lower body strength alone, but strength and power have to be tested in the gym.
A flexibility and mobility screening process for players can also uncover imbalances that could ultimately lead to injury down the road. Improving these areas can create a noticeable difference in how players feel on the ice. They will simply be able to move better, unlocking their potential to skate faster without even adding any lower body strength.
Sometimes good test results don’t necessarily mean that a player is expected to perform well on the ice. It’s more likely that a player with strength and flexibility who is underperforming might simply need to improve their skating ability alone.
Injury prevention and optimal performance is the goal of any good in-season training program. The focus should be on a process of long-term development for young players, helping them improve year after year. Gathering data on pre-season testing on and off-ice lets coaches know how to help a player improve. On-ice coaches and strength coaches need to make sure they are communicating if they want to give players a better opportunity for long-term success and performance.