Dry-land is an essential part of team fitness. It’s important, though, to make sure it doesn’t become counterproductive. Here are two things to be aware of:
- One of the most important things to watch out for during a minor hockey season is burnout. I’ve seen it happen to young players so many times. When we’re talking about the risks and rewards of in-season dry-land training, burnout is the greatest risk. We can look at the macro-effect of burnout by breaking down the micro-elements of a young players’ workload; school, homework, practice, games, and other sports or activities. On top of all that, the last thing player’s need is to get blasted during team training.
- Hard work does not equal making players exhausted. It’s a big misconception that if players are completely exhausted and drenched in sweat after a training session it’s gotta be doing some good. How productive is that really? Players need to work hard, yes, but not so hard that they can’t recover properly. Not so hard that they are too tired for games or practices. Have you ever seen a player who looks tired on the ice? They look tired because they probably are.
- Another huge risk is the risk of injury from performing unsafe exercises in the gym. You might often hear the slogan “Train like the Pros”, but minor hockey players are not pros and shouldn’t be trained like one. Minor hockey players are young athletes who need lots of foundational work, proper instruction, motivation, and positive coaching, with a strong focus on long-term developmental success.
- Understanding hockey-specific training is about understanding what kind of work players need to do at specific times of the year to improve, peak and maintain performance. Players don’t need to get in shape during the in-season. They need to be in shape during the off-season. In-season training is meant to maintain conditioning and focus on injury prevention by increasing strength, flexibility, mobility and correcting muscle imbalances. Player’s do not need to be run into the ground with mindless, exhausting cardio-circuit training that will lead to our first concern – burnout.
Seeing results in performance is the ultimate reward and training should be driven by measurable progress. When players are challenged to do better each week and they see the results they get extremely motivated. When players feel stronger and faster on the ice their confidence increases and when a players’ confidence increases they perform better. Beyond the program itself, it can be rewarding when players walk away with an extraordinary experience that was challenging and fun. In-season dry-land training is an important part of the whole hockey lifestyle. When done the right way, it becomes an important part of a young player’s intellectual, social, and spiritual development as well as their performance.