As I am working in my 18th year with a professional hockey franchise, I want to share my thoughts on working with a team. There are lots of perceptions and outside opinions from others on the way that things should be done. However, I think that when you do have experience, I think you can have a reason for doing some of the things the way that you do.
Earlier in my career, I worked with collegiate hockey teams. I would train the team as one group. This would mean that every player is doing the exact same program. However, individual modifications and regressions have always been made to certain exercises for certain individuals. These changes were made based on the athlete’s requirements. Most of the time this may have been due to a previous or a current injury that would prevent the athlete from doing what other team members were doing. This was done on a year-round basis. When I entered the professional environment, I kept that same philosophy. The reality is that I still do today.
There has been some criticism of this in the past from some athletes and other professionals. “Why am I doing the same program as him?” or “Shouldn’t each player have their own program?”. When I think of the individual needs of athletes, why does one athlete need more of something while another needs less- in-season? Sure, there are individual needs to be met with some of our results of measurements that we administer. Also, we do have athletes who do something in addition to our template, but the template is still the template for the team.
Today, the majority of my work with our athletes is done in-season. This is due to the fact that professional athletes aren’t required to do what the team provides them with during the off-season. We have some athletes who will follow our program. However, most of them hire their own personal trainers for the off-season. In-season is entirely different.
In season, we train as a team. This includes warm ups and strength training workouts. I believe that there is a benefit to teammates working together- both on and off- the ice. The way I always look at it is that I want to decrease the chance of injuries and increase performance the best that I possibly can. Given the logistics of the professional hockey schedule, there are always going to be challenges. To me, putting together the template is part of the art of coaching. Our workouts are quick and efficient, especially post-game when our athletes’ time is valuable.
Some of the best players that I have been fortunate to work with didn’t/don’t necessarily enjoy strength and conditioning. What I have found is that the good and great ones don’t necessarily have to enjoy it but they understand the “Why” and embrace it.
When the leaders and your best players on your team understand the importance of why they are training, then it is easy for the rest of the team to understand as well. The more time we can train as a team is better for us in the long run.