Feb 022018
 

A common email that I get is usually from a younger strength and conditioning coach who is interested in working in professional sports. “What was the path that you took that got you to where you are ?” First, I am truly honored and humbled that some folks are 1- interested in a similar career, and 2- take the time to ask me what I have done in my experience.  I appreciate this because I remember writing and sending emails and letters to Strength and Conditioning coaches, head coaches, and management personnel on my old Dell Computer when I was first starting out.  I would like to take a shot at answering.

I would begin by saying that I was lucky to enter the professional hockey ranks at a time when the full-time Strength and Conditioning Coach wasn’t common.  At the time, there were part-time strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers who possessed their C.S.C.S. (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) who did it in addition to their full-time responsibilities, or outside consultants.  I was fortunate to be the first full time Strength and Conditioning Coach for an organization at the time (2002).

The reality it is that it is probably harder to obtain full time employment in professional sports now than it was 16 years ago.  Not only is it difficult to work in professional hockey but it is also difficult at every other level of any sport.  Strength and Conditioning/Sport Performance is an awesome profession and more people want to become Strength and Conditioning Coaches.

What I would like to do is let you know what I believe worked for me.  It is definitely a combination of having a passion for what you want to do, making the right decisions, education, experience, luck, and knowing the right people.

When I was an undergraduate Exercise Science student in college, I decided that I want to become a Strength and Conditioning Coach.  At the time, I was a football player who enjoyed strength training.  When I found out that there was an profession of coaching athletes in the weight room with the intention of improving performance and reducing the potential for injury- I knew it was what I wanted to do.

What I would like to say to the aspiring Strength and Conditioning Coach is:

Find mentors- I met great people who helped guide me throughout my career.  Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  They also went to bat for me when a Head Strength and Conditioning Coach or a Head Hockey Coach was looking for a “Hockey guy”.  There are so many mentors that I had and still continue to receive guidance from.  I wrote about mentors here.

Volunteer/Internships- You will need to get experience.  Learn how to coach and interact with athletes, coaches, and administrators.  You never know who or where these people might be in the future.   Find a way to make it work.  Work another job if you have to.  I completed 3 internships/part-time opportunities before I went to graduate school.

Master’s degree- I’m not sure if this is 100% necessary.  Although I will say that I’ve spoken to several collegiate Head Strength and Conditioning Coaches who will disregard applicants who don’t possess a master’s degree when hiring assistants.  Considering that some professional teams that have Directors of Sport Science with PhD’s, I would strongly recommend it.

Take risks and adventures- For me, when I was in my early twenties, I didn’t necessarily want to leave the Boston area.  This was where my family and friends were/are.  I realized that if I wanted to do this as a profession, I would have to go .  I think this coincides with not being afraid of being uncomfortable.  Learn new ideas and philosophies from different coaches and work to develop your own.

Work hard- This goes without saying.  Arrive early and stay late.  Network and read everything that you can.  Some resources that I recommend are here.

There are also several paths to working in professional sports.  This isn’t necessarily what you have to do. I know of several of coaches who took different paths. I wrote my story to let you know that this is what I did because I believed that this process worked.  There were no shortcuts or situations where everything was perfect, but I think things worked out.

Jan 192018
 

Over the past year, I’ve read some really good books.  An author of books that I really enjoyed is Ryan Holiday.  His books include The Obstacle is the Way, Ego is the Enemy, and The Daily Stoic (which I read on a daily basis).

What Ryan writes about in those books is the philosophy of Stoicism.  To me, and what I took away from the books is pretty much trying to embrace living in the moment.  The idea of focusing on what is in front of you and not letting outside influences getting in the way.  Outside influences would include events or stress that have happened in the past, present, or in the future.

In the athletic world, when the word stoic is used to describe a leader or a coach, I think of Coach Bill Belichick’s “Do Your Job” and Coach Nick Saban’s “The Process”.  They are great coaches who emphasize performing the task at hand to the best of your ability with the end result being continuous improvement.

In the Strength and Conditioning world, the overall process can be a grind.  The athletes you work with need to be able to do what is in front of them to the best of their ability.   The focus must be on the repetition at hand.   It can’t be “Damn, I have 3 reps left” or “We have to run shuttles tomorrow”.  I think it’s the job of the Strength and Conditioning Coach to help keep your athletes in the moment.  Correct their technique, encourage their execution of the task they are performing.

This is important at all levels of athletics.  Student athletes in high school and college have way more on their plate.  Going to class, taking exams, studying, etc., are all different demands that each student athlete faces.  Then, adding team dynamics such as practices, games, role on the team, Iis Coach mad at me?”, on top of that creates a situation where the athlete has a tougher time focusing on the task at and.   This is also a reality at the professional level with the exception of being a student.  Except for them it is family, financial, and other responsibilities.

In the professional hockey environment, the better players that I have worked with over the years embrace the process of the season.  Playing 82 games is a grind and each season has its ups and downs in terms of wins and losses including streaks and slumps.  It’s a reason why I think many players are superstitious or have routines that they go through to help them prepare.

Oct 022017
 

I had the privilege of attending the Athletic Performance Summit Featuring the Legends of Strength and Conditioning back in May.  It was a seminar that I heard about only a few weeks before.  When I saw the lineup of speakers, I knew I had to attend.  What really attracted me to this seminar was that most of the presenters worked in the team environment successfully for several years and have the championship rings to prove it.

While the format of the seminar was outstanding, it wasn’t necessarily the information that these guys shared on their power points that made it worthwhile.  It was more of their ability to share experiences with the teams and individual athletes that they coached with the attendees.  This is something that I find extremely valuable.

These men opened up about their philosophies and programs and were accessible throughout the weekend.  For example, Johnny Parker, who was the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Giants, Patriots, Buccaneers, and 49ers, gave out his phone number and email address to everyone.  Talk about a humble human being.

What I also found refreshing was that these guys were truly there to teach, share ideas, and learn.  Their passion for what they do really showed.  These are coaches who I aspire to be like someday.

These coaches clearly have learned and helped each other with their coaching philosophies as their messages were very similar.  For example, Charlie Francis was referenced by all of them numerous times.  Tempo running was a staple for a few of them.  Also, the Javorek bar complex was also a common theme from an evaluation perspective.

Here are some takeaways that I thought were great quotes or something that I can use now with my athletes:

 

Al Vermeil

Need to create impulse- explosive power

Never take an athlete to maximum

Adapt to what the athlete can do

Clyde Emerich- “Its not about you, its about them”

Have some speed development drills in your program all the time

Best test- “Can they play?”

 

Al Miller

Get players best at the start of the season

All players are novice lifters. Takes 10 years to develop an athlete

2400 yards maximum for Tempos in a given workout

600 yards maximum for sprints

 

Johnny Parker

Cleans and squats should occupy the greatest % of your program

Work on all qualities all of the time

Don’t be afraid to lead

Real players want to be pushed

Don’t let the star mentality affect your program

 

Rob Panariello

In Season- need intensity, need to have unaccustomed stress

Butt wink- spiderman stretch and hamstring stretch

Eliminate the shift in squatting

 

Don Chu

Skills:

Start Speed- Jumps in place, standing jumps, multiple jumps, depth jumps

Acceleration- Multiple jumps, box drills, bounding

Change of Direction- Standing jumps, multiple jumps, box drills, depth jumps

Vertical Jump- Jumps in place, standing jumps, multiple jumps, box drills, depth jumps

Horizontal Jump- Standing jumps, multiple jumps, box drills, bounding

 

Derek Hansen

Elite sprinter- 35%  high intensity work, 65% low intensity work

Hamstring injuries are brain injuries- software problem, not hardware problem

Rehab- start short and progress to long

Always finish training with low intensity cyclical activity

Feb 182016
 

 

Total Hockey Training

Today is the official release date of my book Total Hockey Training. I can’t believe that today is actually here. The reality is that there were several days when I thought that this wasn’t going to happen. Whether it was self-doubt or I didn’t feel that I had enough time to hit certain deadlines, the completion of this always seemed way down the road.

 
I had the goal of writing a book about hockey strength and conditioning by the time I was 40 years old with an actual publisher.  The reason why I wanted to go that route is because of a few reasons:

 
– I didn’t trust my writing ability. I didn’t want to make an e-book that may have contained grammatical mistakes. The people at Human Kinetics take care of those things for a living.

 
– I remember a conversation with a friend of mine back in California several years ago about internet gurus and e-books. I remember him saying “Unless a sports or strength training book is published by a reputable publisher such as Human Kinetics, I won’t pick it up.” Now, I am not saying that e-books aren’t any good or worth the read but, hearing him say that always stuck with me.  I trusted Human Kinetics to help me create a solid product that I believed in.

 
– I wanted the challenge of going through the process from start to finish. I wanted to go through this to accomplish something big. As a result, I can say that I have a huge amount of respect admiration for anyone that has written a book.

 

 

Total Hockey Training encompasses everything I’ve learned over the years training the beginner to the professional hockey player.

 

 
You can get a copy at Amazon and Human Kinetics. I hope you enjoy it!

Oct 262015
 

Some of the best coaches to have ever walked the planet were known as coaches who emphasized the details.   Details have always been emphasized by the best.  No stones are left unturned when it comes to planning and organizing every aspect for their team.  John Wooden, for example, was known for not only being a winner, but for spending time with his players on some of the basic tasks such as teaching them how to properly put their socks on to prevent blisters.  Coach Wooden also spent most of his day planning the days practice.  Every aspect of practice was planned for and organized to run the same way that Coach Wooden envisioned.

The best coaches also embrace the process.  It is the day to day grinding of helping their teams prepare for every little challenge that their teams may face in any situation.  Great coaches also stay in the moment.  It isn’t necessarily the next game or the next couple of games.  It is the details of improving for the next drill at practice, or the next play or shift during a game.

As I transition back to the collegiate strength and conditioning environment, I find myself planning training sessions well in advance.  Not to say that I didn’t previously.  However, the difference is now I have the opportunity to take entire teams through training sessions from start to finish.  I try to always have a vision of how the session will flow.  How much time should I dedicate to foam rolling?  How long will they take to go through hurdle mobility?  At what point in the session will they progress to the power racks?  Etc.  Everything from when they walk in the door through their last repetition of the last set of the last exercise is planned for accordingly.

The longer I do this, I realize that it really is all about the process.  Its trying to do the little things better over and over again on a daily basis.  The better athletes that I have been fortunate enough to work with over the years always embraced this.  They enjoyed the monotony of doing the little things continuously to help them succeed.

Strength and Conditioning coaches should have a plan every time their athletes come through the door.  They need to be prepared to help them get the next rep and/or the next set.  Training sessions need to be scripted out so that nothing is left out or not prioritized- everything is important.  “Today is the only day.  Yesterday is gone” is a John Wooden quote that I found on the internet.  Strength Coaches need to coach and help their athletes through every little aspect of their program on a daily basis.

Oct 032014
 

I hope everyone is doing great!  As we enter October, hockey season is in pre-season mode or in some cases; in-season mode is already taking place.  Either way, you got to love this time of year.

Here at HockeySC.com, we have had some really good content updates since my last post:

Articles:

Shoulder Medial Rotation by Darryl Nelson

Videos:

Partner Pro Agility by myself

Hip Internal Rotation with Reach by Darryl Nelson

On the forum, we have had some good discussions ongoing such as a discussion on training 8-10 year olds and some of the recent articles written about today’s off-season training done by some of today’s NHL players.  What is great about the forum is that there are always good questions and discussions about all different kinds of topics in regards to performance training for hockey.  Make sure you check out the forum when you log on.

Remember, if you are not a current member, you can try us out for $1 for 7 days.   If you don’t like it, you can cancel during that time.

Thanks!

Oct 142013
 

I have always been a proponent of implementing cross-ice only games at the mite level of hockey.  I believe in what USA Hockey is doing through the American Developmental Model (ADM) and I am a big believer in young hockey players also being young “insert another sport here” players.  Also, I believe that young kids shouldn’t subject themselves to the same rink specifications of NHL or international leagues.   Although I also believe in practicing what you preach, I must admit that I am guilty of questioning whether or not cross-ice games would be good for my own son.

My son started to learn how to skate when he was 3.  He participated in learn to skate and hockey programs and then began playing cross ice at age 4.  When he was 5, he played at the full-ice mite recreation level.  The year after that, he played at the travel full-ice level.   Although he played in 2 complete years of full-ice hockey, he also competed in several full-ice tournaments.   While his games were played in the full-ice format, all of his practices consisted of drills and games done in small areas.  Practices were done twice per week and they always followed the ADM principles.

At the time, I though the progression was fine.  My son is a little bigger than most of the other kids his age and I would consider him to be average to above average in skill and skating.  To him, it seemed like full-ice hockey wasn’t a big deal.

After his first year of travel hockey, we found out what was going to take place this season- one half of his games the season are going to be played in the cross-ice format, and one half of the season is going to be the full-ice format.  This is taking place because USA Hockey is mandating that mite level hockey is all cross-ice.  However, there is a transition period going from full-ice hockey to cross-ice hockey so kids in my son’s age group who have played full ice don’t have to make such a drastic transition.  For my son, the reality is that because of his birth year, he must participate in this.  If he was a year older, he would be eligible to play up to the next level.  For him, I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing and most importantly, he could care less.

After much anticipation and wondering how it was going to go, we played in a recent cross-ice holiday weekend tournament.  After watching the tournament, I wanted to share my thoughts (Again, this is all new to a large group of kids around southern California):

Pros:

–     More time with the puck- It seemed like the puck came to all of the players more frequently while more aggressive players got the puck much more

–     Players had more opportunities to display individual skills.  Kids had more opportunities to make moves and beat their opponents one on one

–     Quicker decisions- The game was fast and it seemed like there wasn’t much room to make plays.  Kids had to make quick plays

–     One minute and 30 second shifts which were controlled by the sound of a buzzer- This was great.  Equal ice time for everyone and both teams changed at the same time.  Brilliant.

–     No off-sides calls- I do like this even though the kids aren’t learning the off-sides rule.

–     Kids seemed much more confident with the puck- Don’t know if it was because of playing against a weaker team or not, but was still good.

Cons:

–     When the puck went out of play, the clock kept ticking.  The ref didn’t have a back-up puck to continue play

–     The higher skilled players are still the higher skilled players.  Yes, the lower skilled players got more puck possession time, but the higher skilled players still touched the puck much more.  The higher skilled players still scored the most goals but I will say that since puck possession seemed higher per player, everyone had more opportunity to score goals

–     Lots of goals were scored and there were face-offs immediately after each goal.  Retrieving the puck and conducting a face-off is time consuming.  I like the pick-up hockey format where the team that gets scored on plays the puck out of their net.  This would allow play to keep moving.  If the score isn’t being kept, then who cares?

–     Growing pains are going to happen.  There were many times when it seemed like the facility was trying to figure it out while it was going on.  For example, some referees didn’t know some of the rules and the locker room situation was crammed.  I guess if you have 4 teams playing on the ice at once, you will need more locker room space.

All in all, I think this is going to be great.  There are lots of concerns from parents about possibly delaying their sons/daughters development.  However, when I offer my opinion on this, I tell them to think long term.  Don’t worry about their child being the best mite but rather think about him being the best bantam or midget.  When I think about my own son, I think he will benefit from this.  Since he is already a little bigger than most of the kids, he will learn how to handle the puck in small areas under pressure from the smaller and quicker players.  When I think about how much more time that he will have the puck on his stick versus times in a full-ice situation, it is a no-brainer.  Also, I don’t think 4 months out of their hockey development where they are put in competitive situations that suits their abilities is going to hurt them.  It can only make them better- especially when they return to full ice competition.

Oct 152012
 

I was inspired to write this post by a segment that was on TV Saturday morning.  The segment was a behind the scenes look at the University of South Carolina Football program.  As I was flipping through the channels, I happened to see some weightroom footage that forced me to stay on the channel for more than a few minutes.

During the segment, Head Football Coach Steve Spurrier was shown working out.  In the segment, he mentioned that he works out 5-6 times per week.   He also talked about how important it was for him to get his workouts in.  At the age of 67, the fact that Coach Spurrier gets in 5-6 workouts per week is pretty impressive.  They did show him performing exercises such as rear delt flyes and dumbbell curls while also showing him walk on the treadmill and ride a bike.  Who cares?  The fact that he is making that kind of commitment at his age is very impressive.

What I was also really impressed with was how important he thinks exercising is not only for himself, but for every coach in the profession.  Coach Spurrier talked about how when he speaks to other coaches at clinics, he preaches the importance of exercise and how coaches shouldn’t be overweight while coaching their kids.  He encourages overweight coaches to “Get on the treadmill”.

I agree with coach Spurrier not only from a health prospective, but also from a standpoint of being able to coach.  I think a coach needs to be able to demonstrate proper form and execution.  In the case of a football coach, maybe that is demonstrating what a player needs to do on a specific play?

In the case of the Strength and Conditioning Coach, we are professionals on the subject of exercise; specifically strength and conditioning.  So, Strength and Conditioning Coaches need to be able to demonstrate proper form in exercises- not only in the weightroom, but also on the field demonstrating agility, acceleration, and plyometric drills.

I’m not saying that you need to be as strong or as fast as your athletes.  However, you should be lean, strong, and in condition.  Your athletes are going to respect you more if you are able to “Look the part” and be able to do what they do even if it is slower.  Be fit enough to coach.