Training Tips from Team USA Assistant Coach Nils Semjonovs

USA Blind Hockey Brief – It is challenging to perform at a high level in any sport and hockey is no exception – and possibly more challenging than many other sports because you first have to learn to skate, then learn stickhandling while skating and on top of that, maneuver around players at high speed while other players try to take the puck away. It can be hard to practice all of these skills, especially when you do not know your individual strengths and weaknesses. This is why it is important to assess your performance to determine where you can improve and develop goals to address weaknesses that drive you to progress as a player. In order to determine your goals, try to evaluate your performance from the last games you played and fitness assessments recently completed. Take one or two things that you can work on and determine how to address them in your daily workouts. Below are some tips that I hope you find useful.

Hockey-specific skills

  • Due to the current situation, it is hard to work on hockey skills since most players do not have access to an ice rink. When you have the opportunity to get out on the ice, focus on one or two particular skills in one session, such as crossovers, stops, tight turns with a puck, transitions, stickhandling or shooting. It is the only place where you can improve skills closest to the game performance.
  • For players who do not have access to an ice rink, I suggest continuing to practice stickhandling on a floor with a puck or ball. You may not create the same game performance motor learning pattern, however, it will be the closest to it without being on the ice.
  • Be creative, but also don’t forget about body position when you are stickhandling. Don’t look at the object that you work with, keep your head up, focus on the feel of your stick and object on your blade.
  • For goalies, put on your pads and work on positions, sound tracking, and get creative with ways that help involve blocker and catcher skills.
  • Skating is challenging to replicate off-ice unless you have roller blades. There are, however, some exercises you can perform off-ice that can help you maintain some muscle memory of skating and incorporate muscles that we use in skating.

Endurance

  • With respect to building endurance, consider the specific needs of hockey. We play 40 to 50 second shifts and then take a break. Breaks are variable between players, however everyone should try to return to the ice as soon as they can. You can prepare for this by running or biking at intermittent intensities where you work really hard for 30 to 40 seconds and then rest at submaximal intensity where you continue to run or bike at a lower intensity. This same concept can be applied to circuit workouts; if you have 3 to 4 exercises in your circuit (e.g., pushups, squats, planks, side-to-side jumps), take a break only when you are done with all exercises in the set (while continuing to jog in place) and then start the next round again after a short period of time. Make sure that you complete the exercises at a high intensity to get your heart rate up. Another example is with burpees – if you perform burpees for 30 seconds, take a break for 10 seconds, and then repeat again for a couple sets until you can no longer maintain proper form or push yourself anymore through a full 30 second set.

Mobility and stability

  • Mobility and stability must coexist to create efficient movements in the body to prevent injuries and promote optimal performance. Mobility involves the concept of movement freedom in joints and muscles, while flexibility targets just muscles. Stability is the ability to control movements through certain movement patterns and is an associated precursor to strength. If a movement problem exists because of reduced mobility (e.g., muscle tightness or joint stiffness) or reduced stability (e.g., poor strength, coordination, or control), then a movement pattern will be altered to compensate, creating an inefficient motor learning of the skill.
  • With this in mind, make sure that you pay attention to your body mechanics throughout your exercise routines to avoid compensations that could lead to poor motor learning of skills.

Recovery

  • Following vigorous exercise, take time to stretch the body parts that you worked out and cool down by walking to promote faster recovery, reduce heart rate and increase flexibility.
  • When you don’t have time to stretch after working out, try to incorporate stretches when you are watching your favorite TV show, taking down time from work or even when you brush your teeth – or make a routine to stretch before going to bed.
  • Pay attention to your sleep to promote recovery of your body and mind. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and sleep at least 7 to 8 hours to let your body reset the sleep cycle. For additional information on the importance of good sleep routines, check out the article “Understanding Sleep Cycles: What happens while you sleep”, as well as this TED talk on sleep.


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