Coaches have many responsibilities when it comes to the performance of their teams. Individual development, scheduling, practice plans, game management, and team building are just a few of the things that are on a coach’s plate. With such busy schedules and numerous other responsibilities, there is one important aspect that sometimes gets overlooked, and that is a coach’s involvement in his/her team’s strength and conditioning program.
Players’ strength and conditioning time often becomes an occasion for the coach to have some time off or for them to work on practice plans or other things. I can tell you from experience that without a doubt, the most successful strength and conditioning programs are a unified effort involving both the strength and conditioning staff and the coaching staff.
In order for players to get the most out of their in-season training they have to buy in, both mentally and physically. This can be hard as the rigours of a season are tough. If the coach does not stress the importance of off-ice training this becomes an easy out for the players to go through the motions without giving it their all. The strength coaches are there to motivate as well but at the end of the day, it’s the on-ice coach that is going to determine how much that player plays and in what situations. If the coach believes in the importance of the strength program and relays that to the players, and the strength staff do the same, then the players are receiving a positive and consistent message that will help produce the best results.
This does not mean that coaches need to know every little detail about the strength and conditioning programs or that they have to be there to oversee each and every session. The strength and conditioning staff working with your team should be qualified to the majority of the heavy lifting (no pun intended). As a coach, here are some things that you can do to show a unified front and have your team get the most out of its strength and conditioning sessions:
– Talk to the team at the beginning of the year and stress the importance of training and how you believe in it.
– Be a part of the scheduling process when booking team training sessions.
– Keep an ongoing clear line of communication between yourself and the strength coach. Many things happen during the course of a season and changes in scheduling and programming aren’t uncommon. Making sure that everyone is on the same page strengthens the unity between the on-ice and off-ice coaches.
– Be present at some of the sessions. Let the players know you are watching their work ethic in everything they do.
– When a strength coach has input on a player or has feedback that a player hasn’t been showing up or hasn’t been working hard, back the strength coach and discipline the player accordingly, no differently than what would be done on the ice.
– Ask questions! No one is expecting the coach to be an expert in strength and conditioning. If you are unsure about any part of the program, just ask. The more familiar you are with the routine and the reasoning, the better you can communicate to players and be aligned with the messages coming from the strength coach.
For Jason Frykas, the vice-president of the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League’s St. Boniface Riels, Bell MTS Iceplex staff were lifesavers.
Not long after the ice-making plant at the Riels home rink, Notre Dame Arena, sputtered and wheezed to a premature death, Iceplex staffers such as GM Monte Miller, Programming Manager Dean Court and Master Scheduler Ted Szypowski, sprang into action. It was not long after the Riels organization was told that the earliest time it could get back into Notre Dame Arena was “probably December,” the Iceplex crew found a way to fit the Riels into the already-heavy schedule at a place that has become Winnipeg’s home of hockey.
We’re really fortunate that they were able to accept us into the fold so we can play there this season,” Frykas said. “We’re really excited about the change. It will be a nice change. Notre Dame treated us well, but when the plant went down and we were scrambling for a place to play, the Iceplex staff really stepped up and found us a place to play.
“Our general manager Cam Craig also has a close relationship with St. Boniface minor hockey and they’re coming out to the Iceplex, as well so it’s going to be an exciting season. There has been a lot of discussion with St. Boniface Minor and it’s going to be great to see a lot of young faces out there with us.”
The Riels are the newest tenants at a building that has become exactly what was planned for it the day it was built. The 172,000 square-foot, four-rink, multi-purpose hockey center has become one of the busiest sports venues in Western Canada.
“From the day it was built, our challenge was to make this place the home of hockey,” said Court. “We’ve worked as hard as we possibly can to welcome as many hockey players and their families and fans into our building from the day it opened. I always like to say we are user-friendly for everybody.
“And I think a big reason for our success is what we offer. We have a medical room. We have Focus Fitness. We provide safe, professional services to everyone who comes through the door.”
In 2018, more than 10,000 hockey players are expected to use the ice at Bell MTS Iceplex. It’s not only home for the Winnipeg Jets, Manitoba Moose, Winnipeg Blues, Balmoral Hall Blazers, St. Mary’s Flames and the St. Paul’s Crusaders, but for the entire Manitoba Women’s Jr. Hockey League, the North American Hockey Challenge, the Winnipeg Jets AAA Classic, the Winnipeg Jets Challenge Cup, the Wild, the Monarchs and Warriors and on and on.
“It’s a one-stop shop,” said Miller. “You have your practice or game, work out in the gym and get in extra time at the Ice Lab.
“And even when we didn’t have ice on some rinks in the summer, we were still the home of the Canadian Ball Hockey Championships.”
Sarah Zacharias, the Director of Hockey at Balmoral Hall and the head coach of the Blazers, has been a fan of the Iceplex since the day the Blazers arrived.
“We’ve been part of the Iceplex since the day it opened and we knew from the moment the plans were unveiled that we wanted to be a part of it,” Zacharias said. “At the time, Steve McDonald was running the hockey program and he and Tina Alto, got together and agreed that the future of the Prep hockey program would rely on the success of the Iceplex. At the time, we were using the Winnipeg Winter Club, and they were great to us, but they simply didn’t have the amenities that we receive at the Iceplex.
“It’s really incredible to me what the Iceplex has done for our city and for our team in particular. We’re in the back corner with St. Paul’s right beside the Ice Lab so our girls can get some extra work after practice if they need to. We have everything we need. And I have a great relationship with all the people who work at the Iceplex and they just bend over backwards to help us make the program successful. And it’s really fun to have St. Mary’s in here with us. To have the two strongest female hockey programs in the province housed in the same building, says a lot about the building.”
The Bell MTS Iceplex was opened in August of 2010 and since then, it’s become the most important single building in the province when it comes to both professional and amateur hockey. From the day it opened, it’s been Manitoba’s home rink.
WHOSE HOME RINK IS IT?
Extended Use Agreement Tenants
Winnipeg Jets National Hockey League
Manitoba Moose American Hockey League
Winnipeg Blues Manitoba Junior Hockey League
Balmoral Hall Blazers Junior Women’s Hockey League
St. Mary’s Flames Canadian Sport School Hockey League
St. Paul’s Crusaders Winnipeg High School Hockey League
Limited Use Agreement Tenants
St. Boniface Riels Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League
Winnipeg Wild Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League
Winnipeg Monarchs Winnipeg Minor Hockey Association
Winnipeg Warriors Winnipeg Minor Hockey Association
Assiniboine Park Rangers Winnipeg Minor Hockey Association
South Winnipeg Twins Winnipeg Minor Hockey Association
Manitoba Women’s Junior Hockey League
Iceplex Adult Hockey League
17th Wing (Canadian Military) Hockey League
Manitoba Sledge Hockey League
Winnipeg Jets AAA Classic
Winnipeg Jets AA Showdown
Winnipeg Jets Challenge Cup
High School Provincial Championships
Hockey Manitoba Cup (Adult Championships)
North American Hockey Classic
Mustang Challenge Hockey Tournament
Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre Tournament
As another hockey season quickly approaches and athletes are wrapping up their off-season training regimens, new obstacles begin to take shape.
With tryouts and training camps upon us, there is a certain amount of both uncertainty and anxiety that can creep into an athlete’s mind. If these feelings are not dealt with, they can, unfortunately, have a negative impact on the athlete’s performance and that’s not what you want after spending all summer working hard in the gym and on the ice, in order to get better.
These mental obstacles must be met head on. Avoiding them, trying to navigate around them or trying to change your path of the vision that you set out for yourself, will not work. These obstacles can be fear of not knowing people or your environment or a fear of not being comfortable in the training camp testing.
Don’t avoid these fears. Address them right away. The longer the wait, the bigger the obstacle becomes in your mind. If the environment is unfamiliar, go out to camp a couple days early, see the rink, get familiar with your surroundings. On the first day of camp introduce yourself to as many people as you can, from staff to other players.
You might be surprised how many other people feel the same way you feel and are more than happy to get to know you and talk to about what’s in store for everybody. Go out and make friends.
If there is testing, send a request to the team asking them for a copy of the testing protocols so you can look them over and go over them with your current coach and your trainer.
All these things have fairly simple solutions. I’m not saying they’re easy to address because everyone handles stress differently, but they are all obstacles that can be overcome and they are obstacles facing everyone at camp. Even many of the veterans.
So as you prepare for the season make a list of any concerns or fears that present themselves as obstacles in your quest to be successful and then make a plan to overcome them. Write it all down and execute it.
In doing this, the obstacle actually becomes the way to you achieving your goals.
Grand Rapids Griffins defenseman Dylan McIlrath is a physical freak. His combination of size and athleticism is a rare find and when mixed with a blue collar work ethic it creates a machine.
A brief look at some of McIlrath’s numbers will give you a sense of just how freaky he is. He is 6-foot-5 with a wingspan to match. He weighs 235 pounds with a body fat percentage below 10. He deadlifts more than 500 pounds and is fast, explosive and conditioned. So how does an athlete achieve this?
The first part is genetics. His parents clearly provided him with some good genes in order for him to be that tall and have arms so long that his knuckles are touching your face when yours are reaching nothing but the vast expanse of air that separates the two of you.
The second part is if you have some natural physical gifts you don’t sit back and rely solely on them for success. You make sure you are always the hardest worker in the room and you widen your separation from the pack. Here is how Dylan McIlrath trains:
Phase 1. Recovery: Immediately after the season, time is taken to recover from the rigours of a long, hard hockey schedule. The travel, the game frequency and the physical nature of hockey takes a toll on the body and a couple weeks should be spent focusing on proper nutrition and proper sleep. Everything Dylan will do during his off season will work better with a rested body so it’s important to start on the right foot and take some time to rest after the season.
Phase 2. Primer: Dylan’s first phase in the gym is the primer. The main purpose is to work towards removing any movement restrictions, increase strength base (both maximal and relative), establish base level conditioning and prepare his body for more explosive training to come (eccentric loading to strengthen tendons).
Phase 3. Strength: McIlrath spends this phase increasing his strength base as much as he can. The strength base is the engine that drives all other athletic attributes. It’s why proper attention should always be paid to being as strong as possible. Dylan tests his big lifts: bench press, squat, chin ups and deadlifts and then works off of calculated percentages. There is no guess work here. His work is precise and efficient.
Phase 4. Power: Once the big man is moving well and he has gone through some quick adaptations in strength the focus, he switches to developing power. Strength production is still a priority to increase force, but equally as important is how quickly he can produce that force. The quick production of force is what constitutes power. To develop this, Dylan uses moderate to what we call light/heavy weight and focuses on moving it fast with good technique. Olympic lifts and variations of standard strength lifts are executed in this phase. His conditioning also continues to increase.
Phase 5. Speed: If you want to be fast you have to practice moving fast. It is no different for the big man. A high emphasis is put on speed in this phase using sprints, Plyometrics, movement drills and exercises using accommodating resistance. Strength levels are maintained and conditioning is increased to peak performance. This is the final phase of the off season and it’s what leads Dylan into training camp.
Creating an athletic machine does not happen by accident. It’s a little bit of natural talent mixed with pure hard work.
Remember: Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment
AJ Zeglen, Focus Fitness Manager & Head Strength Coach
The official start of fall may not be for another couple weeks, but the unofficial start of autumn has three telltale signs:
The days get short, the air gets cold, and Winnipeg Jets training camp begins.
That’s the case this week, as the first on-ice session of the 2018 edition of Jets training camp takes place on Sept. 14 at Bell MTS Iceplex, and ramps up to another level the very next day, with the fifth annual Winnipeg Jets Fan Fest, presented by Bell MTS.
All training camp sessions are free and open to the public, with two ice sessions taking place each day – until the number of preseason games begins to dwindle. It’s a unique opportunity for fans to see players in preseason prep mode, scrimmaging against each other and being coached through drills.
For some players, like captain Blake Wheeler, training camp is a chance to prepare for the long season ahead. He also says it’s important that the team puts the two rounds of playoff success in the rear-view mirror.
“When the puck drops this season, it’s not going to be game one of the Western Finals again,” said Wheeler. “There is a long road to get back to where we got to last year. It doesn’t happen just because we want it to happen, or we think we’re better than everyone else, or because we had a good year last year.
“We have to buy into that right from day one of camp, and realize how hard it was to get to where we got to.”
With that being the message from the captain, fans can expect high-tempo practices throughout camp. Players are split into two groups, and do a combination of on-ice work, off-ice workouts, and video sessions throughout the 17 official days of camp.
After a season that saw him win the American Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year Award, forward Mason Appleton put in a hard summer of training, and plans to soak in all he can at this year’s camp – and fight for a spot on the final roster.
“You see there are opportunities, you see there are spots open,” said Appleton. “But that’s not what I’m focused on. I’m just trying to focus on myself and do the things that make me a good hockey player. You can’t control those things, and I really have to control my own game and be the best player I can be every day.”
With last season’s accolades behind them and everyone bringing their A-game, who has the fire and the footwork to make the jump?
Find out with a front row seat to the action at Bell MTS Iceplex where you can see prospects’ performance firsthand, gauge the chemistry between new and returning players, and even find yourself an early fan of some of the newest recruits and future Moose players.
Stay tuned to WinnipegJets.com, as well as the team’s social media accounts – (@NHLJets and facebook.com/nhljets/) for ice time schedules throughout camp, as well as player profiles and behind-the-scenes access to the Jets as the prepare for another exciting season!