Predictions for 2011 – the future of hockey training.

As 2010 draws to a close it is a time when many of us look back at the highlights of the past year and look toward the future with anticipation.  If I were to quickly run down my highlights from 2010, I have quite a few:

  • Paul & I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary (and we still actually like & love each other – nice!)
  • I created and launched the new Rapid Response Goalie Training which is the off-ice training program for busy goalies who don’t have much time and no gym membership.
  • I snowboarded for an entire day without falling down.
  • I got my training programs out to more than 450 goalies all over the world – my goal is to positively impact the performance of 10,000 goalies worldwide, by providing affordable, downloadable off ice training program.  This is not a bad start.
  • AND FINALLY…I fulfilled a lifelong dream of seeing an athlete I train win an Olympic gold medal.  Seeing Scott win the gold was the single highlight of the year – here is the video – whether you are a fan of Ice Dance or not, as hockey players you surely understand the difficulty of this sport, the skill, the strength, the stamina and the stability required to succeed.  Add to that the fact that in a four year span they only get one opportunity to get it perfect and you must appreciate the gravity of their accomplishment

Looking back at that and all the other great accomplishments of 2010, it is tough to imagine 2011 being better, but I know it will be.  I will share my personal goals for 2011 with you later, but right now I want to look at what I see as the trends for off-ice hockey training in 2011.  Here they are:

  1. Shift away from ‘summer hockey’.  This may be a dream of mine, but guys in the NHL don’t come home and play ‘summer hockey’, why do young players.  If an athlete is under 14 years of age I think they should be playing a different sport in the summer – baseball, lacrosse, etc.  If they are over 14 then they may still play a second sport but I think they should also be following an off-ice training program of some sort and spending time on the ice learning to be better skaters.
  2. More talk of hip injury related to butterfly technique – I think as this generation of kids who have grown up as butterfly goalies start to encounter more hip issues this topic will gain more attention.  I think it will become a bit of a hot button topic like shoulder and elbow injuries in young baseball pitchers.
  3. Continue to be more serious brain injuries in hockey.  Don’t fool yourself for one second – concussions are brain injuries.  Even when the symptoms have resolved there can still be permanent damage to the brain.  With the strength, size and speed of players these days I don’t see this type of injury going away soon.  The NHL is trying to limit head shots, but a player does not need a direct blow to the head to acquire a brain injury.  If the head gets whipped around the brain ‘sloshes’ around inside the cranium and rattles against the structure of your skull causing damage to the brain.  With strong, fit, fast players getting in the 220-240lbs range, the forces are outrageous.
  4. Rejection of the training gimmicks and a return to solid training.  Again, perhaps a dream, but I think hockey players are starting to reject some of the gimmicky training tools – like doing every exercise standing on a BOSU or a Stability ball (not that they are bad tools, but used improperly at times).  I also think the mega-pricey skating treadmills are falling out of favour.  If you are a hockey player who needs to get faster, the first place you should start is by building leg strength – here are a few ideas – leg exercises for hockey players.
  5. More demand for youth hockey training.  I think this will become an even bigger trend with more trainers and coaches looking to capitalize on well intentioned parents trying to do the right thing for their child.  I think if your child is under 13/14 years of age, this is not the right way to go.  I am doing a posts on this topic in the next few weeks so stay tuned for a fun exercise circuit that you can do with your child that will help their hockey, but the context is just having fun.
  6. Recognition of the need for goalie specific training.  It seems like most trainers are on a pendulum for this one – either they want the goalie in full pads, doing box jumps or they just want the goalie to do what everyone else is doing.  I think the answer is in the middle – goalies definitely have some special areas that need development which differ from the forward and d.  But there are also some similarities – they need to build overall strength, they need stability, they need to get quicker.  A well designed program that builds a good athlete under the framework of their demands as a goalie is the best option.  This is what I did when I created the Ultimate Goalie Training system – it is a pro-style training program for goalies looking to step up to the Junior A, Varsity or pro level.
  7. Trainers will continue to have their hockey players do crunches for ‘core training’.  This is the old way we did core training – now we know much better.  We now know that crunches increase the wear and tear on the lumbar spine and they do not really train the abdominal muscles the way you use them when you play hockey.  Doing more strengthening exercises from a standing position will get you better functional core strength and reduce the stress on your lower back.

So there are a few predictions for what we will see in dryland hockey training and injuries in the next 12-months.  I feel pretty confident with most of those predictions – now ask me to predict whether the Leafs will make the play-offs and I start to get pretty nervous!

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve.  I will struggle to stay up until 12:02am!  See you in 2011.