Home Player Development Pre-Season Quality Ice – Timing is Everything

Pre-Season Quality Ice – Timing is Everything

by Jason Nadeau

Quality Ice-Time… at the right time. It’s ALL in the details…

Well it is that time of year again, provincial camps, Junior and Rep tryouts. In this day and age everyone has personal trainers, on ice power skating instructors and personal coaches to help them maximize their off-season training regime. The problem is that people tend to lose perspective on the important day to day details as they focus on and worry more about the big picture, EG; “Will I make the team or how high will I get drafted?”  Every year, especially from my professional clients, there is always one problem that crops up right at the very last minute.

Quality Ice time!

Now, you might think with all the rinks and programs out there, this should be a problem of the past, but there is one aspect of this issue that never goes away and affects most players. Typically, my conversations during the summer follow the same path with my professional clients. They sound like this, “Don’t worry J!!! I’m in great shape, training daily both on and off the ice, going to be the best year of my career!” Now I blindly believed this for more than just the first year, why would my guys lie to me? But then the inevitable would occur, they would go to training camp and either perform below expectations and be in the coaches dog house straight away or even worse, get released from their contract and now be unemployed along with 500 other players at the worst time of the year. I saw the same pattern with even the most dedicated gym rats, and I had to ask myself what was the problem and more importantly, what was the likely solution?

Well, here’s what happened every year. They ALL did in fact train like Olympians and most skated 5-6 days a week, if not more. I couldn’t find a fault with their choice of trainers (typically) and for the most part there were always enough quality players around during the spring and summer to cobble together an elite level skate. Then all the junior and college players left for their rookie or main camps and different pros departed at different times since most of the pro leagues had a staggered start date ranging from early September to mid October.

My training obsessed professionals would work hard for 4-5 months and then during the most important weeks leading up to their tryouts, they were reduced to skating once or twice a week or in many cases ending up at the local stick and puck for lack of better on ice-options. It went from a steady diet of quality summer ice-time to a veritable starvation cycle. So my hero’s would show up at camp having effectively slacked off for the final crucial days and weeks leading up to the start of camp. It wasn’t by neglect or laziness, it was because they didn’t have any other options. And ALL of you players out there know what it is like to take a 2 or 3 day break midseason. You feel horrible for the first period or two while you adjust to being back on skates. It feels like you haven’t skated for weeks or months, a weird phenomenon.

Now this isn’t restricted to just professional players. I have a few new prospects who have been playing event after event in preparation for the U16 Provincial Camp, which is the final and most important showcase before the WHL Bantam Draft. They are relatively healthy and in great shape after a long season but even with all of these extra tournaments and camps, they found themselves in a situation where the last 5-7 days pre-camp, they were without quality ice-time. It is definitely NOT the situation you want to find yourself days before what could arguably be considered your most important showcase of a young career.

So I have found myself quickly organizing an extra skate or two in the coming days to help bridge the gap. I started doing this a few years back with my pro clients and I think it will become a staple of my future plans for all of my young amateur clients and prospects. Essentially we just want an up-tempo skate where they can get rid of the rust and maintain their already fine tuned conditions. Its not about bag skating or putting them in a position where they might get injured, it’s ALL about taking care of the small details we sometimes overlook when we are only thinking BIG picture. Don’t let a years worth of hard work go to waste because you failed to plan for those last few overlooked days.

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