Over the past two years, on average, I’ve worked with over 120 elite female hockey players per season. Between the Burlington Barracudas high performance program, from Peewee to Junior, and various other university and pro players, I’ve seen a lot of hockey girls roll through the gym.
Through this, I’ve seen successful players (those who progress to the next level) who seem to display the same traits and commonalities time and time again. While a lot of players and parents get wrapped up in physical attributes, I’ve yet to see glaringly obvious physical attributes of girls that progress to the next level, get scholarships, etc. Instead, how players approach the game and their training, appear to be a better predictors of success.
Here’s a couple that can be put into practice daily:
1. Know Your Body
There’s a lot discomfort around talking about girl’s bodies for the sake of extremes. Am I too skinny? Am I too fat? Your body shouldn’t be tied to your self-worth, but awareness of your body is the key that allows successful athletes to optimize their body. While there’s no one type of body that’s expected of hockey girls, knowing your body type and the elements you need to improve will allow you to optimize your body for greater performance.
Maybe you have a bigger frame, and being aware of this means training/eating to prevent extra pounds. Or you’re the skinny type that needs to place an emphasis on getting stronger and training to add muscle. Regardless, this starts with awareness.
2. Set Your Own Goals and Own These
All of the most successful players I have trained knew the exact two or three goals they wanted to accomplish in the gym, and the impact these goals would have on their game. They routinely asked about how our training could help achieve these (see point 4).
Whenever they deviated from our program or added extra work, they were doing things that would support these goals. Not sure what your off-ice goals are? See the previous point.
What do you need to optimize to become a better hockey player?
3. Focus (on Strength and Performance)
It’s great you follow 30 different fitness models on Instagram, no doubt they can serve as inspiration (especially on a diet) but most of them aren’t battling for a Division I scholarship or accepting an invite to a national team camp.
The successful female players I’ve worked with or know personally are typically intensely focused on their hockey goals and the pursuit of strength and performance.
Every successful player I know brings an intense focus to their training.
One of the demands of the game is strength, and a weak pleayer will either: a) be weeded out of the game playing against bigger, stronger girls (if you want to play NCAA especially), or b) get beat up, worn down and injured.
To get strong you need to lift heavy weights. 150 reps of glute kickbacks or air squats won’t do this. You need to train purposefully like an athlete. Squat. Deadlift. Hip Trust. Adding weight to the bar is the most tried and trusted method of getting stronger.
4. Learn, Ask, Question
I found this trend after my first year coaching girls. The most successful on-ice players were the ones who communicated with me the most (note: this doesn’t mean the loudest in the room). These girls would ask questions consistently, typically during a break or after the session, with the purpose of learning as much as possible about their training and how they could get the most out of it.
Your most valuable development tools:
“How can I improve _____”
“What can I do for _____”
If you’re just starting out, focus on learning movement. Movement is king. If you can learn high quality movements, you’ll be safer in the gym and will begin building a bullet proof body on the ice. Starting out, it’s helpful to work with a coach (and ask him/her lots!) but there’s also tons of online content.
You can also take responsibility of your own training by learning about strength and conditioning and the process from other players, coaches, articles, etc.
This trait trumps the rest.
Typically, within the first session with a new team, I can pick out the best players. This isn’t some super-scout claim, it’s just the consist correlation between talent and work ethic.
The most successful players are the hardest-working players in almost every scenario. It’s difficult to find an elite player (who stays an elite player for very long) that doesn’t have an obsessive-like work ethic. Saying this, the level of work ethic is accelerated at every level and the same level of work that made a midget player successful won’t be enough to be a successful junior player. I wrote a separate article about exponential work ethic here.
This undeniably appears to be the most consist trait elite girls bring to the gym.
In conclusion, how many of these are you putting into practice now?
What you bring to training or practice is crucial to how much you’re going to get out of it. If you need help with these, reach out to your coach. They’ve made an investment in choosing you for their team and want you to succeed. Also feel free to reach out to me personally. Regardless, pursue better daily.
Article and images reprinted with permission from Kyle Kokotailo
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