Although an imminent lockout will probably delay the NHL season for a couple months (dammit!), hockey seasons at the amateur level are still getting under way all around the country.
The beginning of the new season also means performance testing for a lot of those teams at the youth level. Performance testings have been around for a long time as a way to monitor progress, and (whether it’s right or not) to compare kids to each other. The goal is to monitor the progress throughout the season, but also to monitor the progress the kids made during the off-season, assuming they have been tested on those same performance tests at the end of the previous season.
If you look a little more in depth at what “monitoring progress” means, we want to ask ourselves the question: what are we measuring in the first place? Performance is way too vague of a term in this situation to limit the answer to that.
This could be looked at from 2 different perspectives (and I’ll explain what I mean a little later).
The first perspective we can take is the one of the performance enhancement coach, which is the most obvious one for most of you reading this post. In this situation, what we measure is different factors, or qualities that affect performance. This is where we need to get more specific because this is ultimately what will dictate the actual tests that we’ll use. For example, one could decide that strength, power, anaerobic power, lactic power, and aerobic capacity are the most appropriate performance qualities to measure with a given team in a given sport.
Based on those specific qualities you’ll then want to choose tests that will give you data that will appropriately represent the qualities you are measuring. Once you have your system in place (performance qualities, and specific tests to use), the next step is to perform those tests on the players, and establish what intervals you want to test your athletes at. For example, you might want to test your athletes at the beginning of the season, mid-season, and at the end of the season every year. That would give you a good idea of the in-season, as well as off-season progress for all of the players.
After running players through the performance tests, the next logical step is to put together a periodization plan, as well as designing specific training programs to improve those qualities, since they are the ones you judged relevant to your sport. It’s a lot of work, and there are hundreds of ways to go about this when you take into consideration all the different periodization models, and training methods out there.
Periodization can look a little confusing at times…
It’s by trial and error that you’ll find out what works well for your athletes, what needs to be adjusted, and what needs to be eliminated from the program. As you get more experienced, you’ll refine your approach; that might mean changing the qualities to develop, the performance tests to use, the periodization model you’re using, the training methods, the exercises, etc, etc, etc.
This approach seems pretty simple. And as Dan John would put it: simple doesn’t mean easy. What I mean is that all you’re trying to do is improve specific, measurable performance qualities in your athletes. It’s a simple, but not necessarily easy.
The man. The legend.
Now let’s take it from that other perspective I was talking about earlier. This is often going to be the perspective of a coach.
You want fast, strong, powerful, and well conditioned players, but ultimately you want players who perform well on the ice! And this is when performance enhancement becomes a little more tricky. There are other factors who come into play when we talk about on-ice, or on-field performance. Your skill level, the players you play with, the role your coach gives you on the team, and the psychological factor are all important factors that directly impact the game.
So what exactly is performance enhancement? Is it improving specific qualities in the hope that everything will fall in place once the athlete steps on the ice, or the field? Or is it simply improving performance (goals, assist, touchdown passes, etc) in a sport-specific context?
In the end, this is what matters.
Realistically developing specific qualities will contribute to develop a better athlete that has more chance to perform well in a sport-specific context, that’s a no-brainer.
But what if you have a player who keeps getting stronger, and more powerful in the weight room, but doesn’t seem to be improving on the ice. What can you do as a performance enhancement coach? Is there something you can do to help your athlete? Can we bridge the gap?
Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is…My will to help my athletes make me not want to stop there and say: “oh well he needs to work on his skills (or his mental skills, or whatever); he got stronger, I did my job.” Ultimately I want all of my athletes to do well in their sport before anything else; I could care less that he can deadlift 450, if he’s a healthy scratch for a half of the season.
I just know that there is more to developing an athlete than just developing his physical qualities. And I don’t want to sit there and wait to see what happens.
I would appreciate your thoughts and feedback on the subject. Please leave a comment below!