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Look For This in an Off-Ice Training Program

By Dan Pollard, 02/25/20, 2:30PM EST


How to avoid injury and build up athleticism properly

Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa Photography

Like all sports, hockey provides an environment where children can be active in a safe, positive environment. Using athletics to build on basic movement skills is crucial for later in life. Understanding what to do, doing it correctly and when the best time for it is can help players avoid injury. It provides a foundation for what can be strengthened as players grow older.

A former strength and conditioning coach with the Anaheim Ducks, Mark Fitzgerald has worked with athletes of all ages, sports and skill levels. He says those looking into off-ice training programs should start around when kids are entering high school to take advantage of the physical changes in the body. Before then, the focus should be more on movement and athleticism instead of strength training.

“There are some things that will help that transition or introduction be easier. In my opinion it’s an exposure to multiple sports, multiple movements, moving in different plains. That is kind of the recipe that will aid in the uptake of training,” said Fitzgerald.

What Fitzgerald looks for in his kid’s sports experience is to be active and have fun. For him, it’s that simple.

“What is important to me is that they love sport and love being active and love playing and everything that comes with being a part of a sport. Whether it’s an individual sport athlete or a team setting. The team setting is very important, it’s a socialization aspect, there’s a lot of other good things that come from that. At the end of the day I just want my children to love being active and healthy.”

Fitzgerald calls Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf, a player he has worked with over the last five years, one of the best athletes he’s ever seen. Getzlaf can throw a football 40 yards, was a high-end baseball player and consistently finishes in the top 10 on the team’s fitness testing. He trains in a way that improves his overall athleticism, founded by his exposure to different sports growing up when the skates would be put away.

“If you have a hockey athlete who can improve certain aspects of their athleticism, it’s going to translate. I’ve seen it firsthand. I’ve also seen it where I’ve had NHL hockey players that can’t throw a football. Not that they can’t throw it 10 yards, they can’t even actually throw it.”

Kids can still love to train and understand how their body moves. This early relationship with fitness is a knowledge of what it entails and why your body benefits from it. It’s not to train for a specific sport but to be healthy and active. Knowing the basics of body movement – plant, pivot, change of direction, sprint work, acceleration and deceleration naturally trains the body on its own to recognize tension and torque. The sport-specific training can come at a more age-appropriate time.

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Dan Pollard is the host of Breakaway, The Minor Hockey Podcast. His passion for hockey led him to volunteer as a coach and administrator while his professional career has allowed him to cover the game at various levels with CBC, Sportsnet, the NHL Network and TSN. You can currently hear Dan every morning on 105.5 Hits FM in Uxbridge.

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