It's a well known fact that hockey is a very difficult sport to play, let alone excel at. One must master the art of skating on 2 thin blades while being able to pass, shoot, and deflect a small object past a goalie into a net. Not to mention the level of anticipation required to be in the right place at the right time and reacting quick enough to different situations to make the right play. Unlike other sports where there are many stoppages throughout the course of play, hockey can go on for several minutes before there is ever a stoppage in play.
A hockey season is quite long compared to other team sports and in most cases lasts about 7-8 months (or in some cases more!). Simple math tells us that is about 2/3rds of the entire year.
A rather large percentage of the year!
During those 7-8 months teams are practicing anywhere from 1 to 4 times per week and playing 1-2 games while also playing tournaments.
One area that is generally lacking during the season is continued skill development and off-ice training.
In a team setting, it is more difficult to progress an individual player's skillset. It is easier, more effective, and more efficient to progress when players train in smaller groups or in a 1-on-1 setting.
For most players, their training off the ice is to shoot pucks and do general bodyweight exercises. For all intent and purposes this will always be better than doing nothing at all, but you are far better off working with a coach periodically and then working on your own. The techniques and skills learned from the coach can be implemented into your own training at home and thus will be extremely effective. Apply the compound effect and over the course of an entire season a player can make massive strides in their overall development.
I've heard these lines from many players over the years and that is "my coach told me to shoot X amount of pucks" or "I shoot X amount of pucks each day". Now there's nothing inherently wrong with that, however, it’s probably not benefiting you nearly as much if you were to hone in on a specific type of shot and focused more on the quality of each individual shot as. opposed to the quantity of shots.
As the great shooting coach Tim Turk says..
"It's not about how fast you can shoot 10 pucks. It's about how fast you can shoot ONE puck 10 times."
Which leads me to the main topic of this post, in season training.
Why is it important?
If we refer back to the length of time a hockey season typically is (~8 months) you can see you'd be missing out on a significant amount of time you could be using to get better if all you did was train in the offseason.
For that reason alone it makes sense to train during the season.
Another reason is that team practices typically don't offer much from a skill development standpoint. Coaches are busy with drawing up drills that focus on team oriented outcomes. Breakouts, line rushes, zone play, special teams, positioning, etc all take precedent over an individual’s skill development. We could sit here and argue about how teams should be focusing more on individual skills rather than team drills, but this is typically what we see with most teams.
This isn't to say that all coaches run their practices like that. Some do a great job incorporating skill development drills into their practice plans. It just doesn't make much sense to spend time working on specific skills such as stickhandling technique or wrist shot mechanics on a large sheet of ice that you're paying a lot amount of money for.
Training during the season doesn't have to be anything too intense, nor should it be.
But it should be consistent!
No one gets better by putting in 4 hours of work one week, taking 2 weeks off, and then putting in another 4 hours. You would get a lot farther in your development by splitting up those 8 hours evenly throughout those 4 weeks.
This goes for both skill development and your off-ice training. As adults, we know (or should know) that in order to maintain a certain level of fitness and strength we must exercise multiple times every week. No one makes significant progress by going hard for one week, taking a few weeks off, and then going hard again.
The main thing I want you to come away with from reading this is that you should be training during the season. Not only because it's not very smart to take 8 months off from developing skills, but because there is a huge opportunity to make drastic improvements throughout the season. With most teams having their tryouts in the spring nowadays, it's even more vital to ensure that you're doing everything you can to get better during the season.
Above all else, it has to be consistent.
Most of the players we train during the seasons are coming in only once per week. What we've seen over the year is that it's enough to further their development throughout the year, but not so much that it impacts their ability to complete homework, participate in other recreational activities, and of course attend their own teams practices and games.
If you'd like to see what our in season training looks like, we offer private (1-on-1), semi-private (2-3 players), and run several in-season programs that are one session each week.
For more details on private or semi-private training, click here.
If you're interested in one of our in-season programs, click here.