A couple days ago I outlined the entire testing process we went through recently with the Philadelphia Flyers Junior Team. This included everything from test selection through implementation, and how we coordinated everything to ensure we got the most valid information, without overlooking the main intent of the camp: to prepare the players for the season. If you missed that post, you can check it out here: Off-Ice Testing
Today I want to follow up on that post by sharing how I convey this information to the players. One of the great things about this level is that it’s a developmental league. While there is no doubt there is an expectation (and a desire) to win, ultimately the goal is to develop the players to be successful at the next level. This is important because it means the kids are hungry for information that will help them become better players, which feeds into both why we tested the things we did, and how we’re going to use that information.
I’ve been collecting information on our off-season hockey group for years. The majority of the time, the information was purely mobility based and was used to drive our corrective exercise and technique modifications throughout the Summer. I think two big mistakes I made in the past was that I didn’t fully explain to players why this information mattered (e.g. how it would affect their performance or durability), and I didn’t show them how they improved following any of the work they did. Despite most players trusting me, there’s something about seeing the off-ice testing data that is very powerful. For that reason, I have developed “Player Cards” to convey testing data to all of our players. These player cards take two forms:
This is only something I’ve used with this junior team and not with our off-season kids, as a lot of what I include in this sheet isn’t relevant for a diverse group that will leave to go play on different teams and at different levels. On this sheet, all of the individual’s testing information is presented in an organized, fairly simple manner. Players are also presented with the top performance and how their test ranked, both in terms of their position and for the team as a whole.
If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you likely know that I don’t think comparing players based solely on testing data is very efficacious. The best players aren’t always the most remarkable off the ice (especially at this age), and the true ranking of players should be done ON the ice. That said, I think there is value in using a ranking system as a means of communicating areas of improvement to players. If a player is dead last in their average shuttle time and has the team’s worst body fat percentage, that could open the door to a conversation on how improving his nutrition could improve his conditioning. Similarly, if a player has the teams lowest (or near lowest) vertical jump, and the coach tells me the biggest factor holding the player back is his speed/explosiveness on the ice, this allows me to communicate to the player how these things could be related and will help with getting the player to buy-in to the program. A testing score, in isolation, really doesn’t mean a whole lot in most cases. By putting things in context of the rest of the group, it provides a “this is where you are relative to other players at your level” that is easy for players to understand, and in many cases very motivational.
You can check out a sample of this sheet here: Sample Player Testing Sheet
You’ll see that I also include a notes section at the bottom. I use this section to convey the top “red flags” or areas to work one that I pick up from the testing sheet. Given the amount of information on these sheets, it’s easy for a player to become overwhelmed or misinterpret some information. For example, if one of our mobility assessments is identified as being “Limited”, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on the results of the other tests and on the player. Jotting down a few notes at the bottom streamlines the player’s attention to what he should be focusing his efforts on in the immediate future.
As I mentioned before, players want to know they’re making progress. In addition to some periodic monitoring throughout the Summer, we retested everything we did at the beginning of the Summer with all of our players. This information is set-up into a basic excel spreadsheet with all the body comp and mobility information from each testing period (pre- and post-Summer) pooled on one sheet, and all the performance testing pooled on another. As a group, this allows me to sit down and sift through all the numbers to make sure that the group as a whole is moving in the right direction, which can influence future programming considerations. I then take all of this information and divide it up into individual spreadsheets so I can just add future testing sessions as a new row each testing bout.
This allows me to easily track progress for a player and adjust future programs when necessary. It also allows me to put an individual’s testing results within context. For example, we had a player on the junior team whose vertical jump test was toward the bottom of the team. Naturally, it would be easy for the player to look at that information and become discouraged. However, this player put on 10 lbs of lean mass and added 4″ to his vertical in the 3 months he trained with us this off-season. Even though he’s toward the bottom end of the team, he’s made remarkable progress since he started.
This Summer, I emailed all of these sheets out to players and highlighted a few things that they should be proud of, and a few things that they should continue to focus on during the year. With this, players are able to see their progress as well as have an indication of where to focus their efforts moving forward.
In the next post, I’ll discuss how I present the testing information to the coaching staff and how I use this information to drive programming decisions. Check back tomorrow and please post your comments below!
To your success,
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Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.