Kevin Neeld — Hockey Training, Sports Performance, & Sports Science

Hockey Training Random Thoughts

It’s been a busy few weeks for us at Endeavor as almost all of our players are back at this point. It’s been a fun off-season already, as we’ve had a couple special situations of early arrivals, short-term training availability, combine prep, etc. I’ve been more stringent in re-assessing and tracking various qualities as time goes by so it’s been interesting to see how our players respond/progress through the various phases. A few random thoughts that have come up the last few weeks:

  1. It’s been neat to see how some players resting heart rate and heart rate variability shift dramatically toward more ideal levels after a 3-4 week aerobic oriented phase, and how some players have gained ~15 degrees of rotation arc in their hips after 3-4 weeks, presumably because of the corrective work we’ve prescribed. I talked a little more about some of the other early results we’ve seen with some of our off-season programs in a previous post: Off-Season Hockey Training Programs
  2. It’s always nice to have evidence that players are adapting in the direction you want, but it’s also valuable to learn when players are NOT adapting, which allows a deeper thought process as to what may be limiting the adaptation. For example, many of our players continue to have limited ankle mobility, despite putting a strong focus on improving dorsiflexion ROM across several weeks. For some players, it’s definitely a tracking issue and some targeted soft-tissue work and different mobilizations may do the trick. For others, I strongly believe they have a structural deviation of the ankle mortice that limits this ROM, similar to how FAI limits hip flexion ROM. For more information on ankle mobility, check out these two old (but still very current) articles from Carson Boddicker: Alleviating Ailing Ankles, Alleviating Ailing Ankles II
  3. I got an email from a parent of a 9-year old wondering why his son plays with such an observable drive during practice, but seems much more timid in games. This is something I imagine many parents with young athletes in all sports wonder. The first thing that comes to mind is that the player is 9, and it really doesn’t matter, as long as he’s having fun. The second thing, which is very related, is that the player is likely performing at a higher level in practice because he feels free to play and try new things without the pressures of in-game consequence. If you try a new move and fail in practice, it doesn’t matter; no one is keeping score. In fact, that is the point of practice. In a game, especially in the win-at-most-costs culture we’ve created for our youth athletes, the stakes are much higher and the player is probably thinking (consciously or subconsciously) that it’s better to avoid making mistakes than the potential reward of succeeding at something more risky. This really highlights the importance of rewarding behavior, and not outcomes. Encourage kids to be creative AND to make mistakes. No one cares if you win when you’re 9.
  4. Today alone, we had two examples of HRV values showing “red flags” that have allowed us to alter our programming to allow a player to recover better. One case was related to too much fun over the weekend; the other simply needed a longer recovery period from a previous phase. In both cases, the player completely understood why we needed to change things and values the fact that we’re individualizing things to allow for the most optimal adaptation. I’m working on ways to build HRV monitoring into the programs of all of our 4-day/week players, as I strongly believe that this simple measure provides a powerful indicator of the individual’s current adaptation capacity, and the state of their autonomic nervous system. If you’re unfamiliar with HRV, I’d encourage you to read this post: BioForce Heart Rate Variability
  5. Because I’ve written a lot about Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI) and have worked with number of athletes that were surgical candidates, were post-surgery, or are in an “at-risk” population, I get emails almost weekly from people suffering from FAI symptoms that are looking for advice. While I think it can be valuable to do some reading online to better understand what may be driving your dysfunction, it’s EXTREMELY difficult to self-treat injuries, especially those involving structural changes. It’s equally difficult to diagnose injuries over the internet. I can’t understate the importance/value of seeking out a quality health care professional for a thorough assessment. I work closely with a few guys in our area that we send athletes to regularly when I need another set of eyes or if they require manual/treatment skills that I don’t possess. If you’re a S&C professional, build a network of physical therapists, chiropractors, and functional medicine/osteopath/naturopath physicians in your area. Not only can they be a good source of referrals, but sending a client to the right professional at the right time is a great way to stimulate more word of mouth marketing. For everyone else, the same mentality is still valuable; build a healthcare team in your area. It’s the best way to manage your own health and performance.

I have a lot of other random thoughts floating around my head, but our afternoon groups are starting and I have a couple players to assess! Until next time…

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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  • Kevin – great advice on the need for S&C professionals to find a network of good PT’s to work with. In the old days we could train athletes right in the PT clinic facility and do some amazing things working together. HIPPA regs have moved us out of the facitity but I still have a “go to ” PT who is cutting edge and awesome. It makes for better design and inividualization of training sessions and cycles. It keeps players healthier as we catch little things sooner and it gives players and parents great confidence and a sense of relief when we can work together to assess and resolve and issue. Another added benefit – through the process of working with a good PT the players become much more aware of their body. Many of our older female atheltes will now come in and say they can feel their hips arent’ right and nine times out of ten our PT will confirm, adjust and prescribe next steps in our training. Sorry to go on so long but I wish more S&C folks worked in concert with PT’s.

  • Josh Goreham

    Interesting stuff once again Kevin. I really enjoy the HRV information. Keep it up!

  • I was wondering in regards to HRV monitors, did you go out and grab a couple units and just check your athletes one at a time or do you have many? I’m just trying to figure out if a coach can get away with a minimal amount to start with too keep costs down. I like these short randoms, helpful.

  • Tim-Thanks for your comments. There are a decent number of S&C folks that work closely with good PTs. It’s a two-way street. The training and rehab professionals need to have a mutual respect for one another and possess a common language, in my opinion, to really make things work. I still think many PTs think training professionals are idiots, and vice versa in some cases (sometimes accurately). It’s not always easy to find a good relationship, but if you’re proactive it can certainly happen!

  • Thanks Josh.

  • Scott-I think some information is better than no information, but to use the HRV stuff the best way, everyone really needs their own system. I’m working on building a BioForce into the cost of our programs (at least for our off-season hockey kids). I think you may be able to get away with just using a couple with the guys that train in the morning, but the later in the day the measurements are made, the more confounding variables that can influence the measurement. Best strategy is to have them take the measurement at home within 30 minutes of waking up every day.

Kevin Neeld

Kevin Neeld Knows Hockey

Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He spent the last 7 years as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ, the last 3 of which he was also the Strength and Conditioning Coach and Manual Therapist for the Philadelphia Flyers Junior Team. Kevin is in his 5th year as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s National Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey .