Part 1 of the “Youth Hockey Training Blueprint” series presented a real-world example of the environment and philosophy by which a youth hockey organization off-ice training program was designed. Part 2 picks up with age-specific training principles and guidelines, and provides examples of the exact dynamic warm-ups we use for these teams. Enjoy!
In general, age-specific recommendations follow the progressions outlined in the athletic development pyramid below. The goal is to create a solid foundation of proper movement patterns and sound training habits, upon which elite level athleticism can be built.
Athletic Development Pyramid
The Athletic Development Pyramid can be expanded to include the following long-term development recommendations:
These age groups are simply general guidelines based on average physical and psychosocial development rates. To paraphrase my mentor Mike Boyle, it’s important that we don’t apply adult values to youth sports programs. The importance of having fun should not be overlooked in the development process.
In accordance with these guidelines, teams within the organization can be segmented into different groups with distinct, but inter-related training goals. In this case, divisions were made as follows:
Based on the included ages and the respective training backgrounds of the players in each group, the purpose or goal of each group’s program can be determined, which will dictate the design of their program:
GROUP A (’02’00)
GROUP B (’99-’97)
GROUP C (16U-18U)
These divisions are also ideal from a scheduling standpoint. In this organization, teams around the same age group have similar practice days and times, which caused time slots on specific days with multiple teams having the exact same off-ice training time slot. Because these overlapping teams fall in the same “Group”, it’s possible to combine them into one larger group for training purposes.
Developing Proper Training Habits
A common theme in the program of each group is to develop proper training habits. While this may differ slightly among groups, in general this refers to:
While some of these qualities should develop organically via the training process, many of the players don’t have a sufficient understanding of the importance of soft-tissue and flexibility work, and warming up. As a result, we place a lot of attention on these things early on so that players begin to internalize these practices as beneficial and necessary, not as a hassle easily bypassed.
With the two older groups (B & C), our warm-up is as follows:
When captains are named at each team, they are notified that after the first month they will be expected to run their team’s warm-up. This gives them the knowledge and confidence to implement the warm-up before practices and games when a member of our staff is not present.
For the younger teams (Group A), we use a slightly modified version of this warm-up:
The same static stretch circuit is used but performed at the conclusion of the off-ice session instead of the beginning. In our experience, younger kids tend to lose focus quickly if immediately put into a static environment. We prefer to get the kids in organized lines and moving immediately, and approach the flexibility work later in the session. From a myofascial standpoint, an argument can be made for the benefits of static flexibility work at the beginning and end of a training session; the timing of this work is less important than just ensuring that it gets done.
Stay tuned for Part 3 which will present training templates and our approach to periodization for each age group!
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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.