Last week I had an opportunity to do an interview with Jeff Angus, which he posted on his site a few days later.

Angus Certified

Check out the interview here >> Hockey and Performance Training Interview

In the interview, I covered a pretty wide range of topics, including:

  1. Common structural and functional limitations in ice hockey players, including startling statistics that were born both out of research and out of the assessments we do with our athletes
  2. The three exercises we use with everyone to help improve ankle mobility (limited in almost every athlete, but especially hockey players)
  3. A sample dynamic warm-up
  4. Advice for up and coming strength and conditioning coaches
  5. How I would redesign the NHL combine

Check out the interview here >> Hockey and Performance Training Interview

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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A few weeks ago, we were very fortunate to have an opportunity to host Ron Hruska teaching the Cervical-Cranio-Mandibular Restoration course at our training facility Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ.

PRI Cervical-Cranio-Mandibular Restoration

Prior to this most recent course I had taken Myokinematic Restoration (twice), Postural Respiration (twice), Pelvis Restoration, Impingements & Instabilities (I&I), Advanced Integration, Postural-Visual Integration, and sat for the PRT, since first diving into PRI in 2010.  I tend to take courses for one or more of three major reasons:

  1. Attain information or develop a skill set that I can implement immediately
  2. Satisfy an immediate intellectual curiosity
  3. Recognizing that the information may not make any sense to me now, but it’s another important piece of the puzzle and taking it now may facilitate a light bulb moment years in the future

The CCMR course really satisfied all three criteria, and frankly, I left feeling like I should have taken the course a year or two earlier. Working in a training setting that deals with a lot of hockey players, I took my first course as a means of finding better information to prevent common hip injuries. I continued taking courses because I left each course with a sense of there being more to the picture. Simply, I could tell there was much more to the picture than the musculoskeletal system, and while I heard things like “it’s all neuro” in I&I, I didn’t feel like I appreciated the full concept of how integrated the patterns taught in the introductory courses are with every other bodily system until the CCMR course.

A few take homes from the course:

1)   There are cranium and jaw correlates to the pelvis. In CCMR, you’ll hear Ron say things like “you have iliac bones in your head, and you have temporal bones in your pelvis.” Often times these analogies are meant to make you think (can you follow him down the rabbit hole?), but they’re also great teaching tools. If you feel comfortable with the myokin material, you’ll be able to track the CCMR course material, even if you don’t feel as comfortable with the anatomy of the neck and head.

2)   The patterns taught in the introductory courses are body wide. If you think of everything in terms of gait patterns, it’s easier to appreciate how a change in foot position may change shoulder range of motion, as each phase of the gait cycle is associated with changes in musculoskeletal positions throughout the entire body. This explains why a cue like “find your left heel or right arch” may improve right HG (shoulder) IR. Relevant to the CCMR course, it’s important to recognize that these patterns don’t just stop at the thorax; they continue up through the neck, cranium, and jaw. As with the above example, this helps explain why changing a bite may influence loading through the foot. Ron discussed several examples of how a sub-optimal bite can influence body wide patterns and how simply interrupting the sensory input from this bite can shift the entire system. There are clear correlates here to foot orthotics. The goal is to find the primary driver for any given individual’s pattern and address that. The CCMR course provides a few new assessments, manual techniques and exercises to help find and address top-down drivers, but it also provides a new perspective on how to view the entire system.

3)   PRI, as a whole, is heavily based around controlling autonomics and sensory input. There are several reasons why someone may get “stuck” in a pattern. In my mind, the more obvious ones are pattern overuse (e.g. sitting at a desk shifted into your right hip for 8 hours a day for a decade), and injury (e.g. a left ankle sprain may cause someone to shift their weight to the right). Maybe less obvious is the idea that any trigger that shifts someone into a chronic pattern of excessive sympathetic tone could also result in them being stuck in a pattern. This could be a sub-optimally functioning visual or auditory system, insufficient sleep time or poor sleep quality, excessive work/relationship stress, etc. While I haven’t heard Ron say this directly, I think you could justify taking steps to improve someone’s sleep as a “PRI program”. Maybe more holistically, failing to address prominent lifestyle triggers may be hampering the individual’s progress within a rehabilitative or preventative program.

Of all the PRI courses, this one gave me the best perspective of PRI’s evolution and the totality of integration in which they’re viewing the human system. If you’re on the fence about taking the course, I would strongly encourage you to register. CCMR is more than a head/neck/jaw course; it’s an integration course, and in my opinion, one of the best ones they offer!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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Last week I got an email from a guy with a ton of hockey and teaching experience asking about skating treadmill protocols. I haven’t written much about skating treadmills. I stopped using the one at our old facility because I was working to get players to skate LESS in the off-season, especially in the first few months, in an effort to unload the skating musculature and avoid issues related to perpetual overuse. In fact, I think the only time I’ve approached the topic was here: The Truth About Skating Treadmill

If you have access to a skating treadmill, I would encourage you to view training on it within two major buckets:

  1. Improving the forward skating position and pattern
  2. Improving some target physiological quality

Me at our old facility. Took a while to (literally) shake the rust off, but I didn’t have to superman inside of the harness so overall not a bad day out!
This has nothing to do with anything, but it came up when I was searching for the old skating treadmill video and…it’s…awesome.
Related to the first point, there are very basic skating points that even elite players need to be reminded of periodically. I’ve discussed these in more detail in Breakaway Hockey Speed (which you can get for FREE by signing up for my free newsletter on the left sidebar of this page), but to get you thinking:

  1. What is the lowest skating depth the player can achieve while maintaining a flat back?
  2. Is the player recovering their stride leg under their body? On both sides?
  3. Is the player fully extending the stride leg, ending by pushing through the toe?
  4. Does the player have an appropriate arm swing with a forward and slightly inward reach to counterbalance the diagonal nature of the stride leg?
  5. Does the player demonstrate stability and control of the torso/head?

Optimal Skating Stance

Most of the time, you’ll find one or more of these areas that could be improved. As with any training pattern or exercise, it’s important players learn to skate well before they are put under increased training loads (higher inclines, higher speeds, longer durations, etc.). Naturally, they won’t perfect the skating stride in a single-session, but if they aren’t a proficient skater, the primary focus should be on improving their skating pattern. If you’re interested in more information on developing optimal skating technique, check out these posts:

  1. Limitations to Optimal Skating Performance
  2. A 3-Step Approach to Improving Stride Length
  3. 3 Keys to Developing Optimal Skating Technique

Once a player demonstrates competency in their skating stride, you can focus more on training in a way that elicits very specific training adaptations.  Think of the skating treadmill similar to running; you can alter your pace, duration, work:rest ratios, etc. to alter the specific adaptation you’re after. As an easy example, trotting at a steady state for 30 minutes may be an effective method to improve cardiac output, whereas sprinting for 6 seconds with full recovery may be an effective method to improve alactic power (the rate at which your body can produce energy using primarily anaerobic alactic energy systems). To be a little more specific, you can break down energy system work into 3 primary buckets:

  1. Alactic: Maximum efforts <12 seconds
  2. Lactic: Maximum and slightly sub-maximal efforts lasting 30-90 seconds
  3. Aerobic: Submaximal efforts lasting longer than 2 minutes

It’s important to acknowledge that all of these systems are always working to some extent during all activity. The time references above are simply meant as a general guideline to help illustrate the dominant energy system. It’s also important to recognize that the amount of rest given after each effort will dictate the emphasized energy system. For example, 10s of all out work followed by 3 minutes of rest would emphasize alactic power. In contrast, 10s of all out work followed by 20s of rest, repeated for multiple reps would quickly transition south on the above list, eventually being a largely aerobic activity.

After reading Joel Jamieson’s book Ultimate MMA Conditioning a couple years ago, I just made an excel sheet with various training methods and their intended adaptations within specific energy systems. We do almost NO lactic work until the last 2-3 weeks of the off-season with our hockey players, as they spend their entire season exposed to significant amounts of lactate.

For most of players, their off-season energy systems work will follow a progression similar to one of these two broad scenarios:

1)   Poor Fitness

  1. Phase 1: Aerobic
  2. Phase 2: Aerobic
  3. Phase 3: Alactic Power/Aerobic
  4. Phase 4: Alactic Capacity/Aerobic

2)   Good Fitness

  1. Phase 1: Aerobic
  2. Phase 2: Alactic Power/Aerobic
  3. Phase 3: Alactic Power/Alactic Capacity
  4. Phase 4: Alactic Capacity/Lactic Capacity

We’ll spend more time in certain phases and return to methods from previous phases depending upon time, and the training emphasis for the given day.

With all of this in mind, and recognizing that certain methods (e.g. 5 minute Lactate Threshold Intervals) don’t really lend themselves well to working with multiple athletes at one time, which is the reality of most of these situations, there are a few specific methods that I would recommend on the skating treadmill.


  1. Low Incline, Low Speed: 2 rounds of 8-12 reps of 30s on, 60s off
  2. Low-Medium Incline, Medium Speed: 2 rounds of 8-12 reps of 10-15s @70-80% effort, with 60s rest
  3. Low-Medium Incline, Medium Speed: 6-8 reps of 90s on, 90s off*

Alactic Power

  1. Low Incline, Max Speed: 2 rounds of 6-10 reps of 6-10s on w/ complete recovery (e.g. 1-2 minutes)
  2. Moderate Incline, Near Max Speed: 2 rounds of 6-10 reps of 6-10s on w/ complete recovery (e.g. 1-2 minutes)

Alactic Capacity

  1. Low Incline, Max Speed: 2 rounds of 8-12 reps of 8-15s on, going every 60s
  2. Moderate Incline, Near Max Speed: 2 rounds of 8-12 reps of 8-15s on, going every 60s

*This is absolutely brutal and not suitable by most athletes.

In a perfect world, the athletes would all have heart rate monitors on so you could monitor their recovery to ensure they aren’t surpassing their anaerobic threshold (AnT) in the lower level aerobic work (Options 1&2), that they’re building up to a Max HR during the 3rd aerobic option, and that they’re recovering fully during the alactic power work (typically an HR < ~130 beats per minute). This is reallyt he only way to be sure that the athletes are in fact training the energy systems you’re targeting. That said, I realize this isn’t possible for everyone and using the time intervals above will provide a pretty good guideline for most players. If the goal is to maximize recovery, err on the side of giving them more rest.

You can parlay these methods into different specific training goals. For example, alactic power work with shorter intervals can be thought of as maximum acceleration work. Longer alactic power intervals can be thought of as speed endurance. Having a larger incline will necessitate a faster stride rate, whereas flatter inclines will allow for longer stride lengths. With this in mind, higher inclines may be more appropriate for training the body position and stride pattern associated with initial accelerations from a standstill, whereas lower inclines may be better for training the body position and stride pattern associated with top-end speed. In addition to being great methods for developing the aerobic system, the first two aerobic methods are outstanding options for placing a large emphasis on teaching and refining skating technique.

Selecting which methods you use will depend on the training goals of the athlete and the amount of time you have available to help them reach their goals. You can use the phase-based progressions presented above as a guideline, but I’d also encourage you to use the long-term athletic development recommendations espoused by USA Hockey. I’d also remind you to err on the side of striving for more optimal technique over hammering higher speed work.

 Long-Term Athletic Development-Sensitivity to Training

Hopefully this provides a framework from which you can design appropriate skating treadmill programs specific to the needs of the players you work with. If you have any questions, feel free to post them below!


To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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One of the questions we receive most frequently from parents and coaches about our programs at Endeavor is “Is it sport-specific?” Hopefully, based on the discussions from last week, you recognize that there are a lot of things to consider when helping an athlete improve physically for their sport(s). If you missed the preceding posts, you can check them out here:

  1. Understanding Range of Motion: more is not better
  2. Dissecting Performance Limitations
  3. Assessing and Monitoring Performance Limitations

The interesting thing about the question “Is it sport-specific?” is I don’t think the person asking it really has a firm grasp on what that actually means. Instead, I think there’s this pervasive fear that all athletes will be “trained like football players”, and what they’re really asking is “will this training help better prepare my athlete(s) for their sport?”

As an aside, I think there are worse stereotypes to model on a widescale than football. Football players are known for being among the strongest and most explosive in all sports, they have the longest preparatory off-season, and they have the highest practice:game ratio of all the major sports. If I was going to make a blanket statement, which I understand will be inherently wrong in specific cases, I would say that almost every athlete in every sport would benefit from being stronger, quicker, and more powerful, and from an increased emphasis on preparation and a decreased emphasis on competition.

That notwithstanding, I also don’t know what the parents and coaches asking this question expect to hear as an answer…

“No, we throw a piece of paper for each sport in a hat and randomly draw one to decide what we’ll prepare your athlete for. Hopefully he doesn’t draw polo!”

Using football as an example, consider these questions?

  1. Do quarterbacks, running backs, and offensive lineman have the same needs?
  2. What if the above kids were all 12 years old?
  3. Does an overweight running back with poor fitness have the same needs as a lean running back with great fitness?
  4. Does an explosive running back with poor strength have the same needs as a strong running back with relatively poor power?
  5. Do football players have the same needs during the off- and in-season periods?

Painted in this light, maybe a better question is “will the training be specific to my athlete’s individual goals and needs?”

The reality is that there are several “layers of individualization” that all need to be kept in perspective when designing a program and making recommendations for a specific athlete. The discussion below will highlight several, and provide some insight into the hierarchy of when to prioritize certain qualities.

The first layer of individualization is where the athlete is within the long-term athletic development model. Different age groups are associated with the accelerated development of specific athletic qualities, so it’s important to include an emphasis on these qualities while the kids are in this window. Use the below graph from USA Hockey and the accompanying chart I made for a USA Hockey Level 4 Coaching Clinic presentation a few years back to help guide your decision making. The general thought process here should be selecting training methods to directly train the stage-specific target qualities or to train supporting qualities (e.g. sometimes strength is the limiting factor to speed, so strength training can be viewed as strength training).

Long-Term Athletic Development-Sensitivity to Training

LTAD Model from USA Hockey’s ADM

Sensitivity Periods

Simplified table of sensitive periods for specific qualities at various ages.

2) Gender
Male and female athletes, especially once puberty kicks in, have moderately different needs. While this really depends on the individual (as does everything), female athletes tend to have greater joint laxity, less strength, a greater tolerance for higher volumes of training, and have greater risk of non-contact knee injuries than their male counterparts. There are also differences in coaching methods and motivational sources between genders that need to be accounted for. From a programming standpoint, female athletes may need less flexibility work, more “stability” work, a mildly greater emphasis on strategies to prevent common knee injuries (e.g. ACL tears), and may be able to get away with one more set or 1-2 more reps for each set at any given load percentage. This doesn’t mean that females need an entirely different program, only that slight tweaks may make it more beneficial than using the same strategies for their male counterparts.

Valgus Collapse
This isn’t acceptable for anyone, but we see this type of inward collapse more frequently in female athletes.

3) Sport
Different sports have different movement pattern, neuromuscular drive/force, and energy system requirements that will need to be accounted for in the training process. As a general rule, off-season programs should progress from general to specific in all of these qualities, which will allow for a smooth transition to the pre-season of that sport.

Sumo Wrestling  Earl Boykins

Different training goals for different sports.

4) Position
While many sports share common characteristics among positions, there are also notable differences between some positions within a sport. For example, a football quarterback, kicker, offensive lineman, and cornerback have fairly different needs in terms of their speed, strength, and conditioning. Similarly, a soccer goalie has different needs than a midfielder.

5) Role Within Team
How an athlete is used within a team should influence the way that athlete prepares for the season. For example, if you take a 4th line NHL forward, depending on the team, this guy may play somewhat regular shifts and be used on penalty kills and amass close to 13-15 minutes on average each game. In contrast, another team (or another player on the same team) may only be used sporadically to give the team an energy boost. In the case of the latter, the player would need sufficient conditioning to tolerate the stresses associated with daily practice and travel, and the skill/work capacity to not get killed in a fight (the reality for players in these roles), but would likely benefit from more time spent developing their acceleration, speed, and alactic power. Quite simply, if you’re only on the ice for 15-25s once every 10-15 minutes, you don’t need to have the same conditioning profile as someone playing 30-45s shifts once every 5 minutes. When you play 5 minutes across 3 hours, you’ll probably have a larger impact if you can make a difference with your strength and speed during the 20s you’re out there, opposed to be a little slower, but able to repeat that effort with short rest.

6) Performance Characteristics
Instead of identifying these all separately, it’s fairly intuitive that different athletes will need to have different characteristics regarding acceleration, speed, power, strength, and conditioning to be successful in their sport. This idea is very much encompassed in all of the above ideas. What may not be as obvious, is that all of the above factors can be considered in light of what the athlete currently brings to the table to develop the program that most specifically develops the limiting factor. For example, if the primary limiting factor to be an athlete being more successful is his speed, it’s important to break down speed to the supporting physical qualities: Alignment, mobility, stability, movement pattern efficiency, strength, power/rate of force development. A thorough assessment should identify whether the athlete has an ankle mobility restriction that may be limiting his ability to absorb and transfer force into the ground, he doesn’t run with proper mechanics, his strength is insufficient to support faster running speeds, or he’s strong, but not powerful enough to translate that strength at the required speeds, among others limitations. Once a specific limitation is identified, it’s much easier to target that limitation through specific training.

7) Body Composition
Certain sports and certain positions within sports have certain body composition requirements. I’ve seen very good hockey players be written off as lazy and incompetent because their body fat was 11-12% instead of below the typical standard of 10%. This message has two important lessons: 1) Training programs can be designed to pursue specific body compositions. As a result, training to improve body composition can also be viewed through the lens of how it will improve other qualities (think speed, power, conditioning), not in terms of the training itself, but in terms of how much easier and more efficiently the athlete will move when they’re not carrying around excessive body fat.  2) The perception of an athlete’s work ethic can be tied to their performance strengths/weaknesses (e.g. faster athletes are less likely to be considered lazy in many cases than slower ones), and their body composition. This is interesting because, as with all scenarios, sometimes the athlete with the higher body comp and/or the slower speeds is actually lazy and this stereotype is accurate; sometimes it’s completely off-base and the athlete isn’t one of the fastest and/or leanest because of genetic predispositions. If I’m an athlete, however, I don’t want to give my coach any reason to assume that I’m lazy, which means if I’m not one of the fastest, I would be EXTRA sure to get my body fat below the team standard and make it clear that my performance would not in any way be limited by a lack of effort.

8) Injury History/Predisposition
Training programs can be written to specifically address past injuries to decrease the risk of future injuries. In most cases, this does not need to occur at the expense of other training goals, but simply must be a consideration within a broader program.

Clayton Kershaw  Alex Morgan

Likely to have very different injury predispositions/concerns.

9) Psychological Profile
Simply, the most talented player on the team that is too mentally soft to overcome the “targeting” from opponents and the stress of adverse circumstances common in big games will be of little use to a team. In this context, training that may not fit the physiologically specificity of the sport, but is hard and requires the athlete to dig deep and battle through the challenge may be very appropriate for that individual. Again, I don’t necessarily think this needs to be done at the expense of other training benefits, but I think you can include specific methods within a broader program to provide the athlete with regular opportunities to battle the voice in their head that wants to quit.

Wrapping Up
With all of these factors in mind, there is very clearly more to designing a training program than just considering the needs of a sport. Naturally, it’s not always possible to design the “perfect” program, but I think it’s important to recognize what’s optimal so you can make informed decisions about any compromises you need to make based on logistical factors. As a general rule, I think parents and coaches (and S&C coaches designing programs) should start to think more in terms of “How is this program going to benefit my athlete based on his/her individual needs?” opposed to “Is this sport-specific?” As always, if you have any comments or questions, please post them below!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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The preceding two articles discussed the various limitations to range of motion, and the 8 key factors influencing sport performance, respectively. If you missed them, you can check them out here:

  1. Understanding Range of Motion: More is not better
  2. Dissecting Performance Limitations

Today’s article will build on these by presenting a few simple strategies to assessing and monitoring key performance factors. As a quick review, these 8 major factors were:

  1. Genetic Capacity
  2. Movement Capacity
  3. Physical Capacities
  4. Technical Skill
  5. Tactical Abilities
  6. Fuel State
  7. Psychology
  8. Readiness

You can further bucket these concepts by their modifiability and whose responsibility it is to assess and modify them:

  1. Nonmodifiable: Genetic capacity (although if you eat, live, and train like garbage your epigenetics will express the worst version of you possible…so this can be negatively modified I suppose)
  2. Sport Coach Modifiable: Technical Skill, Tactical Abilities
  3. Support Staff Modifiable: Movement Capacity, Physical Capacities, Fuel State, Psychology, Readiness

Because of the positions I work in (Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance, Strength and Conditioning Coach/Manual Therapist for the Philadelphia Flyers Junior Team and Assistant S&C Coach with the US Women’s National Team), I tend to focus on those that fall within the “Support Staff Modifiable” column, as these are the ones I have the ability to influence. Below is a list of assessments that can be used for each of these categories:

Movement Capacity: Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA), Functional Movement Screen, Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) tests, Y-Balance Test, traditional orthopedic assessments for range of motion (We use seated hip rotation, lying shoulder rotation at 90° abduction, FABER, Quadruped Rock, Craig’s Test, and Seated T-Spine Rotation). Within these options, SFMA is most appropriate for an individual in pain, whereas the FMS is more suitable for individuals not in pain to get a basic assessment of movement quality. I believe PRI has value within both of these circumstances. The traditional orthopedic tests mentioned above are largely encompassed with the SFMA “breakouts”.

Functional Movement Systems
An outstanding tool to get a quick glimpse of how people move and to pre-qualify them for certain exercises.

Physical Capacities: Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, Lateral Bound, Multiple-Jump Tests, Olympic Lifting Variation 1-3 RMs, Major Lift 1-10+ RMs, Continuous Conditioning Tests (e.g. 12-Minute, 6-Minute or 2-Minute Run, Bike or Swim), Intermittent Conditioning Tests (Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Tests, Beep Tests, Repeat Shuttle Tests, etc.), and Cardiac Parameters (General: Resting Heart Rate, Heart Rate Variability; During the Test: Average Heart Rate, Maximum Heart Rate, 60s Heart Rate Recovery).

Fuel State: This is tougher to measure without blood, urine, and/or saliva tests, but a 3-Day Food Log will give you a pretty good indication of what the athletes are eating on a regular basis.

Psychology: I’m sure there are a lot of these out here, but I like the “Grit Scale” questionnaire from Angela Duckworth at UPenn.

Readiness: Resting Heart Rate, HRV, Daily Recovery Questionnaires (See Below), Perceived Exertion Questionnaires, OmegaWave.

Subjective Questionnaire

This is a great questionnaire stemming from the research of McClean & Coutts (International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2010) that Patrick Ward introduced me to. There are plenty of others, including the “Profile of Mood States”, that have some merit.

We don’t use all of these at Endeavor, primarily because we don’t have the budget for certain pieces of technology and/or because some of these assessments are redundant. I don’t think it’s necessary to perform the world’s most comprehensive testing battery with every athlete. I do, however, think it’s worth the time and effort to do enough that you can identify outliers and red flags.

Wrapping Up
One of my inspirations for writing this series stems from several conversations I’ve had with athletes and coaches over the last few weeks about why they (or their athletes) aren’t able to perform up to some desirable standard. Sometimes the answer lies in not possessing the necessary movement or physical capacities, in which case there is likely a training solution. Often times there are underlying nutrition/lifestyle causes for droughts in performance or a failure to maintain a high level of play consistently throughout a single event or across multiple events within a fairly short amount of time (e.g. a week or weekend). Insufficient or inappropriate fueling, for example, can mask itself as poor conditioning. Poor sleep quality can mask itself as “overtraining”.

The big take home message here is that if you don’t have some means of assessing these buckets, you don’t really have a way to identify whether someone is trending in a positive or negative direction for any of the individual factors. It can be easy to identify decreasing performance, but the goal is never to just point out when someone is playing poorly; it’s to make targeted adjustments to help get them back on track. Utilizing a few basic assessments can provide extremely valuable information to identify the primary factors contributing to performance plateaus or decreases, and therefore provide a foundation for making the necessary changes to improve performance moving forward.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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