An Inside Look at our Junior Hockey Training Program

Last year, during my first season as the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Philadelphia Flyers Junior Team, the team’s media guy asked me to do an interview providing an inside look at what the off-ice development program looked like.

Flyers Logo

I was excited to do the interview because I think the team has a unique situation off the ice, in that they essentially have a dedicated S&C staff in myself and the other guys at Endeavor, and access to me for manual therapy on a weekly basis.

Shortly after completing the interview, the media guy started a new job at a different company and the interview was essentially lost in transition.

I dug around a bit and found a copy of it, which I wanted to share with you today. The interview discusses how we structure our services at Endeavor, the program for the Flyers Junior Team, differences between in- and off-season training, and what defines “success” for the players.

Check out the interview and post any questions/comments you have below!

An Inside Look at the Flyers Junior Hockey Team Training Program

Talk about Endeavor Sports Performance in general…what you do, what you provide, etc.

Endeavor Sports Performance is a ~6,500 sq ft private training facility located in Pitman, NJ, that features a wide range of equipment to suit the needs of today’s aspiring athlete.

While we do offer personal training and do a lot of team training, the core of our training business is our semi-private training. With our semi-private training model, we take the athlete/training client through a comprehensive assessment based on their sport (if applicable), age, and training goals.

We use a combination of assessment techniques taken from the Postural Restoration Institute, Functional Movement Screen, Selective Functional Movement Assessment, and other more traditional orthopedic measures to identify any restrictions in mobility or stability, and side-to-side imbalances that may increase the individual’s injury risk and/or influence exercise selection. We’ll also use a battery of performance tests to identify where the individual stands in terms of power and strength development, and one of a few specific conditioning tests that help us assess the individual’s endurance, but also collect heart rate information to identify training zones for their future conditioning work.

Simply, the goal with this process is to create a movement and physiological profile of the individual we’ll be working with, which allows us to design a program best suited for the unique needs and goals of that individual.

All of that said, the most valuable asset we have at our facility is our staff. Matt Siniscalchi, Matt Sees, and Miguel Aragoncillo are all incredibly well-trained at noticing slight flaws in movement efficiency and exercise technique. Within a training context, it’s important that athletes and non-athletes alike learn the importance of moving well before they move faster, further, more often, or under greater load. I’m proud of how hard our staff has worked to refine their eye for these movement impairments. You won’t find a harder working and more caring group of coaches anywhere!

USPHL Flyers Testing

The “Matts” spotting the players during pre-season testing

 On a personal note, I’m also a licensed massage therapist, and hold a few other manual therapy and corrective exercise certifications (Full Body Active Release Techniques ® Certified, Functional Range Release ® Certified, Postural Restoration Trained). Using these assessment and treatment techniques, in combination with my background in exercise, I also offer “Corrective and Manual Therapy”, which serves to help facilitate the restoration of optimal mobility and control that may be limiting training progress or performance, and address nagging aches and pains that aren’t quite significant enough to qualify for physical therapy.

What specifically do you do for the USPHL Flyers? 

I serve as the Strength and Conditioning Coach and Manual Therapist for the USPHL Flyers. We started the season at the end of August by taking all of the players through a comprehensive assessment and profiling process, as I described above, and also included a quick body fat analysis. I also gave a 2-hour presentation to the guys describing my training philosophy, and covering a wide range of topics including nutrition, supplementation, and cooking, footwear, signs of overtraining and recovery strategies.

USPHL Flyers HR Testing

Getting resting heart rates from the team

 The training during the pre-season was fairly light. My goal for the team was primarily to get them to understand the training process at our facility and to begin teaching the foundational movements/exercises that they’d be using throughout the season and in college.

Coach Beach and I have talked a lot about this in the past. I think one of the big mistakes that coaches and off-ice professionals alike make during pre-season is they try to whip the team into shape in a week or two.

The reality is that there may be some psychological benefit to setting a hardworking tone early on, but there is very little physiological benefit. The pre-season camp is characterized by a substantial increase in skating loads for most of the players, which means the off-ice training load has to decrease to accommodate. Crushing the player on and off the ice is a recipe for early season injuries and significant fatigue accumulation. The time to prepare for the pre-season is the off-season; the pre-season is the time to help transfer the physical capacities developed in the off-season to on-ice improvements, and to start building chemistry with the team. The bottom line is that training is a progressive process that requires advanced planning to prepare for a specific season. As my mentor Mike Boyle says, “you can’t speed farm.”

Once we got out of camp, we started our in-season training schedule, which involves training twice per week (typically Monday and Wednesday), conditioning and corrective work once per week (typically Tuesday) and open hours for manual and corrective therapy throughout the week, but typically on Thursday or Friday. Training loads, corrective exercises, and conditioning work is all individualized based on the players’ pre-season testing and the ongoing reassessments/retesting we’ve done since then.

How has the training evolved from preseason to now? Are things different in-season?

The focus of in-season training is to help develop or maintain (depending on the player) physical capacities that compliment those that are being “trained” on the ice. For example, the players will get a lot of speed and acceleration work on the ice each week through practices and games, so adding more of that work off the ice would be unnecessary, and would likely set the players up for more hip flexor and adductor strains.

Similarly, most players get more than enough lactic conditioning work, so we avoid training that off the ice. In contrast, specific qualities like high load, medium velocity power, strength, and various aerobic capacities aren’t as highly trained on the ice, so developing these qualities off the ice can help support on-ice development. Adding in specific mobility and stabilization exercises for the hip and spine can also help maintain structural balance and minimize the players’ risk of injury.

I sometimes joke that in-season training is “anti-hockey-specific training”, as we avoid almost all of the training strategies typically thought of as being most appropriate for hockey players (e.g. slideboarding, rotational med ball throws, lateral sprint starts, etc.)

Each phase of in-season training has a specific emphasis, builds upon the previous phase and prepares the player for the next phase. As the season progresses, so too will the training in terms of the targeted physical qualities, training intensities and volumes, and exercise selection.

Do you work with each specific player? Do you help them set goals?

I met with each player at the beginning of the year to discuss their testing, talk to them about their personal goals, and get an idea of what they feel like the limiting factor is to them competing at the next level. This was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the players and what I may or may not be able to do to help them. While there were several players that expressed that improvements in body composition, speed, and/or strength would help them excel this season and provide better opportunities for them in the future, there were others that noted their biggest limitations related to psychology or on-ice technical or tactical abilities. Nonetheless, I like having these conversations because it gives me a better appreciation for the players’ mentality, and helps us work together to put together an off-ice strategy that best allows them to achieve their goals.

USPHL Flyers Team Side Plank

I also like to think that a well-run program is good for team building

Any specific “success stories” to share?

We’ve had a couple players drop significant amounts of body fat in-season, which I’m really proud of, and several players beat their pre-season vertical jump numbers when we retested a couple weeks ago. In-season retesting can be tricky, especially on a Monday after weekend games, as fatigue accumulation can often mask true maximum performance.

In other words, players having the same vertical jump the day after a game as they did in the pre-season may actually be indicative of an improvement. Almost all of the players were the same or slightly better, which is a positive sign.

All of that said, the real “test” for players at this time of year is on the ice. While the junior level has a strong focus on development, the primary goal of in-season off-ice training, as I mentioned above, is to prepare the players to best express their abilities on the ice. I’m proud of how hard the players continue to work off the ice and how they maintain a high level of focus, even when I know they’re exhausted. This mentality will serve them well in the future, as they continue to fight for spots at the college level.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!

Get Ultimate Hockey Transformation Now!

Year-round age-specific hockey training programs complete with a comprehensive instructional video database!

Ultimate Hockey Transformation Pro Package-small

Get access to your game-changing program now >> Ultimate Hockey Transformation

“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
– Mike Boyle, Head S&C Coach, US Women’s Olympic Team

“…if you want to be the best, Kevin is the one you have to train with”
– Brijesh Patel, Head S&C Coach, Quinnipiac University