A lot of teams will go through a slump at some point throughout the season. In recognizing this, it’s imperative to minimize collateral damage and try to keep the team focused.
This is exactly what happened with the UMass Lowell Hockey Team this season. After graduating a lot of seniors, the team got off to a (surprisingly?) great start before sliding a bit. When the team turned it around coming down the home stretch of the season (ultimately dropping the Hockey East Championship to BU), I asked Devan McConnell (their Director of Sports Performance) to share some insight into how he handled the situation. His thoughts below…
It’s not that complicated
Slumps happen. How a team responds to them can have a huge impact on the final outcome of a season. Aside from just the points lost and possible drop in the standings; conquering or being conquered by a slump can have a major psychological impact on a team. But how does this relate to the training process during these tough times?
The question is often posed during a slump “Should we push harder to break through the proverbial wall, or back off and relax a bit?” I have played for and worked for coaches who have taken both approaches, and I don’t know that there is a perfect answer. The truth is, every situation is different, and the right answer will reflect that. But in training, I have found that the best approach is to stay the course. Training isn’t about immediate results…sound training principles are built on a foundation of progression and long term development. Making rash decisions in the short term is often akin to “missing the forest for the trees.” It might feel right in the moment, but could be very costly in the long run.
This doesn’t mean blindly following the original plan, but it does mean taking stock of the pros and cons of training versus not training during a slump. It might be beneficial to cut back on some volume by dropping a set or performing a few less reps to allow a little more freshness going into a weekend, but eliminating a training day altogether is often a mistake. A skipped training session doesn’t simply impact the next day, it impacts all of the training sessions following. It’s like removing one or two stairs from a staircase; it doesn’t seem like much, but it makes getting to the next step a whole lot harder.
It is always important to monitor your players for uncharacteristic levels of fatigue. Making small adjustments based off of how your players are feeling is just smart coaching, but so is keeping an eye on the real prize. Training today isn’t about being better tomorrow; it’s about being better next week, next month, and ultimately at the end of the season. By maintaining a long-term development approach to training during a slump, you send the message that “this too shall pass”, and when it does, we are going to be flying full speed ahead. Slumps are often as much a psychological issue as physical one, and this type of mindset can have a positive impact on both aspects of a team.
To your success,
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“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
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.