One of the things I’ve heard coaches mention frequently over the years is that a player “doesn’t move well laterally.”
There are some key physical contributors to transitional patterns (e.g. range of motion, eccentric strength & rate of force development, effective use of range-specific stretch-reflex/stretch-shortening cycle), but skating technique and body control are also essential to consider.
As with every aspect of performance, if we’re going to say something is important, it’s helpful to have an objective way to measure it, to truly identify whether limitations in change of direction (COD) need to be addressed specifically, or if there are underlying qualities that should be targeted first.
Off the ice, it’s common to measure acceleration with 10-40 yard linear sprints, and COD ability with a 5-10-5 (among others).
On the ice, a goal to blue sprint is ~64-feet on a standard NHL rink and all face-off circles are standardized at a 10-yard diameter, so it’s easy to use the circles to perform on-ice 5-10-5s.
While it may seem logical to simply look at time in both tests as indicators of acceleration and COD ability, respectively, this paper from Dr. Sophia Nimphius and colleagues points out that COD time correlates to linear sprint time, meaning that the linear sprints in between direction changes may be clouding how we’re interpreting an athlete’s efficiency through the transition.
To account for this, an alternative way to interpret COD tests is to use the COD Deficit, which is the difference in time between a COD test, and a linear sprint test, ideally of the same distance.
For example, the 5-10-5 pro agility test is 20 yards, so it’d be ideal to compare it to a 20-yard linear sprint (the 64’ on-ice sprint isn’t perfect, but still appropriate).
In this table I have times in a linear sprint test, and 5-10-5 test ranked by color, and while there are some discrepancies, the majority of the colors are identical… meaning performance relative to the group in both tests are the same.
The last column has the COD Deficit time color coded, and there is much more divergence from the other two columns, which on the surface suggests that it’s providing different information.
The ability to efficiently transition is incredibly important to performance in ice hockey.
Simply…More valid assessments = more specific prescription = better results.
Feel free to post any comments/questions below. If you found this helpful, please share/re-post it so others can benefit!
To your success,
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use testing to drive training prescription, check out my presentation “Performance Profiling as a Platform for Program Design” in the Optimizing Adaptation and Performance series I did with Mike Potenza and James LaValle.
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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.