Young hockey players are suddenly finding themselves with a lot of time on their hands. Here are 10 things to focus on during the state government's pause on youth sports that can keep the mind, body and spirit in shape for when the puck drops again:
1. Fire pucks - In the driveway, basement, wherever you can, your shot might be good but can always be better. And don't forget to work on your backhand. While you always want to be in position to fire a wrister, sometimes you often find yourself in tight spaces where you are forced to use your backhand. Make sure you can get some zip on the puck. The only way to do it is to work on it at home because chances are you're not spending a lot of time on it in practice.
2. Dig out the tennis ball - Find a hard surface, a garage floor for example, and work on your stick handling. Using a tennis ball allows you to get a good feel for bouncing pucks. Make sure to keep your head up when working on your stick handling. This will translate to better offensive awareness on the ice.
3. Work the core - Your core muscles may be the most important muscles in your body. There are several exercises you can do to strengthen your core and you don't have to spend 45 minutes to an hour doing it. Fifteen minutes a day can vastly improve your core strength. Research some quick core exercises you can pull off in no time. Start first with the simple plank, either on your elbows or hands. Do it twice a day. Track the amount of time you are able to hold it. Notice your improvement from day-to-day and week to week. Set a goal. By Christmas your should improve immensely.
Here are five core exercises specific to hockey players we found on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3wAisxacUc
4. Stretch - It is probably the most important thing young athletes don't do enough of. We spend so much time trying to make our muscles bigger and stronger, but we forget about stretching those muscles so they recuperate faster. Plus your flexibility will vastly increase which could improve your stride, which could improve your speed. Stretching every day will prevent injuries, increase flexibility, promote relaxation in the body and provide balance between the workouts and the rest.
5 - Maintain a healthy diet - When you're not busy driving to and from practice or games and spend more time at home, it's easy to get away from a healthy athlete's diet. It's easier to reach for sugary snacks and soda. Be mindful that you will be back on the ice soon and when you are you want to be in the best shape possible. In order to achieve that you have to eat and drink every day like you are playing a big game tomorrow.
6 - Build strength - When you are skating 4-6 nights a week its tough to find the energy to workout away from the ice. But now that you aren't on the ice 4-6 times a week, take advantage of the time you do have to build your strength. We know that gyms are closed, but gyms are not needed to improve your strength. You can find dozens of exercises online using your own body for weight and resistance training in the confines of the bedroom and basement that will help you get stronger.
7. Watch hockey - No, the NHL isn't playing right now. But college hockey is. There's an old saying that you can learn a lot by watching. Some of the best hockey players aren't great because they are the fastest or the most skilled. It's because they are smart. They know where to be on the ice and more importantly where to go on the ice. They understand angles and systems and the little things that can make an average player good and a good player great. When watching, try and watch the players without the puck, especially if they play the same position as you. What are they doing? Where are they going? The game isn't just about scoring goals and having a signature celly. There are so many little things within a hockey game that determine the outcome. The players who understand these little things can turn them into big things that can help their team score a goal. One goal can determine a game and one game can determine a season. Watch as much hockey as you can – and make sure you pay attention to the little things -- because they can make a big difference in your game.
Here is a video highlighting players play without the puck that leads to scoring opportunities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjCctRQQkVk
8. Take care of the legs and the lungs - They are the two most important parts of a hockey player's body. If you let them rest for four weeks you will lose strength and stamina. It is important you keep your conditioning level at the level it was when the pause began. There are several exercises you can do that promotes both strength in the legs and stamina in the lungs. Get outside and go for a daily run. Incorporate some quick-burst sprints. Keep the blood flowing!
9. Read - More than likely you are in front of a screen most of the day. Take time out of your day to read. Even just 30 minutes a day of reading can be just as beneficial as a 30-minute cardio workout. Keep training your brain and make it as healthy and strong as it can be. There are so many great books out there about athletes and hockey players you can learn so much from. And even if you'd rather read Harry Potter, do it. Just read. Training your brain is just as important as training any other part of your body.
Here is a recent column from LPH columnist Josh Levine on the importance of reading: https://www.stateofhockey.com/news_article/show/1136403
10. Be Grateful - The Pause sucks. We get it. You want to be back on the ice and playing with your friends. We all want to be back on the ice and return to a level of normalcy we haven't seen since the state high school tourney last season. While it's okay to be frustrated, it is also important to be grateful. Be grateful you have the opportunity to play the great sport of hockey because a lot of kids don't. Be grateful you are healthy enough to play hockey because a lot of kids aren't. Be grateful your parents have afforded you the opportunity to play hockey because a lot of families can't afford it. Be grateful you have the skills to keep playing hockey, because a lot of players don't. Be grateful for your coaches, the officials, the penalty box crew, the concession workers, the Zamboni driver and most importantly your parents. Without any of them you would' be playing the greatest game on earth. Most importantly, be thankful you are healthy and alive. Life is a gift. Use it wisely. And don’t forget to smile. You're a hockey player! J