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Offseason Training Is A Good Idea, But How Often and How Much Depends on The Player

By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI, 05/08/21, 10:00AM CDT


Many factors go into designing a player’s individualized workout

By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI – When the offseason rolls around, it’s time for younger hockey players to reflect on their past season and get prepared for fall tryouts. 

How hard and how often a youth player trains during the summer months depends on age and maturity, noted Brian Galivan, head of sports science and performance for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

“If you’re a serious hockey player, offseason training is definitely something you have to do now,” Galivan said. “I think if you’re below 13 years old, two to three days a week is plenty. In my opinion, once you get in that 15, 16, 17 age range, and you’re really committed as a lot of these kids are now training daily, that also means it’s time to get off the ice as well. Off-ice training in general has become extremely important because kids are not playing multiple sports anymore. 

“If you’re younger ages, 8U, 10U, 12U, if you’re not playing running sports, I think doing something whether it’s off-ice training or track or some kind of running sports is extremely important just for overall development for kids. Hockey’s very unnatural when you’re skating around on a one-millimeter blade, you don’t jump. It’s a very different sport.” 

In Galivan’s opinion, offseason training for players ages 9 and under should be just about teaching and making the kids aware of what the future holds.

“I think that’s just a really good time to instill off-ice culture, teaching them the value of it, learning kind of how to exercise a little bit, what a training session is supposed to be like,” Galivan said. “So, having fun and introduce fundamental movement patterns, guide them through a progressive program, but through a structured environment.”

For ages 10-12, it’s a step up and time to actually go through the motions of a solid, structured workout. It’s an introduction of general movement skills with the emphasis on quality and techniques, noted Galivan, who is the founder of GVN Performance in Chicago, and works with athletes as young as 5 all the way up to professionals.

“You kind of solidify the off-ice culture, character development, starting to introduce loading as far as like weights, bands, things like that within those fundamental movement patterns,” Galivan said. “So, for instance, split squatting, things that kids can do really well, like push-ups. That’s usually the age, 10 to 12, when you want to start to introduce speed on fundamental movement patterns. When the kids start to get good at those movement patterns, start increasing the speed of them.” 

As you move up to ages 13 and 14, players are introduced to linear progression and long-term progression programs. There is an increase in volume at that age, too, said Galivan.

“A Tier I player or even a Tier II player that really wants to train, that’s when a kid is typically ready to do a six to eight week program,” Galivan said. 

Ages 15 and up can start serious training that entails comprehensive, off-ice training five days a week. That includes nutrition supplementation strategy and hockey-specific energy systems training.

“I’m not a big believer in doing that at the younger ages,” Galivan said. “I think they just need to become athletes.”

Galivan has worked with a number of Chicago-area youth hockey programs, including the Chicago Mission, as well as individual players, and the development curve is big at the ages of about 15-18. Galivan said some 14- and 15-year-old athletes are ready to lift weights, while others aren’t ready.

“I think movement is priority,” Galivan said. “Plyometric movement, athletic movement, improving your coordination. But I think at that age, best results I’ve seen, especially with the National Teams program, strength is a huge factor for them. Getting stronger is really, really important, but you have to do that when you’re ready to do that. If you move really well, then you can strength train. But I think there’s a little bit of a misconception with strength training. Everyone thinks, oh it’s weights, weights, weights, weights — that’s not necessarily the case. Bands, using tempos and slow squats. Your body for some kids is enough resistance.”

Before all the offseason training can commence, Galivan encourages every athlete to take a little break after the hockey season ends. It’s the best thing physically and mentally to get prepared for training.

“I think there’s a lot of parents and people out there that are making their kids play all year round and they get burned out,” Galivan said. “I feel like there’s a lot of pressure nowadays, the parents are looking at it like they are missing out, because this kid or that kid is skating three or four times a week. Just because they’re doing it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.