A Common Myth About Improving

I regularly ask my students a specific question when they are training with CES, and I get the same answers over and over again:

Question: How does one get better?

Answers from students:
A. Practice. Practice. Practice.
B. Work harder.
C. Do more camps/clinics.

These are all good answers on the surface, and most people would say these answers are correct when talking about how one improves, but I am here to tell you there is a much better answer on how one improves and improves at a faster pace.

I believe it was John Wooden who once said, “If you don’t consciously make good habits, then you are unconsciously making bad ones.” The key to improving is making corrections! Too many athletes, parents, coaches, or weekend warriors, think that in order for one to improve they have to do more hours of practice repeating the same routine or drills over and over again. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again will get you the SAME result. If you want to improve, then you must change your habits.

Hockey players often have poor body awareness when it comes to skating skills. Therefore in order for them to change their poor habits such as poor leg extension, weak posture, or inefficient foot recovery,  they must understand and be aware of what they are doing incorrectly in the first place.

In the book Body Mind Mastery, Dan Millman points out that beginner students will most likely have a low level of kinesthetic or “feeling awareness” and won’t know how to correct a skill or what the correct way should feel like. He states that when first learning a new skill, many repetitions may develop an incorrect pattern, therefore one should begin with a few conscious repetitions maintaining intense concentration and interest.

This is exactly why I have players go through things at a slower pace during our training sessions on the ice because they will be able to put in more intense and conscious concentration on the feeling of the correct movement.

Again, the key to improving one’s performance is NOT more practice, NOT working harder, and NOT doing more camps if the focus in NOT on making corrections! Slow, conscious movement on corrections will take athletes to a whole new level!

The Great Ones Fail

Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”   I couldn’t agree more!   As a follow up to my first blog which discussed the importance of making corrections in order to improve,  I can’t stress how important it is for people to be exposed to challenges that make them fail. 

 We all know the common example of how we learn to walk.   If babies were to quit after their first fall when trying to learn how to walk then we would all still be crawling around!    Every day I tell players that we must work on skating drills or exercises that we don’t know how to do…. This is how we GROW!!  

 Unfortunately it is becoming more common to see players get frustrated when challenged,  or older players such as high school age, avoid or quit my lessons because I challenge them or expose their weaknesses.    I have been exposed to so many players who crumble through adversity or challenges just in the past year.    How is one going to increase their performance, or get to the next level if they continue to do the same things over and over again or if they think they have mastered everything?    

In Tony Dungy’s book,  The Mentor Leader,  Tony points out a statement from Chuck Noll which says, “Every player loves to work on his strengths, but only the great ones work on their weaknesses.”    This statement reminds me of how David Booth,  player of the Florida Panthers works so hard in the weight room,  on the ice and seeks out how to improve his weaknesses.   At the same time I think about how certain players whom use to come and skate with David Booth are struggling in European leagues or can’t get to the next level because they continue to do what’s comfortable for them and only work on their strengths. 

 There is an article in the April’s issue of Success Magazine that is titled, “Never be Afraid of Failure”.   I encourage you to read it as it stresses how people that failure tend to be more successful.   They explain that this is true because failing or overcoming failure gives a person more confidence, helps one build character, and improves one’s problem-solving skills. 

 Therefore, for those parents who hate to see their child struggle or fail, please remember how much they are growing and how it will help them succeed in their sport and more importantly in life! 

Off Ice Conditioning with an On Ice Approach

Off-Ice Conditioning with an On-Ice approach

Jim McKee, MS, CSCS, SPS

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for CES

                 Developing better ice-hockey players requires improving many different areas of the athletes’ abilities. Some of these include strength, power, balance, core strength, reactive ability, mechanics and conditioning. All of these can be improved with a wide variety of off-ice training methods. While conditioning and mechanics are two completely different concepts, they are co-dependent of each other and need to co-exist correctly for optimal performance.

 First, let’s try to define and understand the two.

                 Conditioning, in the case of a hockey player, is training or a way of measuring how well the athlete is able to produce energy, metabolize lactate build-up, recover between shifts and how long he can exert an “all out” effort, known as the anaerobic capacity. This is typically addressed or tested with multiple sprinting type drills performed on or off the ice.

                 Mechanics development observes and trains how efficient the athlete performs the movements within the sport. For ice-hockey players this entails stride efficiency, posture, foot recovery, leg extension and edge work to name a few. Improving a hockey player’s mechanics is best done with specialized drills that start slow and gradually build up in speed as along as the athlete is able to maintain perfect technique. From a physiological stand point, the athlete is learning new motor patterns. This is the process of re-training the central nervous system (CNS) to fire muscle groups in sequences that will move the athlete with optimal speed and efficiency. It can be a long process and requires a good coach with very good attention to detail.

                 Now that we have a basic understanding of the two, the key word to focus on here is EFFECIENCY. An athlete taught to skate with good mechanics will be more efficient than an athlete with bad mechanics. The more efficient hockey player is able to accomplish the same amount of work (breakouts, changes of directions, quick starts) with considerably less energy than the untrained one. Simply put, bad mechanics equals an accumulation of wasted energy when you add up all the shifts in a game.

                 It is in this area of mechanics and conditioning where many coaches and players make one of the most common and detrimental mistakes to potential performance. When the player or team struggles with keeping up the pace or gets gassed too quickly, the problem gets addressed with “bag skates”, stationary biking, off-ice sprinting, poorly organized circuit training and a variety of other uneducated solutions that fail to see the bigger picture. Instead of fixing the problem, they train the athlete to work harder with what they have, which may not be very much. While this approach can yield a more conditioned athlete, it WILL NOT optimize mechanics and usually makes the bad habits even worse.

                 For off-ice training, coaches need to remember that sprinting and skating are biomechanically different. Consistent sprinting can promote excessive knee flexion (think of a butt-kicker drill) and can drastically hinder foot recovery during quick starts on the ice. Ground contact times (the amount of time the foot or skate is in contact with the ground/ice) is considerably longer with the skating stride and applies force at different joint angles than in sprinting. Force applied during skating has a greater lateral component (sideways) than basic forward sprinting. Being that the objective is to re-train motor patterns, consistent forward sprinting is actually reinforcing motor patterns that will promote LESS EFFECIENT SKATING! This is made even worse with long distance running that enhances a completely different energy system and can decrease strength and power.

                 Before we train harder, we have to train smarter. Take the time to develop mechanics and proper movement.  As the athlete gets better at a drill, we can begin to add a conditioning component to it to build some endurance. For off-ice conditioning, it may be more beneficial to use drills such as shuffling, cross-over runs and even some total body weightlifting movements that will more closely mimic skating. Never have the athlete learn a new drill during conditioning and always choose options capable of being performed relatively well in a fatigued state. The more skilled the athlete, the more technical it can be. For on-ice conditioning, place a lot of attention to details and place equal focus on technique and goal times. Keep in mind that changing bad habits takes time and requires great coaching and consistent effort from the athlete. At times, it will be better to slow things down and focus on technique.

                 Developing good athletes is a long term process, requires a thorough understanding of the big picture and the steps needed to make that vision a reality. We are not saying that bag skating or “crucible-type” sprints are of no use for team building and mental toughness, but programs based on these methods are not building better athletes. Rather than fixing the problem, these programs merely hit it with a hammer and patch it up with duct tape. Good programs take the time to break it down, find the weak link and eliminate it.  

“Show Me the Money!” and have more Friends?

My Pastor recently gave a sermon which was titled, “Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.”   No offense to my inner circle, but this statement makes me think about how great it would be if a few of my friends were  Stephen Covey, John Maxell, and Napoleon Hill  (just to name a few).   

Those who know me often tell me that I am a very intense and driven person, and I should learn to relax.   I understand that people need balance in life to be healthy and it is different type of balance for every person.  I feel very fortunate that I have a career where personal growth and positive results are the direct results of my intensity and drive.  My definition of relaxation would probably exhaust most people.

Over the years many studies have supported that athletes and their brains are wired differently than the “general population” and “we” are happiest when we achieve more.   If our personalities and drive are part of the reasons we succeed in reaching more goals, it is because we are happiest with knowing our purpose and our intensity becomes a gift to getting things done. We need to be careful not to listen to critical comments that make us question our gifts.  We should not conform or change to the less busy nature of others which will only water down the talents that make us more creative, more able to multi-task and be more productive.

I know that I am intense.  If I bike forty-some miles in a day, I know that there are people out there that bike 100 miles and it makes me want to do more.  Or if I hear of women doing 20 some pull-ups, it makes me want to beat the 10 that I can do.   I ALWAYS WANT MORE.   My question today is, doesn’t everyone want more???  

It guess it goes both ways.  High energy & intense people need to understand that there are people who don’t run to go fast, that there are people who go golfing to see the scenery and nature and don’t care if their score will never improve, and that there are skaters who just settle for “good enough”.  These types of people define what makes them happy differently than we do.

If you are reading this you probably won’t go for a run, and say, “I want to get a slower time than last time”!  Or go out golfing and wish for a higher score; or enter the rink as a good skater then be excited to leave being worse.

At C.E.S., we strive to help players of all levels confront adversity.   Those who allow us to push them outside their comfort zone will learn to push themselves beyond mediocricy.  I have seen players who easily give excuses to get out of the hard work that is needed to improve.  They bring a lack of mental toughness and their poor work ethics do not allow them to deal with adversity when it arises.    And often, when they are failing in a group setting of their peers, they try to get others to follow them so they feel better about themselves. Will some of our students drop out or quit?  Of course, but they will continue this self-defeating pattern for the rest of their lives unless they reach a turning point to rethink their choices.

Napoleon Hill wrote in his book, The Seventeen Laws of Success, “Like attracts like”, which helped me accept my drive, intensity and passion not as a curse and society outcast, but more as a gift that others can benefit from.  It taught me things such as:   choose to be happy , you will attract happy people to you,  or act confidently and you will bring out confidence in people around you.   It is the same philosophy as: “Show me your friends and I will show you your future.”   Who do you think successful people surround themselves with?    Luck, fate or choice? 

I understand not everyone will get to the NHL and not everyone strives to be president of the United States, but all of us are leaders to those around us in some way.   My job as an instructor, along with my personality and desire for high standards, attracts people who don’t want to settle for being the same, or less, than they are today.   As a good friend of mine who is an ex-NHL player, Bill McCreary, Sr., once told me, “Get better everyday.”

My recommendations to any student, athlete, or person who desires success in their sport, or in life: Make no excuses.  Surround yourself with people who will challenge you – that is where growth happens. Find mentors that will force you to go outside your comfort zone – so you can see where your weaknesses are.   And as Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world”, which I hope this article has everyone rethinking their potential!

Boosting Your Confidence and Your Game

Larry Lauer, Ph D, CC-AASP

Championship Performance Consulting

Michigan State University 

The difference between winning and losing is so small. The Red Wings-Sharks series this year is a perfect example. The Sharks won in 7 games, but Detroit lost on several deflected pucks in overtime. Very easily those pucks aren’t deflected or go directly into Jimmy Howard’s pads. How much Detroit really could have done to better the luck is debatable, but clearly they had a great chance to win the series.

 While a team does not control the bounces, a factor that is controllable and absolutely essential to winning and good performances is confidence. Do not take my word for it, though, you hear and read about confidence as a necessary quality for success by professional players all the time.

 Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks talked about the reasons for his excellent play in the 2011 playoffs

 “I built the confidence up. Whoever I’m with on the ice, I feel confident. Last year and this year with the success, definitely helps the confidence.” (May 16, 2011; ASAP sports)

 Confidence is necessary to win at the highest levels of hockey, and really at all competitive levels. The way you think makes all the difference in winning and losing. We all know this, but only some players actually discipline themselves to think positively and productively in pressure situations. The majority of players on the other hand place limits on themselves. They doubt their abilities, skills, and chances of being successful. They even sometimes doubt that they deserve hockey success (let alone in life). I like to think of these things as ceilings. They put a limit on how high you can go. Unfortunately, many times these ceilings are self-imposed; we put these limits on ourselves and let them block our true potential. Do you do this?

 It’s time to blow up your ceiling. One of the most famous ceiling breakers was Sir Roger Bannister the first human being recorded to have run a sub 4-minute mile. At one time it was thought impossible.

 “Doctors and scientists said that breaking the four-minute mile was impossible, that one would die in the attempt. Thus, when I got up from the track after collapsing at the finish line, I figured I was dead.”

Roger Bannister (After becoming the first person to break the four-minute mile)

 Bannister broke the 4-minute mile on May 6, 1954 (from Wikipedia.com). In the following 18 months more than 45 athletes also broke this barrier. Why could not one of these runners break the 4-minute mile prior to Bannister? Had to be the belief that it could be done.

 If you are limiting your hockey performance by the way you think it is time to stop and instead envision what you could be.

 “Champions aren´t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.” Muhammad Ali

 To turn your vision into reality you must have a plan for boosting your confidence so that you play hockey at a higher level consistently.

 The Pyramid of Confidence (Lauer, 2010)


Disciplined Thinking (Thinking Positive and Productive)

Commitment

(Good daily habits and routines that focus you on your goals)

Awareness

(Knowing your self and how you respond to certain things and situations)

Personality

(Who you are; what you bring to the table)

Confidence Pressure Training

From my experience as a researcher and consultant I believe that there are generally five layers to your hockey confidence. These can be viewed as a pyramid because a lower level is the foundation for higher levels of confidence. At the foundation is what you bring to the table – your personality. Basically, who are you as a person and a hockey player?

 The Pyramid of Confidence shows you just how you can develop your confidence. Be aware of your personality as a person and a player, commit to being fit mentally and physically by following routines, discipline yourself to be positive and productive in the way you think about all situations, and train to be confident under pressure.

Preparing Kids for Long Term Success

Preparing Kids for Long Term Success

Jim McKee, MS, CSCS, SPS

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for CES

“The closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.” –from Outliers: The Story of Success by Macolm Gladwell

                 In today’s ultra competitive sports world, this statement couldn’t be more true. As more and more young children strive to fulfill dreams of college scholarships, getting drafted and having a shot at their respective “big show”, performance training has gradually become a very regular part of the standard preparation. In some sports this training may begin as young as 5 years old. At Competitive Edge Skating, Inc. (CES) we have had hockey players as young as 9 years old begin off-ice programs. What was once believed to be unsafe and unnecessary for many young athletes is slowly becoming the norm. Simply put, athletes are starting much earlier and are getting opportunities because of it.

                 With this mind, it is important to approach any performance training with a long term oriented goal. As many people whom I’ve met, trained or have read some of my past newsletters already know, I am a firm believer in training SMARTER before we train harder. This holds especially true in the case of youth athletes, in which they will be training or starting to train through different developmental stages. It is at these stages where the emphasis needs to be shifted to enhance the areas that will benefit the most from specific types of training.

                 It is obvious that children go through a lot of physical changes up to about 18 years old. With this in mind, it is important to understand what happens at these changes. There will be times in which a child may not grow much physically but his central nervous system (CNS) is very impressionable (8 -12 years old). During growth spurts, the legs and arms of a child will grow at a faster rate than the torso (10-14 years old). Through puberty, male athletes will undergo a huge increase in testosterone production, a hormone that can have significant influence on muscular and nervous system advancements. There are actually times in which a child’s conditioning will not respond significantly to aerobic training, which is typically due to fast increases in bodyweight. We must consider what is going to help the athlete the most right now in a way that will translate to bigger gains down the road.

 The following list provides some simple guidelines and brief explanations of when and what type of training should be emphasized.

 Sport Related Movement Skills (Sprinting, Shuffling, Throwing, Skating, Changing Directions, Jumping)

    – Begin teaching these skills between ages 8-12.

    – Growth may be relatively slow, but the CNS is capable of learning very well at this age.

    – Speed development is also very reliant on CNS growth and should be addressed here once the skills are learned.

    – Around ages 11-13 (Girls) and 14-16 (Boys), large growth spurts often happen. This is another time in which  the focus of training should be on speed, technique and sport skills.

     – These skills should be worked on by athletes at ALL levels but it is at these ages where the training may have the greatest impact on future development.

Strength Training (High intensity resistance training and weight lifting)

    – ALL weight training needs to begin with mastering proper technique. For boys this can begin around 11-13 years old and for girls around 10-11.

    – Stay focused on technique through growth spurts. Most athletes won’t be able to handle heavy weight safely with fast growing arms and legs.

     – For boys, the most sensitive time to increase strength will likely be 12-18 months AFTER their height growth begins to taper off. Girls will be most sensitive to strength training as they BEGIN to go through their fastest growth spurt (11-13 usually). Good technique should predominate as they grow rapidly.

 Conditioning

     – When athletes are growing fast, it can be tough to maximize conditioning. Focus more on efficient movement that uses less energy (proper movement technique, weightlifting technique).

     – During growth spurts, address endurance development with short high intensity sprint-type drills. Long distance fitness is not very adaptable here.

      – Once growth has begun to taper off and strength has been maximized, begin to emphasize conditioning more with sport related drills and intervals.            

This is not to say that certain areas should be entirely neglected through phases of growth but rather accept the reality that big improvements are not likely to happen in these areas. A well rounded program for any age will enhance speed, coordination, agility, strength and conditioning.  It simply will adjust the focus of these areas to help the athlete where he or she needs it the most and will respond the best.  Always consider that age is simply a number as well. Some children may develop exceptionally early while others may take more time than their peers. Once again, train smarter before we train harder and strive towards long term development. Real results will always take time.

  Note:   Much of the information in this blog is credited to Ed McNeely, MS, who put together a phenomenal presentation on Long-term Planning for the Master’s Athlete at the Arnold Strength and Fitness Trainers Summit in Columbus, OH on March 5, 2011.

Dare To Be Great

Dare To Be Great:   Have Pride, Passion and Purpose

By: Andrew Cmoluch, long time Competitive Edge Skating student

 

           Andrew Cmoluch is a long time student of Competitive Edge Skating, who currently attends Lawrence University in Wisconsin.  He will be playing hockey for his University and is constantly striving towards excellence in his academics.   Andrew amazes me with his hard work,  focus and determination to always wanting more for himself and others around him.    Thank you to Andrew for his perspective regarding hockey, life and daring us to be great in this blog post!  I hope you enjoy reading it as much I did!

            Passion, Pride and Purpose. Three words that every athlete tries to live by and every program wants to represent themselves with. At the end of the day, no one can achieve success without fully understanding what these words mean and what their actions convey.

             Passion, a strong and barely controllable emotion, is the pillar of the three words.  Without passion the other two words do not exist. Many players think, “Yes I love hockey” but is this truly enough?  In fact, the “love” of the game only skims the surface of the passion needed. Passion is wanting to protect your teammates, to support them and to help guide them. Passion is wanting to excel each and every day on the ice, in the classroom and in your relationships with others. I firmly believe that relationships with your teammates, family and friends is the difference between teams and teams that succeed. We must respect and understand the people who influence us and mean so much in our lives which helps fire the passion to always want to do better.

            Pride, a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired. Pride consists of not just your pride of representing your school but to represent yourself, your community and your family. In the end your actions speak to what your school is all about, who you are and what you stand for.   You may just be a kid from a small town, or a small fish in a big pond, but your actions can speak volumes and have the power to influence many. Always remember you can be and will be part of something bigger than yourself. Take pride in who you are, where you come from and what you represent.

           Purpose,a person’s sense of resolve or determination. Do you ever ask yourself, “Why are you doing that action?” Never commit yourself to something without an intention and determination to give your very best.   Or even better,  don’t just give your very best, go beyond your very best because as I learned this summer its just not good enough to “try”. If trying was acceptable everyone would be doing it and we would be a world of mediocrity.  Make up your mind to “do” what you want to do. 

            Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest athlete’s who’ve ever lived because he lived his life with purpose. He did not let others define who he was or what he should be.  Instead he stuck to the values that were important to him such as working hard and helping others around him be better.  Its up to you now.  Will you live a life that has a passion for something? A life with purpose and that you will take pride in? We were created to do excellent things.  Will you dare to be different?  Will you dare to be great?

Smart Sayings to Stop Stalling

Smart Sayings to Stop Stalling

By: Jennifer Matras, CES Owner, Head Skating Instructor

                I friend of mine used to say, “Can’t means: you don’t want too.”  I completely agree! Many of my students have heard me over the years use this phrase especially when they would say to me “I can’t do it”.

               Recently during a very difficult spin class I was motivated by my instructor’s phrase: “The mind moves the body”. It was the last half of the class and we were being brutally pushed by this instructor and he just kept saying “the mind moves the body”. Though my legs were yelling back at me to STOP! I focused in my mind to just “push and pull” the pedals, over and over again. And I finished! I was thrilled! And it made me realize:  everything we want to accomplish, we have to put our mind into it first and repeatedly convince ourselves that we can do it while we push to finish.  

          Soon I began to eliminate the word “try” out of my training vocabulary.   Many of the players who participated in our 2011 Summer Training program constantly heard me tell them to “not try – just go do it”.   The amazing part was they really began to believe my insistence of not using the word try.   I asked them to think about all the situations in their life when they told someone they would “try” – whether it was doing well on a test, reading a book, even starting a relationship.  All the experiences that they could think of where they didn’t just say “do it” and instead had a feeling of just “trying” ended up being something they DID NOT accomplish it.

          Recently, I picked up a book that I read years ago and decided to read it again.   The book, Mind Body Mastery, is by Dan Millman, a world trampoline champion and now a best-selling author, gymnast coach and motivational speaker on personal and spiritual growth.  Dan shows how important the mind is in accomplishing things in sports and in life.    Within the first chapter of Mind Body Master Dan states how debilitating it is for one to “try”.  He states: “Athletes commonly resist the natural processes by trying. The word “try” itself implies weakness in the face of challenge.”   He goes on to state that the moment one tries, they are already tense.  And we all know tension brings stress, and burns more energy than needed, resulting in decreased performance.   

         After reading the first chapter again in Dan’s book it reinforced my confidence in challenging my athletes to “not try” this past summer.   As I looked back, many players gave me resistance. Once we began the “not try” experiment, they became more confident in their skills by simply eliminating any thought that made them feel they couldn’t possibly do what I was asking them to do. As they followed my examples to just “go out and do it”, they began to perform drills better, displayed more confidence, reduced hesitation, and progressed so much faster.  It was great to see so many more players believe in themselves because they “weren’t trying” anymore!   

                Mind Body Mastery is one of several books which explains how relaxation, reduction of tension, and having a clear mind is key to success in anything.   Now I am not implying that hard work and training should be easy, and neither does Dan in his book.   Training through hard work is a very important factor to improving one’s skills, but one’s strategies should include steps to relieve any additional tension, enhance one’s confidence and result in more fluent, effortless motion.   There are examples of mind body mastery in many other successful athletes and instructors, as Bruce Lee often said, “The less effort and tension, the more powerful one will be.”   

              One’s training goals should result in becoming stronger and faster while developing their personal thoughts and phrases that can push and use that strength effortlessly, which is what we strive for with all our athletes at Competitive Edge!         

True Plyometric Training: The importance of landing skills

True Plyometric Training: The importance of landing skills

Jim McKee, MS, CSCS, SPS

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for CES

          Plyometric training has become an extremely popular method for developing athletic performance.  For those unfamiliar, plyometric training typically uses jumping drills to promote increases in lower body power output. In nearly all sports, the athlete with a higher power capacity is likely to outperform opponents and teammates with lower ones. It is easy to comprehend why plyometrics have achieved mass appeal for many athletes and coaches. Mass appeal will often lead to mass production. As with any product, mass quantities typically yield less quality. In the case of plyometrics, this mass appeal has resulted in a lack of good knowledge, proper coaching and has become one of the most misunderstood training methods in use today.

          One of the most important, but often overlooked components of plyometrics is proper landing mechanics. Before any athlete can jump high, change directions, run fast, or skate hard he has to absorb MORE than his own body weight quickly and efficiently. The ability to absorb force takes advantage of natural mechanisms that exist within the muscles, tendons and nervous system. The more force an athlete can EFFECTIVELY absorb, the more force she can produce. That being said, it is essential that all athletes using plyometrics master landing skills first.

         Being that ice hockey and figure skating both demand high power outputs, plyometric training and landing skills can be very beneficial. Before starting the training however, it is essential to consider that skating is considerably different than skills such as sprinting, jumping for a rebound or shuffling side-to-side. To become a more powerful skater, the athlete needs to master landing skills (on and off the ice) that promote a more powerful stride or higher jumps. The following list discusses the primary concepts we use at CES to maximize our skaters’ abilities.

 Balance/Stability/Posture – Balance and stability are extremely important for being able to transfer power into the ice. Strong posture is essential for allowing skaters to lower their center of gravity by bending at the knees (sitting back as opposed to bending over). Having athletes pause and hold landings forces them to focus on and develop these areas.

 Single Leg Strength and Power – In ice hockey and figure skating, power is almost always applied on 1 leg at a time. Therefore, 1 leg landing drills can have a great carryover to skating. Once landings are mastered on 2 legs, 1 leg landings should take priority. Again, be sure the athlete is able to pause and hold all 1 leg landings. 

 Joint Angles – For a powerful stride, a strong skater is able to maintain posture while sitting back deeply by bending the knee. During quick starts, a good hockey skater is able to strike the ice with the toe of the skate at great speed with the knee and hip fully extended (leg straight).  Pay close attention to knee, hip and ankle angles when using 1 leg landing exercises and start/mechanic drills. Be sure they are consistent with what is needed on the ice.

 On and Off the Ice – This is by far the most valuable piece of the puzzle at CES. By complimenting the landings performed on the ice with off-ice landing variations, our athletes are able to make progress much faster. The off-ice work can be individually adjusted to address weakness seen on ice such as poor posture, knee stability, weak ankles, poor flexibility, and weak core muscles. Having an on-ice instructor ensures the athlete learns to use off-ice gains where they count the most, on the ice in full gear and stick in hand.

 Extreme Attention to Details – While this is very important in all aspects of training, it should be emphasized even more with landing drills. As an athlete lands from a jump,  changes in joint angles, posture, knee and ankle stability and core muscle contractions all happen in a matter of milliseconds. Being able to observe and correct subtle details is so important, as any imperfections in these areas equals power lost. Forcing athletes to pause on landings is very effective in making the athlete aware of any weaknesses.

          Landing drills and plyometrics are an intense method of training that requires good strength and body awareness, especially on 1 leg where forces of 6-8 times one’s own body weight can occur in the performing leg. Our athletes always start with lighter tasks such as jump roping, agility ladders and box jumps. Weight training is included as well to promote strength and stability across the hip, knees and ankles. Lastly, while we are demanding of our athletes we are also patient with them. Many young hockey players and figure skaters need a lot of practice and reinforcement to maximize landing and jumping abilities. As always, we must train smarter before we train harder.  

 Note: I highly recommend visiting www.explosiveedgeathletics.com for an even more in depth look at plyometric training. I have met with and consulted the co-founder, Shawn Myska several times for his incredible knowledge and passion in this area.

If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it?

If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it?

By:  Jennifer Matras, Head Skating Instructor at CES

           The statement “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is commonly stated about household appliances, car parts, or maybe even about certain relationships.   But after recently hearing that statement, I asked myself if it could be applied to athletics. 

          Being in the line of work of helping hockey players develop their skating skills, I just don’t ever see a ceiling where there is nothing broken; Or what I really mean is almost everything can be improved.   A psychiatrist would probably explain this Type A attitude comes from my figure skating background.  In figure skating, you can never spin fast enough, jump high enough, or continue to find a more difficult jump to attempt.   Hence, when I was competing in my figure skating career the highest jump was a triple axel and now skaters are rotating their bodies 4 ½ times around in the air!!  We can all agree athleticism has evolved everywhere.  

        So why is it in the sport of hockey where I am blessed to help players at the highest level many players are complacent with their abilities?   Several people would say Lindstrom, Zetterberg, Crosby, whom are all well respected and have won Olympic medals or Stanley Cups, just don’t need to improve.    I’m not sure I agree. 

         Last summer I had the opportunity to work with a few players who are fairly new to the NHL.   They were eager to improve their skating skills, which is fairly uncommon.   A staff member from their team’s organization came out to observe our lesson and exchange ideas or philosophies.  I was surprised to hear his belief that players who are already top in the NHL, making millions of dollars just don’t need to work on their skating.  Again, he had the mentality of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”   

        So what about the golf pros such as Phil Mckelson who hire a special professional to take a quarter stroke off their game in order to win a Masters, or a tennis player who is already ranked top 5 in the world but hires a coach to work specifically on their game to attack the net better so they can move to being ranked # 1 in the world.  Why aren’t more hockey players taking a similar approach to improve specific things about their game?  

          If players are already putting time in to going to the gym, going to practice, or preparing for their pre-season camp, why aren’t they trying to improve one of the most key elements in their game, such as their skating abilities?   The majority of my students at the college and professional level can get from the goal line to the blue line in an average of 2 ½ seconds.  That’s approximately 10 feet every quarter of a second.   This can be correlated to getting to the puck before your opponent, giving your team another opportunity for possession and allowing for one more chance to score.  How many games in the NHL are determined by 1 goal?  If players improved their skating and offered their team 1 more opportunity to score, maybe more games would result in a different outcome.  

        I understand there are only so many hours in a day and professional athletes only have so much energy and time to invest in their performance, but my attitude is to focus on more quality training and improvement in areas that could help them enhance their performance even by just 10%.   An increase in 10% is 1 more goal for teams to win, to make the playoffs, to move on to the next round and be in the Stanley Cup Finals.   At Competitive Edge Skating we focus on quality of training, exposing one’s weaknesses and making corrections to be better than yesterday.   We don’t allow players to become complacent.  We challenge even the professional level players to see beyond today’s accomplishments.   We do whatever we can to encourage players of all levels to keep on fine-tuning their bodies and to consistently strive to reach their potential.