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6 Good Habits for Hockey Players

Habits are a critical part of coaching and parenting. Whether it’s reminding children to pick up after themselves, dry their equipment out each night or bend their knees when skating, building good habits at a young age is a significant part of development on and off the ice.

Grant Potulny knows how maintaining good habits can make a difference over time. A two-time NCAA champion and four-year standout with the University of Minnesota from 2000-2004, he joined his alma mater as an assistant coach after a minor pro career.

Along with coaching in the college ranks, Potulny has three youngsters of his own at home – two of which are aspiring hockey players and beginning to learn the importance of healthy.

Maintain Your Bubble

To have success in a game, players must first have success in practice. The best way to find consistent success is by focusing on smaller details, especially when the puck comes into their “bubble.” Potulny defined the bubble as the area a player can reach around them with his or her stick.

Successful players not only make it a habit of giving tape-to-tape passes, but also catching every puck within reach.

“As you grow the game becomes so fast. Puck management, whether it’s NHL or whatever league you want to talk about, and puck possession, you have to be able to handle and pass pucks,” Potulny said. “That would be the biggest thing for me. I would tell every kid, anything that gets into your bubble, any puck that gets into your bubble, you handle that puck.”

Hit the Net

Often at the start of practice, a coach will sprinkle pucks across the ice like pepper flakes topping a bowl of soup. During this free warm-up time players will rifle pucks towards the net. An outside observer might think the players are engaged in a competition to see who can make the loudest crash sound off the glass, rather than actually hitting the net.

“I’ve never seen the puck go under the net,” Potulny joked. “But I’ve seen countless ones go over.”

Potulny thinks it begins with a mindset – hit the net with every shot. If you constantly miss the net in practice, how will you hit it, let alone score, when it comes along with the pressure of the game?

“When you get a chance to get a shot, you have to make the goalie make the save,” Potulny said.

Crucial Communication

Communication is something that, ironically, isn’t always talked about in the youth game. As the game advances, communication becomes a key to success and all players use it as a tool.

“If you went to an NHL game and you were allowed to sit on the bench, you would hear guys talking the entire game – calling for pucks, telling guys where to go, telling them to keep their head up because somebody is coming,” Potulny said. “It makes the game so much easier when you have somebody helping you know where to go.”

Like any skill, the earlier it is addressed and practiced, the more comfortable and better a player will become at being vocal on the ice.

“It not human nature for some people to demand or call for pucks, but the more they can communicate the easier they make it on themselves and their teammates,” Potulny said.

Good Night’s Sleep

There’s an abundance of evidence documenting the importance of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends children ages 6-13 get 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night and teenagers get 8 to 10 hours.

“Sometimes it’s more about the behavior than you’re worried about the performance,” the father of three said with a laugh. “Getting sleep is at a premium as a young player. Sleep is a non-renewable resource. You have to have that discipline where if you have an early practice or you have the day off, get to bed an hour early – it is really important.”


Growing, active bodies need fuel. It can be difficult for busy parents to provide a healthy diet, but the long-term effects of a good diet will last beyond a child’s playing days. Cutting out the sugary snacks and replacing them with a fruit or vegetable is a good start.

“If you’re trying to supplement your diet with a bunch of sugar, you’re going to start to feel tired and more worn down,” Potulny said. “I think you have to balance the fact that you are still a teenager or younger, you’ve got to be a kid a little bit, but you’ve got to try to fuel your body the right way.”

USA Hockey details the importance of nutrition for athletic recovery in youngsters.  

Off-Ice Repetition  

At the 12U/Peewee and 14U/Bantam levels, players are entering the “Learn to Train/Train to Train” stages of their development. This is when the habit of good, quality repetition in off-ice training will pay future dividends. Whether it is stickhandling a ball in the basement, shooting pucks in the garage or doing plyometric exercises for leg strength, Potulny likens off-ice practice to the work put in by a great guitar player.

“I think you can correlate (off-ice work) with people in the music industry – if someone wants to become a good guitar player, what do they do?” Potulny asked. “They practice the guitar.”

The best players put in time away from the rink, not because someone is watching them or telling them to do it, but they want to get better.

“If you want to become a better puck-handler, you take the new off-ice pucks they have or a golf ball, or whatever you have at your disposal, and you start working on moves,” Potulny said. “If you want to work on your skating, then you can work on your leg strength. From wall sits, to squats, to jumps and lunges; there are plenty of things a young player can work on and they don’t need any weight – their body weight is sufficient.”

A little extra effort will make a difference and begin to add up.

“You can do [off-ice practice] two-three times a week, 12 times a month and over the course of the season it’s another 50, 60 to 100 hours of those extra reps.”

At 14U/16U, hockey can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: Those who love the game put in more time and effort and have more success. Those who find success like it more, continue to do more and continue to get better. Getting into good habits at an early age will not only help players get better, but can make the game more enjoyable. 



Keith Tkachuk and USA Hockey on Skill Development


For Nutrition tips, meal plans, etc.

click on http http://www.admkids.com/page/show/944942-nutrition

About the Author

Dave Ellis celebrated his 30th year of practice in sports in 2001 as a registered dietitian, certified strength and conditioning specialist and as a Level V USA Hockey coach.

Dave also works with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.


Dryland Training tips

click on http://www.admkids.com/page/show/2019135-age-specific-dryland-training



Long Term Athlete Development

1. FUNdamentals

Learning basic movement and sports skills should be made FUN.

All sports begin with basic fundamental movement and core sports skills. The ABC’s of athleticism include agility, balance, coordination and speed, while fundamental movement skills include running, jumping, skating and throwing. Children must have a solid foundation in these fundamental movement skills before they will have success in acquiring sports skills. It has been shown that children who have a strong, broad-based foundation in the fundamental movements and sports skills from a variety of sports, increase their potential for future success in sports. Whether this is confidence to lead a healthy, and active life in sport, or to become an elite athlete, this strong foundation in the FUNdamentals will help children reach their full potential.

2. Specialization

Well-rounded, multisport athletes have the highest potential to achieve.

Sports are classified as either early or late specialization sports. An example of an early specialization sport is women’s gymnastics, where due to growth, girls are potentially retiring from their sport at 14, 15 or 16 years of age. As with other contact/collision sports, ice hockey is classified as a late specialization sport. Hockey players don’t reach their full potential until after full growth maturity. Specialization at an early age limits children from acquiring a broad spectrum of athletic movements and skills that may limit or put a cap on their overall athletic potential. When players specialize too early they can create imbalances in musculature, increase the potential for burnout and limit their athletic potential by not developing a broad base of athleticism.

“Young athletes who participate in a variety of sports have fewer injuries and play sports longer than those who specialize before puberty.”

“Well-rounded, multisport athletes have the highest potential to achieve.”
(Brenner 2007) 

– Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

AAP Guidelines:

  • Encourage athletes to strive to have at least 1-2 days off per week from competitive athletics, sports specific training, and competitive practice (scrimmage) to allow them to recover both physically and psychologically.
  • Encourage the athlete to take at least two to three months away from a specific sport during the year.

3. Trainability

Missing optimum opportunities significantly affects a child’s ability to reach his or her full potential.

There are identifiable stages during a child’s physical and psychological development that offer optimum opportunities to develop particular attributes such as basic movement skills (agility, balance, coordination and speed), basic sports skills (running, jumping, throwing, skating, and striking), and physical capacities (flexibility, endurance, and strength). Missing these optimum opportunities has been shown to significantly affect a child’s ability to reach his or her full potential.

In our current system, training in early years focuses on outcomes (winning) rather than the developmental process (optimal training). “Damage done between ages 6-10 and 10-16 cannot be fully corrected (players/athletes will never reach their genetic potential) and national training or sport centers receiving mediocre athletes – regardless of funding and expertise – cannot recover from the “damages” of earlier training.” (Balyi)

Elite player development and a sound structure at the 12 & Under level for broad-based skill development are not mutually exclusive. What do we currently produce in the U.S.? We have an over abundance of average players … very few truly elite players at the very highest levels (NCAA, NHL), especially when our numbers are taken into consideration. This is due to a lack of the proper focus on training through the appropriate trainability.

This diagram (from PacificSport, Balyi et Way, 2005) illustrates windows of optimal trainability for male and female athletes. These critical windows provide accelerated adaptation to training and, if skipped or missed, decrease a child’s chance to reach his or her full potential. It must be kept in mind that all systems are always trainable, yet with smaller degrees of adaptation to training over time. In our current system, the window of opportunity on skills development (9-12) is missed through over-competition and under-training. We play too many games and do not practice enough when kids are most receptive to acquiring sports skills.

These periods vary between individuals, as each child is unique in his or her genetic makeup. While these periods follow general stages of human growth and maturation, scientific evidence shows that humans vary considerably in the magnitude and rate of response to different training stimuli at all stages. Some players may show potential for excellence at age 11, while others may not indicate their promise until age 15 or 16. Consequently, a long-term approach to player development is needed to ensure that players who respond slowly to training stimuli are not ‘shortchanged’ in their development. (Wellness to World Cup, 2008)

The five trainable physical capacities and windows of optimal trainability are:

Stamina (Endurance):
Optimal trainability occurs at the onset of peak height velocity (PHV). This is more commonly known as the adolescent growth spurt. Aerobic capacity training is recommended before athletes reach PHV. Aerobic power should be introduced progressively after growth rate decelerates.

Optimal trainability for girls is immediately after PHV or at the onset of the menarche, while for boys it is 12-18 months after PHV.

For boys, the first speed-training window occurs between the ages of 7 and 9 years and the second window occurs between the ages of 13 and 16. For girls, the first speed training window occurs between the ages of 6 and 8 years and the second window occurs between the ages of 11 and 13 years.

The window for optimal skill training for boys takes place between the ages of 9 and 12 and between the ages of 8 and 11 for girls.

Suppleness (Flexibility):
Optimal trainability for suppleness for both genders occurs between the ages of 6 and 10. Special attention should be paid to flexibility during PHV.

Additional capacities have been identified that must also be considered throughout an athlete’s development, and in addition to the five physical capacities make up a holistic approach to training.

The height of a person before, during and after maturation can be utilized by a coach or parent. Tracking growth as a guideline for developmental age can allow for planning to take advantage of optimal trainability.

This category refers to all aspects of replenishing the body for sports and general health. It covers a wide range of topics from nutrition and hydration to rest and recovery. Fatigue, whether it comes from a single practice/competition or builds up over time through a lengthy schedule, can be combated through a proper lifestyle. Whether our children become elite athletes, or we look for better performance in school or just to lead a healthier life, we will all thrive with better education and following a plan that replenishes our physical and mental needs.

Sports schedules must consider the demands placed upon children from an academic perspective. Education must be emphasized, and the demands of sport should complement the academic schedule, not conflict with it. The stress of class work, examinations, boyfriend/girlfriend issues, and school peer groups play a role in the fatigue and stress levels of our athletes. Coaches and parents must monitor these factors to balance the sports schedule to allow for maximum development both on the ice and in the classroom.

Sport is a physical and mental challenge. The ability to maintain high levels of concentration, yet remain relaxed with the confidence to succeed, is a skill essential to long-term performance in sport. This skill also has the potential to transcend sport and affect our everyday lives. To develop the mental toughness for success at highest levels, training programs are required that address the specific gender and LTAD stage of players.

4. Ten Year Rule

Refers to the “10 year – 10,000 hour rule” relating to the need of practice for three hours a day for 10 years to become proficient.

It takes years of organized practice to become an expert performer. Research shows this is true of developing any skill, such as learning to play an instrument or playing sport. This is sometimes referred to as the “10 year – 10,000-hour rule” relating to the need to practice for three hours a day for 10 years. This doesn’t mean 10,000 hours of ice hockey. What it does mean is 10,000 hours of athletic development – playing tag, youth soccer, climbing trees or any other activities children engage in.

Many researchers believe this is just a minimum. The bottom line is that it takes an enormous amount of work to become an elite athlete. This is done through a diverse sports movement and sports skills background. Once this foundation is laid, it takes years of deliberate practice to develop an elite performer at the highest level.

And it doesn’t always happen right away. This holds true even for many players that play in the NHL. A significant percent of these guys were never drafted. This means that at 18 or 19 years of age nobody was even willing to take a late-round chance on their potential to make it. Hockey is not an early specialization sport and our research reflects that. Programs must include a long-term developmental pathway that provides opportunities for our elite players into their early 20s. This is why USA Hockey endorses the college hockey path as it provides the widest range of developmental opportunity over time.

5. Physical/Mental/Cognitive/Emotional Development

Focusing while remaining calm and confident is an essential skill to long-term performance.

The training programs should include key mental components identified by sport psychologists: concentration, confidence, motivation, and handling pressure. As a player progresses through LTAD stages, the mental training aspect will evolve from having fun and respecting opponents, to visualization and self awareness, to goal setting, relaxation, and positive self-talk. To master the mental challenge of sport, these basic skills are then tested in increasingly difficult competitive environments. Ultimately, the planning, implementation, and refining of mental strategies for high-level competition will have a large impact on podium performances. Consequently, the mental training program is critical at all stages of LTAD, as dealing with success and failure will determine continuation in the game and physical activity in general, dramatically affecting both active lifestyle and podium performance. (Wellness to World Cup, 2008)

Essentially, we need to understand that if we are going to teach a child something, as much as we must know the subject matter, we really must have an understanding of where the child is at. We need to be able to relate to them at the level they are most receptive.

6. Biological Age vs. Chronological Age

Chronological age is a poor guide to segregate adolescents for competitions.

Biological age should be considered through our development and identification process. As an example, one only need look at the number of early-month birth dates that make up our Under-17 and Under-18 National Teams. Our current system forces players into a compete-to-win, “peak by the weekend” system that rewards early-maturing players who may not have the ability to be elite performers. Late-developing players are excluded and cut, consequently leaving the sport or being segregated to a recreation program that limits their training opportunities. These late developers may have huge long-term potential but are eliminated from our system.

Currently most athletic training and competition programs are based on chronological age. However, athletes of the same age between ages 10 and 16 can be 4-5 years apart developmentally. Thus, chronological age is a poor guide to segregate adolescents for competitions. Because hockey is a contact sport, early-maturing players are favored within our youth structure. The late developer is eliminated when, in fact, he or she may possess better long-term athletic ability.

From this chart it is clear that potential late-month birth date players have been excluded from the high-performance track. It is highly unlikely that there are fewer players with long-term athletic potential born in the last quarter of the year than in the first quarter.

This refers to the age where athletes begin planned, regular, serious involvement in training. The tempo of a child’s growth has significant implications for athletic training because children who mature at an early age have a major advantage during the Train to Train stage compared to average or late maturers. However, after all athletes have gone through their growth spurt, it is often later maturers who have greater potential to become top athletes provided they experience quality coaching throughout that period (England Field Hockey, 2005). Click here for a visual representation.

Not all children have the potential to become elite players. The American Development Model recognizes this by offering two levels of content from the Train to Train stage forward. The high-performance content is aimed at those players who have been identified as potential elite performers, while the standard content offers a reduced level of commitment more appropriate to the majority of players who will form the basis of club teams of the future. The split between the levels of content at the early part of the Train to Train stage are relatively small as it is deemed to be such an important stage in developing a broader base of potential elite players. However, the differentiation between hockey and other sports may necessitate the divergence at this stage. It is important to note that research suggests that there can be numerous players that follow the standard track through the Train to Train and into the Train to Compete stages that will have the potential to become elite performers. This is especially true if they have a diverse sports movement background through playing multiple sports during the FUNdamemtal and Learn to Train stages.

7. Periodization & Training Principles

Segmenting the calendar year into appropriate time intervals for preparation, competition, rest and recovery.

Periodization is the practice of segmenting the calendar year into appropriate time intervals for preparation, competition and rest and recovery. Athletes at different stages of their development require different training plans to optimize their development through their growth and maturation. The science behind periodization has been used on the international stage with great success in many, many sports. Unfortunately, sometimes a sport’s traditions are placed in front of the athlete’s needs when planning a periodization schedule. This has an impact on maximizing the player’s development.

The Great One’s message to parents: Let your kids have fun.

“In youth hockey, in most cases, it’s really important for kids to play other sports – whether it’s indoor lacrosse or soccer or baseball. I think what that does is two things. One, each sport helps the other sport. And then I think taking time off in the off-season – that three or four month window – really rejuvenates kids so when they come back at the end of August, they’re more excited. They think, ‘All right, hockey’s back, I’m ready to go.’”
– Wayne Gretzky

Excerpt from Globe and Mail, September 26, 2008, Erick Duhatschek. Gretzky was a multisport athlete himself growing up – he also excelled in baseball and lacrosse.

Through a child’s growth and maturation, the athletic development model needs change through different stages. The appropriate training-to-competition ratios need to be adhered to in order to maximize a player’s time and potential. When a heavy emphasis is placed on competition at an early age, two situations occur. One, ice time is directed toward games, which reduces the amount of quality-deliberate practice time. And two, the focus becomes more outcome-based (winning) and less process-driven (learning the game). There are all kinds of arguments put forth as to why we must allow the imbalance in our training-to-competition ratios to continue, and certainly the 1-to-1 ratio has its place within the recreational Hockey for Life track. However, for our Tier 1, Tier 2 and high-performance club programs that are part of our more focused development path, the correct ratios must be adhered to at the appropriate ages.

8. System Alignment & Integration

We need a structure that is athlete-centered and looks at the individual player’s development.

The framework for long-term athlete development is influenced by many factors. We have clubs, schools, and ice arena facilities all with varying interests. To maximize a player’s development needs, it’s important those entities work together and become mutually supportive as each has its part to play in advancing our game. Players will best develop in a system that is clearly defined, logically structured, and based upon consistent principles. We need a structure that is athlete-centered and looks at the individual player’s development. (Wellness to World Cup, 2008)

In a team sport, it is appropriate to look at the collective whole and to provide the direction and lessons that only a team sport can provide. However, we must always consider that each individual is at a different point through the stages of his or her development (early maturer or late maturer for example). The goal is to define our sports system with a pathway that addresses the needs of each individual and maximizes their development as they progress through our system. The LTAD principles shows us that at the earlier ages, both the Hockey for Life group and the ones that end up as high-performance players, should initially be held to the same pathway.

Our current sport system mistakenly allows for the separation of the perceived Hockey for Life group and the perceived high-performance group before any reliable determination can possibly be made. To maximize each player’s potential, we need the major parties to re-evaluate current practices and base new practices on current legitimate research, instead of commonly held beliefs in sports myths and the old “that’s the way it has always been done” attitude.

We also don’t have the resources to be the sole investor in our children’s future athletic development. We need our kids to take part in other sports, community recreation and school physical education programs. In order to build a sound base in physical literacy we need to encourage our parent to involve there kids with these other entities.

9. Calendar Planning for Competition

There needs to be a better system for how to best use our kids’ time on and off the ice.

We need to be better about how we’re allocating our kids’ time on the ice. It’s tough to develop talent when all you’re doing is competing, so we need to be open to a more training-based schedule. One that favors athlete development over competition and one that improves performance capacities.

It’s just as important in planning your calendar to include how the offseason will be spent. Make sure there is ample time for kids to not only rest and recover from the hockey season, but pencil in time for playing other sports. Doing this will give kids a chance to recharge their battery in time for hockey season.

10. Continuous Improvement

The LTAD principles on which ADM is built address core needs for all players.

Continuous improvement is a key underlying principle of long-term athlete development. This ensures that we are always evaluating our sport and are readily able to respond and implement new sports science innovations and observations. LTAD provides a continuously evolving vehicle for change for all emerging facets of physical education and sport and recreation to ensure systematic and logical delivery of programs to all ages.

Along with the National Hockey League, USA Hockey has the mutual goal of seeing more American kids play the game and compete at the highest levels of the game.


Food For Thought: Nutrition for Success

What You Eat, When You Eat And How You Eat Can Determine Your Success On And Off The Ice

No matter how much time you have in the morning, it's important to carve out a good breakfast. Depending on your tastes, you can go for traditional breakfast foods, like pancakes, or you can mix it up a bit and go for a quesadilla or a turkey sandwich.No matter how much time you have in the morning, it's important to carve out a good breakfast. Depending on your tastes, you can go for traditional breakfast foods, like pancakes, or you can mix it up a bit and go for a quesadilla or a turkey sandwich.

We’ve all been there. That moment where you’re jolted awake by the sound of an alarm clock buzzing to tell you it’s time to get up. It’s always easier to roll over and grab an extra 15 minutes of precious sleep than it is to carve out time to eat breakfast.

According to Rose Prissel, clinic dietician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., breakfast is one of the biggest challenges facing middle school children.

“Kids are either breakfast eaters or they are not,” Prissel says. “Getting them to start to eat anything is the first step. Getting some carbohydrates in right away in the morning, along with fluids, is important.”

Yet breakfast does not have to be your standard bowl of cereal. If you’re not a big fan of traditional breakfast foods then make yourself a quesadilla, a great source of calcium, or have a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread with Swiss cheese.

There is no rule saying you have to eat certain foods for breakfast. The main thing, Prissel says, is that you eat something within those first two hours after waking up, even if it’s against the norm.

“Some kids will do a quesadilla with a little chicken in it, a quick meal to make,” Prissel says. “I have had other kids just really like sandwiches. So we create sandwiches that last fairly well.”

Don’t want to have whole-grain oatmeal (helpful tip: stay away from commercially sweetened ones) or a bagel for breakfast? How about a smoothie? Or what about a slice of pizza?

While Prissel stresses that you shouldn’t have pizza or sandwiches (try and eat lean meats such as chicken or turkey) every morning for breakfast, but they are fun ways to change up your morning routine.

“You shouldn’t have pizza or sandwiches every morning for breakfast, but they are fun ways to change up your morning routine.”­
—Rose Prissel, clinic dietician at the Mayo
Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Snackatize Your Locker For Quick Energy

Even with these breakfast ideas, there will be times when you skip out on the most important meal of the day. For just such an occasion, why not “snackatize” your locker with some easy, portable and healthy snacks to grab in between classes or before you hit the ice after school.

Whole grain pretzels, fruit snacks, fresh fruit, trail mix, carrot sticks, plain whole-grain crackers, peanut butter crackers, orange wedges and granola bars are some great starting points.
Katie Miller, a spokesman for the National Strength and Conditioning Association, shared other healthy snack ideas.

“Anything that is portable that doesn’t have to be refrigerated and is ready for them to throw in the backpack, even the night before, are great things,” Miller says.

Other advantages of snackatizing your locker are that once it comes time for practice you can grab something quick to eat. A pre-workout snack is always great to have, says Miller.

“It gets glucose, protein and fats readily going in the bloodstream so the body is more likely to pull from that versus the stores in the body,” Miller says. “It’s just another insurance policy to make sure they’re growing and developing like they should be.”

Don’t Forget To Hydrate Before, During And After Practice

It is always important to drink plenty of water throughout your practices and games. However, you should remember to also get a good intake of fluids such as water, sports drinks and even chocolate milk before and after practices so you can replenish the fluids that you lost, which will aid in recovery.

Rose Prissel says that hydration is one of the biggest challenges facing young athletes.

“The fluids are huge,” Prissel says. “[Kids] normally come into practice dehydrated or needing more hydration so I always encourage them to get something in them.”

The exact amount of fluids a kid needs depends on the child’s size. However Prissel does offer some basic advice.

“In general kids [should] drink a couple of 12 ounces [of water] before they get on the ice,” she says.

“Then I slowly see how they can tolerate it because some kids are more sensitive to it than others.

“If they’re really hesitant I will say go ahead and take three big gulps to get started.”
If water is not necessarily a favorite it is fine to have a sports drink with ice cubes to get some of the carbohydrates needed for practice.
Katie Miller advises that kids can also do a half-and-half of a sports drink combined with fruit juice.

“It wouldn’t be bad for them because you have the calories and carbs there for them to use,” she says.
Then after a long, tough practice Miller says that having chocolate milk is also not a bad idea if a kid likes the way it tastes and can digest it fine.

“It’s an optimal drink to have after practice or a game because it does have the 3-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein,” she says. “It has your electrolytes in there, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium—and it tastes good.”