5 Ways Hockey Players Ruin Their Performance During The Season

Having a passionate dedication to improving the performance of hockey athletes for many years now and providing as much content as humanly possible in order to create a positive impact on the industry – few things are as frustrating as watching how hockey athletes handle their in-season.

I have repeated myself time and time again about why they need to take their in-season programming just as seriously as their off-season programming, but in many cases it just falls on deaf ears.

Parents and hockey athletes assume that games and practices are enough, but if you ask any well-educated strength and conditioning coach on the planet we know with certainty that that’s just not true.

Let me tell you something, if you’re just eating on the fly and you’ve stopped all your weight training and dryland work – don’t act surprised when you slow down as the season goes on, feel “the grind” of the in-season schedule a lot sooner, and get more nagging injuries then you know how to deal with.

A lack of focus in these areas directly impacts your performance in multiple negative ways, and I want to talk about some of the most common mistakes I see that hockey athletes consistently do that they could prevent if they were just a little more proactive.

Mistake #1: You Stopped Working Out

This is one of the most puzzling of all the mistakes to me.

Even at the most fundamentally basic level, why would somebody discontinue their training during the times of the year where performance is at its highest importance?

Doesn’t that seem very backward to you?

Especially since you consider the average season is going to be around six months in duration – it’s completely impossible for you to hold on to the gains you made in size, strength, speed, and conditioning in the off-season if you drop your training during the season. Six months is just far too long.

What’s worse here is that playoffs are near the end of the season, which means you’re going to be at your least fit during the portion of the season where your performance matters most.

In many cases here players or parents would counter with:

“Well, with the practices and games – it’s just too hard on the body to keep up with a training program”

No – it would be too hard on the body to keep up with an off-season training program, not an in-season training program.

You may have had bad experiences in the past because you only know one way of training, and that way didn’t take into consideration the demands of the in-season. Proper in-season training is one of those weird things that happen where players have an epiphany moment and wish they had done it all along.

You stay faster.

You stay stronger.

You prevent more injuries.

You stay more conditioned.

Who wouldn’t want to continue that?

Mistake #2: You Ignore Recovery

When you’re juggling the practices, games, traveling, work, school, social life, and dryland work associated with the in-season – there’s no wiggle-room for slacking off in your recovery.

Recovery work is part of the program, it shouldn’t be viewed as something separate just because it’s not done on the ice or in the gym.

If you aren’t partaking in the recovery strategies that are relevant towards the type of training that you’re doing and the type of lifestyle that you’re leading, you are only going to dig a deeper and deeper debt of fatigue that you will need to repay one day.

Are you doing deloads?

Do you know your nutritional calculations?

What is the source of your fatigue?

Knowing the source, what recovery strategies are you utilizing to minimize that from getting out of control and reducing your physical performance or negatively impacting your psychological arousal for practices and games?

Too many hockey athletes think that doing more is better, it’s not. Doing more is only better if you have the recovery strategies in order to deal with it.

Ensuring your recovery status is optimal is arguably the most important thing you could do all season as it guarantees that the best version of you is going to be the version that shows up for every hockey game.

Mistake #3: You Play on More Than One Team

At younger ages some players, especially in smaller towns, may get asked to play for two teams – their own age group and as a “call up” to a higher level team or higher age group.

Some players think they need to be on as many teams as possible in order to get discovered. Or, some parents are the driving forces behind this and sign their kid up to play for a couple teams at once in order to “get more eyes on them”

Look – if you’re a good player attention is going to find you, you’re not going to need to go find it.

But, one of the worst ways to get attention is to join two teams at once so that you overwork yourself, burn yourself out, and end up being an average player on both teams.

Choose one team and you will be extraordinary, choose two teams and you will be average.

Not only will you physically burn yourself out, but you’re bound to tick off at least one of the teams (if not both) because you’re going to care more about one of the team’s tournaments or playoffs.

Then, because you care more about one of the team’s developments, you’re going to (whether consciously or unconsciously) slack off when playing for the other team because you want to perform better elsewhere.

This is not how you want to represent yourself, and pretty much makes all the “eyes on you” during your ice time on that team useless because you’re reserving yourself for something else.

Joining the team as a “call up” here or there for a couple extra skates is great, but joining full time will often have a negative impact over the course of the season.

Avoid the overtraining, avoid the repetitive use injuries, and avoid the trouble altogether.

Mistake #4: You’re Neglecting Your Nutrition

Nutrition is the ultimate body composition managing tool.

Meaning, there is nothing more impactful you could do to regulate what happens to your body fat and body weight during the season.

So many hockey athletes let their nutrition go and kind of just “eat on the fly” during the season.

But, what I have seen time and time again is two different scenarios:

  1. The hockey athletes that are prone to being skinny will lose a lot of weight during the season. This causes them to become weaker and easier to knock off the puck as the season goes on.
  2. The hockey athletes that are prone to fat gain will gain unnecessary body fat during the season. This causes them to reduce both their speed and conditioning levels out on the ice.

Although your training plays a major role in this as well – weight regulation is so tightly linked to proper nutrition that it is the king in this area of development.

Put very short, if you’re a hockey athlete that struggles with either weight gain or weight loss during the season – nutrition should be your #1 go-to in order to remedy these issues. This is also not even mentioning the immense impact that proper gameday nutrition can have on your performance.

When you’re regulating your body weight and fueling yourself properly for performance – you’re going to be an entirely different player the whole season.

Mistake #5: You Don’t Taper and Peak

Tapering and peaking is a strategy utilized within strength and conditioning in order to systematically taper down your total training volume per week in order to peak your performance for a certain event where you need to be at your absolute best.

Certain percentages of training volume and training intensity are reduced in order to allow your body to fully restore its glycogen, get rid of any nagging injuries, recreate psychological arousal, and get the hormones back into a place to propel the body forward in a high-performance state. If you’d like to learn more we have a full article on Taper and Peaking.

Sounds good right?

Who wouldn’t want to be able to manually create a performance peak in hockey?

This is something I have used many times over for hockey athletes – oftentimes this is used prior to tryouts/camps, but it is a strategy that also has a high degree of relevancy during the season as well because a well-timed taper and peak prior to playoffs can send you flying into the series like a completely different player.

Want to be that “go-to” player out on the ice during playoffs?

Then taper and peak beforehand – you will separate yourself from the pack quickly.

Conclusion

Take my warning here carefully hockey athletes – if you want to perform your best this season and be the guy who is lighting up the scorecard on a weekly basis you’re going to need to avoid these critical mistakes that only negatively affect your impact out on the ice.

The good news here is that I created an “all in one” in-season hockey training program that:

  • Provides you an in-season approach to your weight training, speed, and conditioning work so that you stay fit all season long
  • Has built-in recovery strategies so that you don’t overtrain and you don’t even have to think about it or worry if it’s “too much”
  • Has a done-for-you nutrition approach that handles your meal planning, grocery list, game day nutrition, in-season supplementation, and much more
  • Includes an optional tapering and peaking strategy for those athletes who are making it to the playoffs this year

If you’re ready to rock and roll and make this the best season of your life, head on over to the hockey training programs and let’s get started now.

About the author

Dan Garner

Dan (or Coach Garner) is the head strength and conditioning coach and nutritional specialist at HockeyTraining.com. He holds 12 of the top certifications in both training and nutrition, as well as a formal education in both functional medicine and health science. Dan specializes in hockey performance, having worked with hundreds of athletes from the youth leagues, right up to juniors, AHL, KHL, and NHL.

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