Scott Caulfield, coaching education manager and head strength coach of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and strength coach for the Colorado College men’s hockey team, gives his advice to hockey coaches and players about how to train during the offseason.
USA Hockey: Why is it important for coaches to build an offseason training program and put it in place for their players?
Scott Caulfield: I think the biggest thing for the offseason is that it’s the best time that they can shift their focus from hockey skills to strength and conditioning. The fitness level and the strength that they’re going to be able to gain in the offseason is going to be a lot more beneficial and they’ll have a chance to really focus on that and have a lesser focus on the actual game of hockey, so that they can really build that strength and then maintain it during the season.
USA Hockey: What would you say should be the foundation of a workout plan for a hockey player during the offseason?
Caulfield: I think the foundation should be being able to have good movement patterns and then strengthening those good movement patterns through full ranges of motion. Now ideally, that would be done with barbells and dumbbells, but if you’re unable to have a good movement pattern that’s also a good chance to clean up any issues you may have or imbalances with body-weight exercises and prevent injury-type exercises – “pre-hab,” that’s kind of the buzzword people use. But really the focus should be looking at the entire body and working on full range of motion and good movement.
USA Hockey: Should these plans be age specific?
Caulfield: Yes. There’s a lot of myth surrounding strength training and USA Hockey has done a great job dispelling the myths and encouraging people to seek out qualified strength and conditioning coaches who are certified and understand age-appropriateness and what drills and exercises are appropriate for specific age groups.
USA Hockey: Do you have any advice for lesser-experienced coaches?
Caulfield: I would encourage him or her to seek out a certified strength and conditioning specialist, which is the NSCA, our organization, or even check out our website. There’s a ton of strength and conditioning content there. That would definitely help guide them. I would say definitely don’t do things that you may have done growing up, because they may not be the best ways to train. There are a lot of qualified specialists out there to help you.
USA Hockey: What would be some words of advice to keep the kids motivated and keep them working towards their goals?
Caulfield: I think they need to make it fun. Training needs to be hard work, but it also needs to be somehow a little fun, whether that’s incorporating games into it or competitions with your team. If you can create that aspect of fun within that hard work and competitive environment, you’re going to have a lot of success and buy-in from the athletes.
USA Hockey: Do you encourage the kids to play other sports?
Caulfield: Absolutely. Even with our hockey players (Colorado College) we’ll do different sports like ultimate Frisbee or soccer. We would do that stuff in the spring and I think it’s tremendous, especially if they’re playing a hockey season, a long season where they’re in skates all the time. They really need to get out and do some different movements and some different movement patterns to help them stay athletic.
USA Hockey: What are some of the benefits for an athlete to play a different sport for a while?
Caulfield: It’s going to teach them different coordination. Different movement patterns, different movement skills, changing speeds and really getting a lot of coordination are the biggest benefits of playing different sports.
USA Hockey: It’s also nice to take a break away from the ice.
Caulfield: Yeah, I think the offseason is a good time to build strength. A lot of time, when we talk about strength and conditioning, we talk about how resting is when we’re really doing the most of it. So it’s a great chance, especially for younger players to avoid burnout. Take a break, enjoy time with your friends, enjoy a vacation with the family, and don’t think about anything related to their sport. It’s a good chance to just play, ride a bike, have fun, whatever it is.
Even with almost 50 years of involvement in hockey, you can’t plan for the current state of the world and the impact coronavirus has had on our game. I think it is safe to say that nothing prepares you for the changes that have taken place in our daily lives and the uncertainty of when things might return to normal. Or in this case, what will become the new “normal.”
Our expertise is hockey, so what we’ll address in this piece: the impact of the global pandemic on our game and how likely it will affect our game in the immediate future.
USA Hockey continues to post information on COVID-19 on the main website. These updates keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for updates and other hockey information.
On the officiating front, much of what we are able to do from a program standpoint is connected to player events like national tournaments and player development camps. As you know, the national tournaments (along with the March, April and May IIHF World Championship events) were cancelled. The Officiating Program then canceled our two instructor training programs that were planned for late April and early May in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Colorado Springs, Colo.
At this time, details for any potential summer development camps are still being determined. On the player side, several camps we are connected to were cancelled, and the few camps that are still in planning have been dramatically downsized. The Officiating Program continues to monitor the decisions made for players and will take advantage of any opportunity we have to salvage our summer camp program and maximize participation.
The good news is, we are confident we will have a 2020-21 season. All indications show no reason to delay registration. It will open as scheduled on or around May 26, followed by the open book exams and online seminar curriculum on June 1.
SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (learn about the new national level screening program in the Q & A section) will also be available to complete at that time. If COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, it would be an ideal time to get these requirements completed.
The biggest unknown will be the timing in which we will be able to conduct seminars. The vast majority of rinks are currently closed, and many of them took this opportunity to remove ice to save operating costs and do maintenance. There is now doubt they will be prepared to quickly ramp up once they are allowed to do so, but as with most everything right now, the timing is uncertain. As a result, some of the earlier seminars may be pushed back a few weeks. The District Referees-in-Chief will secure ice times and facilities so we can provide seminar dates and locations as quickly as possible. We are also encouraging our instructors to think outside the box by providing some weeknight seminar options, and to look at other ways to best meet the needs of our members.
The Advanced Officiating Symposium, scheduled for Providence, R.I. in late July, is still going to plan. We will continue to monitor the situation, including local restrictions and travel advisories in the coming weeks, and we will announce any changes in advance to allow for alterations to travel arrangements. Click here for up-to-date information or to reserve your seat at the 2020 Advanced Officiating Symposium.
These are difficult times for everyone, and although our hockey family is important to us, it is a small fraction of the big picture that is impacting our daily lives. To quote Andy Dufresne in his letter for Red that he left under the big oak tree in The Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We hope the coronavirus is conquered with minimal loss of lives and a return to a prosperous normal as soon as possible. We hope your passion for the game of hockey will only grow as a result of its absence. We hope we are back on the ice in the coming months and that the 2020-21 season will be our best yet.
Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey and don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.