With the NHL training camp just a month away and most Junior and Youth programs starting up sooner, here are some ideas to make your training camp unique, competitive and productive.
1) Fitness Testing- In the below article Bill Guerin talks about the conditioning tests and standards that measured NHL players when he first started till now. In my opinion, the conditioning standards need to be rigid (taking a minimum or baseline approach) but also be flexible as all athletes are better or worse at certain exercises. Focus on having a standard minimum for strength (lower body, upper body and core) and cardiovascular fitness (both short distances and long). Also too... ice time is expensive and valuable, so try not to waste it with these activities for youth or junior programs. Do these Off- Ice.
2) On- Ice practices- Separate the days and build in a progressive format. For example, don't put in your power play system (no matter how important you think it is) before you have your players adjusted to the pace and they have their timing back. If they are gassed, and the players timing is off because of a long off-season, then even the best potential power plays are going to look awful.
Early on, make the environment competitive, so players feel like they are being given a realistic shot to compete for opportunities.
3) Meetings and Culture- Meetings and establishing the team rules are extremely important. The culture you create in the pre-season, will carry forward, as players remember these early situations more than a typical meeting during the regular season. Set the standard and set the example with your enthusiasm and professionalism.
Use the off-ice meetings to put in your system before hitting the ice, so that you can create practice plans that drill down into what your D- Zone coverage, Forecheck, D- Zone face-off etc., is going to be.
Also, use video whenever you can. Players have to connect with their coach, and where some players might be audio learners (listening to you and understanding) others may be only visual learners and need to see exactly ( diagrammed and with game tape) what you are asking them to do.
4) Team Building- In my opinion, the best teams I've ever coached, or played on, were built off the ice. The On- ice activities are generally set in a competitive work environment. Off the ice however, whether it be in meetings, the gym, structured activities or just during social times, are when players create real bonds. The better you can fostered these bonds, the more likely your team will still be close-knit months down the road when they are competing for a playoff spot.
Focus on structured team activities that have an end result, and create a sense of accomplishment. There are hundreds to choose from, but also be creative and look into activities that can tie into your local community.
Moreover, don't feel like you have to lead all these activites. Many leaders will emerge during these situations. Allow them to lead.
* The more activities that you can complete Off- Ice, saves time and money On the Ice.
* First Impressions Matter.
* Leaders Emerge in Pre- Season.
* There are 24 hours in a day... Players can learn most details to your system in a training camp.
* Be progressive and build upon fundamentals.
* Conditioning is paramount. If you team comes out of training camp less ready than it's peers, the situation won't get better once games begin.
* Have a plan in place for the entire camp, but be willing to adjust.