Strength training for junior hockey players
When is the right time to incorporate strength training for the young field hockey player? Should they be using weights in their training or should a player and coach stay completely away from this area until the player is an young adult?
There are many questions in this area on strength training in general, but not a lot of questions on strength training for young athletes. Some aspects to consider with junior players and strength training:
1. Think Longer Term
Adopt a long term approach rather than a quick fix. For example a 6 session program may produce minor improvements in your child’s technique and motor skills but long term program will produce consistent good habits and focus. As coaches and parents we need to think long term about players development and recognise small improvements build over time.
THINK PROGRESS VS ACHIEVEMENT
In all sports we have some players that pick up new skills earlier, while other players mature later. The junior star of the team now is not always the outstanding player they were in their later teens or adults. There are many examples of players not making a rep team until later in their teens or as adult. Have patience in the process with step by step improvements and the long term.
2. Don’t Specialise too Early
As much as we want our son to be the next Mark Knowles or our daughter to be Casey Eastman, and who wouldn’t want to be a great athlete or ambassadors for field hockey like Casey or Mark, it is still important that the young player looks to play a variety of other sports apart from hockey especially from a younger age under 12.
The off season is an ideal time for this where a young player may do swimming, little athletics, nippers (surf life saving for young kids), basketball, summer soccer (the structure of soccer in many ways has become very similar to hockey), surfing, touch football, cricket, tennis or even golf. (You would be surprised how many good hockey players are good golfers).
Playing a variety of sports will expose them to a variety of other skills it will freshen them up for the playing season ahead. At the end of the day we want kids to play hockey for their enjoyment, friendship, to learn team work and most importantly to play longer term. As coaches and parents it is our responsibility to expose them to other sports as well as hockey.
3. Go for Low Intensity Training
Coaches need to look at the intensity of the strength exercises when doing training for younger players. Coaches should stay completely away from Heavy loads (using weights) and Low Reps (repetitions less than 5 weighted) exercises for younger players/athletes.
A focus should be on body weight exercises or light resistance power bands. Exercises such as push ups, body squats, lunges, pull ups, core strength should be used as there are many varieties that can be used. Coaches should focus on correct technique first and foremost and look at completing higher reps (10-20) but in a controlled manner.
4. Developing Relative Strength
Parents are sometimes scared of younger players doing any strength training and think that they will become too big and bulky, or become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. This could not be further from the truth, most body builders have trained for years to put on muscle and the exercises are designed (weighted and amount of reps) to do so. Sure if a young teenage boy looks to work on building muscle there is a likelihood this may happen but it comes down to the type of exercises are weight used.
Building relative strength in the lower body, core and upper body will assist players and if done correctly it will help reduce the likelihood of injury and reduce muscle fatigue in the game and at training.
5. The build up
As coaches and parents we should look to build up the exercises over a period of time. There is no point pushing a child so hard in their first sessions that it not only causes extreme fatigue but their technique becomes sloppy which could cause injury and even worse they end up hating it.
The slow build up approach over a matter of weeks and months is the recommended approach whilst adding difficulty slowly over time. Having a personal trainer in a “boot style type camp” yelling instructions to get as many reps in as possible and not paying attention to correct technique is not the right approach, sure young players need resistance in training, but a more positive approach is required rather than a push approach. Think Quality over Quantity.
To find out what strength activities young hockey players can undertake and use safely as part of their hockey training program, consider becoming an Inside the D Member to get access to over 20 different exercises ranging from various body weight exercises and using power bands (resistance bands) for the young hockey player or coach. Click on Inside the D Membership for more information