The off-season is our favourite time of year. Players are back and motivated to get better. The gym is packed, and everyone is pushing hard toward a common goal. We say it all the time, but it really is true.
“You’re only one off-season away from changing your career.”
That said, not all off-seasons are created equal, and you can easily waste the opportunity to improve if you aren’t properly prioritizing your time and effort. We’ve seen average players make up ground summer after summer by applying these 5 tips.
Set & Track Goals
Goal setting is critical to your success as a player. Goals help us to focus our attention and energy, giving us a clear sense of purpose and direction. When we set goals, we are able to determine what we want to achieve, create a plan of action, and track our progress along the way.
A great quote from Tom Bilyeu – the founder of Quest Nutrition – explains the importance of goal setting. The quote is, “I often have to remind myself that I can do whatever I want, but not everything that I want.”
Your summer off-season is the same. In the beginning, you can do whatever you want. The possibilities are endless. But you’re restricted by time, so you can’t do everything. You have to hone in on the most important things. Elite players use the early off-season to assess their performance during the year and set goals for the off-season.
Side Note: Look for insight from your coaches and people you trust in hockey when setting goals.
It can be difficult at times to set goals we put together a few guidelines based on the work of James Clear. James is an author, speaker, and entrepreneur based in the United States. He is best known for his work in the field of habit formation and continuous improvement and has worked with several sports teams and athletes. If you’re interested in the topic, his book “Atomic Habits” is a must-read.
Goal Setting for Hockey Players
Goals should be focused on systems, not outcomes. We shouldn’t just focus on what we want to happen but also on how we can make it happen. This means creating good habits that will help us get there. This is also important on the ice, as the outcome is often out of our control.
Goals should be specific and measurable: It’s important to make sure our goals are clear, and we can measure our progress. We can use a special tool called SMART to help us make good goals. The SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) help us to avoid vague goals.
Goals should align with your identity: When you set goals consistent with who you are and what you value, you are more likely to be motivated to achieve them. The goals you set need to be for you, not someone else.
Goals should be adaptable: Sometimes things might change, so adjusting our goals is okay if we need to. We should check in on our goals often to make sure they still make sense for us and our development.
Once you’ve set a goal, the real work begins, and the best way to make sure that you follow through on that work is by tracking. If you want to make progress in your training, you need to track your output – sets, reps, time – otherwise, you’re just guessing where you left off. You can apply this same principle to all goals. I can track training, lifestyle, mental performance, etc. Really anything and everything can be tracked.
Get Comfortable Saying No
If you want to perform at a high level, you’re going to have to become comfortable with saying No.
What does that mean?
As a hockey player, saying “no” means making choices that prioritize your physical and mental health and your hockey goals. Success requires sacrifice, and saying “no” to invitations or events that could interfere with their training schedule, rest, and recovery time is perfectly okay. It could also mean skipping activities that could put you at risk of injury or compromise your next training session.
Friends and family might struggle to understand, but that’s when it’s important to review your goals and make decisions that move you toward them. The people in your life that really care about you will understand.
We talk about sleep all the time, but that’s because it’s so important for a successful off-season. If you want to maximize your results in the limited window, sleeping 8+ hours every night has to be non-negotiable. To do that, you’re probably going to have to get really good at saying ‘No’ to late-night activities.
We wrote a more in-depth article about sleep here: Sleep – A Hockey Player’s Secret Weapon, but we have broken down the Coles notes below.
Sleep is crucial for:
- Muscle Gain / Body Comp – During sleep, the body produces hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormone, that aid in muscle repair and growth. A lack of sleep can lead to decreased muscle mass, decreased muscle strength, and impaired muscle recovery, making it much harder to reach your goals.
- Mental Clarity – Numerous studies have examined the negative impact of sleep deprivation on decision-making and how generally cautious individuals begin to make impulsive and rash decisions. Tough to improve your skills when you’re struggling to make a decision.
- Reaction Time – Getting enough quality rest will sharpen players’ reflexes and help them process information better to make fast choices on the ice.
- Injury Avoidance/Recovery – Sleep is essential in recovering from any injury. Recent studies point to sleep as a key factor in helping the body heal quicker. The hormones released while sleeping help regulate inflammation and repair cells, allowing you to get back on the ice faster.
Work on Your Weaknesses
To be good at hockey, working on things you’re not very good at is important. This means figuring out what you need to get better at and practicing those things.
Sometimes it can be hard to admit you’re not good at something, but it’s important to be honest with yourself so you can improve. It’s okay to make mistakes and not be perfect. By working on your weaknesses, you can become a better player and feel more confident on the ice. Remember, practice makes progress.
Here is a quick example to help show you how seriously you should take this! Two summers ago, one of our pro players returned home after arguably their best season, but he was unhappy about his faceoff percentage. He booked ice that summer every two weeks and brought out the top centerman in the area to take draws against. For an entire summer, he continually lost draws. That season he improved his winning percentage by nearly 10%. He made a huge change in the NHL all because he was humble enough to work on it.
Work with a Coach
If you want to have the best off-season possible, you should work with a coach for both on-ice and off-ice training. Lessons are hard to learn and take time, but a good coach can help you reach your goals faster.
When looking for a coach, you should consider a few different things.
- Expertise – Do they have the expertise and knowledge to help you develop and improve their physical and technical skills? Have they done it before themselves or with other athletes?
- Walk the Talk – There may be some debate on this point, and there are exceptions, but it is important that our coaches walk the talk. We believe it should matter to you as well. This isn’t to say we expect single-digit body fat and an 18-hour-per-week training routine, but we want coaches who believe in and practice the principles they preach.
- Good Communicator – The ability to explain complex concepts in a simple manner is a must in a good coach. A good coach should be able to speak to you in the language that helps you learn best but is also unafraid to hold you accountable.
- High Integrity – Working with high-integrity people makes life easier. It’s pretty simple.
We hope these tips help you have the best off-season possible. We’d love to chat if you’re unsure how to make it a success and need some help. We work with players both in-person and through our remote programs.