Look out for the WWGRD (What Would Gary Roberts Do?) blocks for extra tips straight from the man himself.
Training camp is an exciting time for hockey players. If you’re like the guys we work with – which you probably are because you’re reading the Gary Roberts blog – you’ve spent all off-season grinding away at your skills. That means consistent workouts, focused skates, paying attention to what you put in your body, and skipping out on friends to get to sleep early.
In a nutshell, SACRIFICE.
Now, it’s time to show off your hard work, build those important relationships with your teammates, and impress your coaches. We want to make sure you’re ready to succeed!
In this blog, we’ll share some of our top mental and physical tips to help you crush this year’s training camp.
The Great One said it best: “Ninety percent of hockey is mental, and the other half is physical.”
If you are going to have success on the ice, you need to get your mind right. We all know the player who steps onto the ice, fully confident in their ability. They play loose and free, with no fear of making a mistake. For some players, that comes easy. Others have to work on it. It’s important to ask yourself what type of player you are and take steps to improve.
Hockey training camp demands a lot of mental focus, discipline, and resilience. Here are some tips to help you stay sharp and positive:
Set Specific Goals: It’s hard to succeed in hockey if you’re thinking about 100 different things. This is especially true in training camp with the added pressure. One way to help avoid the paralysis-by-analysis trap is to focus on a few specific goals.
Pick 1 or 2 goals! Not 5, definitely not 10, just 1 or 2. Make sure that these are goals you can measure to assess progress.
Not sure what goals you should pick?
Pick something small to start, like being the first in every drill line or the first on the forecheck. They aren’t challenging goals, so you can build your confidence.
“I would use 3×5 cue cards to help me set my goals for each game. Just a couple of things I wanted to focus on. Then I would read it over before heading to the rink.”
Visualize Success: Visualization can be a great tool for a hockey player. There are many benefits, but two of our favorites are to improve your skills and help eliminate distractions.
Improve Your Skills with Visualization
Visualization allows you to run through hockey plays and drills in your mind’s eye. You can imagine yourself making crisp passes, taking accurate shots, and executing the perfect toe drag. Use visualization to imagine the perfect skating stride, the perfect stick handling technique, or the perfect backcheck. This exercise helps you develop a mental blueprint of how you want to play, which helps with muscle memory. When you go out onto the ice, your body already knows how to execute those movements you rehearsed in your mind, giving you an edge over your opponents.
During a training camp, getting distracted by the stress of competition, external pressures, and other distracting thoughts is easy. By visualizing positive situations and outcomes, you can center your attention and remain focused. Visualization can control anxiety and reduce stress levels, giving you the mental clarity to concentrate on the task at hand.
Focus on the Process: Rather than worry about the outcome or other players’ performances, focus on what you can control, such as your effort, attitude, and attention to detail. Trust that the results will follow if you do your best.
In the hockey psychology field, players can be divided into two buckets.
- Outcome Driven
- Process Driven
Players in the Outcome-Driven category care more about the result. Players in the Process-Driven care more about the journey. All good hockey players need a mix, but being Process-Driven will help you work through tough situations – like a hockey training camp – when the puck isn’t bouncing your way.
Prepare Your Body
Hockey training camp requires high physical fitness, strength, and conditioning. You know this because you worked on it all off-season. Now that it’s time to show off that work, don’t waste it!
Here are some tips to help you prepare your body and avoid injuries during training camp:
Do a proper warm-up and cooldown
Many hockey players skip out on warm-up or go through the motions. Refrain from falling into the trap of thinking warm-up doesn’t matter. It does, for all the reasons below and more!
Reduce the risk of Injury
One of the most significant benefits of warming up before a game or practice is that it can help reduce the risk of injury. Properly warming up helps prepare the body for the game’s physical demands by increasing your body temperature and getting your muscles and joints ready to perform at their best. It helps prevent hockey injuries such as muscle strains, pulls, tears, and joint issues.
Warming up before a game or practice can also help to improve performance. Taking the time to perform a proper warm-up helps to increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. This results in enhanced performance and faster reaction times, meaning you’re ready for puck drop. A few minutes of warm-up is a small investment in being a better hockey player.
We highlighted it above, but the warm-up is a great time to work on your mindset. Warming up helps to focus your thoughts, release stress, and eliminate any mental fog, ensuring you are mentally prepared to play your best game. You can use the time to visualize or review your goals for the skate!
Don’t Stop Training
Another common mistake is that hockey players stop lifting weights after the off-season ends. They think it will make them too tired or sore for the games.
This isn’t true!
The players we work with in-season are on a proper training program and continue to make gains while decreasing their injury risk throughout the season. Plus, if you don’t train all season, you’ll lose much of the strength, power, and muscle you gained during the summer.
This principle is called the Residual Training Effect.
The residual training effect is a critical concept in hockey that explains why consistent weightlifting is necessary. “Residual” refers to the idea that the benefits of a workout will remain for an extended period. In other words, if you lift weights consistently, even if you miss a week or two, the benefits of your earlier workouts will continue. But, if you stop training altogether, you’ll eventually lose those gains and have to start back at square one next off-season. You want to be a fast, powerful hockey player in October and April.
If you’re unsure what to do for in-season training, please reach out – we’d love to work with you in our facility or remotely to help you be the best hockey player possible!
Rest and Recover
Training camp is stressful for hockey players, so make sure you get enough sleep (7-9 hours per night) and prioritize recovery between sessions. We don’t say this for the shock effect; sleep is a superpower. It’s the ultimate performance-enhancing drug, and it’s 100 percent free, so take advantage of it.
We wrote a great article called Sleep – A Hockey Player’s Favourite Weapon that you should check out.
Fuel the Body
It wouldn’t be a Gary Roberts blog if we didn’t talk about nutrition, and having a successful training camp does come down to what you put in your body. Here are our top tips for hockey training camp fuel.
Dehydration is one of the number one reasons why hockey players underperform. It seems so simple, but most players aren’t drinking enough water.
Below are some rough hydration guidelines that our Functional Sports Nutritionist Sylvie Tetreault put together.
Approximately 2-3 hours before training, drink 5-10oz of water or an electrolyte solution. Then, right before training, drink another 8-10oz.
Drink approximately 8-10oz every 15-20 minutes, depending on the intensity of the training session and your sweat rate.
Determine the amount of water you lose through sweat by measuring your weight and after. On average, hockey players lose 2-3 lbs throughout a game, but some can lose 7+ lbs. Aim to replace each pound lost with 16-24 oz of fluid.
The last thing you want is standing in line for a drill, and your stomach starts rumbling. Not only is it distracting, but it also means that your body is out of fuel. Making sure you get a quality pre-training/skate meal is key!
Here are a couple of guidelines to follow:
– Immediately before a workout, we recommend eating carbohydrates and consuming less protein and fats. (I.e., Banana, honey, etc.)
– Limit fat and fiber intake pre-workout, especially in the hour leading up. Both can slow digestion and may cause gastrointestinal upset (bloating, cramping, etc.). The specific amount will vary based on the individual. As a rule, be cautious to avoid any digestive issues.
– Consume adequate carbohydrates to sustain energy levels. The amount of carbohydrates will differ among athletes, but as a guideline, aim to consume 1g- 4g/kg bodyweight pre-workout. Some quality options include sprouted or sourdough bread with peanut butter, honey, and banana—Greek yogurt with homemade oat granola, or protein-energy date bites.
Hockey training camp is a challenging but rewarding experience that can help you become a better player, teammate, and person, but it won’t be easy. Use the tips above to help maximize your potential, reduce stress, and become the best hockey player you can be!