Eventually the rinks will reopen; games and practices will start again. The world might never be quite the same, but eventually we will get back to hockey. In 6-12 months, will you look back on this time and ask yourself, “did I do enough?”

In some ways, the current stay-at-home orders are a blessing in disguise because they level the playing field. Everyone is stuck at home, everyone is trying to get better under the same constrained conditions. The question of who will get better during this time will, therefore, be largely determined by resourcefulness, determination and self-discipline. You cannot make the excuse that other players get more ice time or better coaching. Those other players are in the same boat as you right now. Can you out-compete them in terms of your ability to get better in a difficult situation?

It’s a cliché, but a crisis is an opportunity. And people, like businesses, who can navigate a time of crisis without losing sight of their goals will emerge from the turmoil better positioned than their competitors.

Below, I’ve written a list of 10 things that hockey players can do right now to get better even when they are stuck at home. 

Number 1: Read a Book

For anyone who is serious about skill development and high levels of performance in ANY domain, I highly recommend The Talent Code and The Little Book of Talent, both by Daniel Coyle. I will be sharing tips and insights from these books in the coming weeks. 

Number 2: Train Your Brain

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that playing hours of NHL 20 will improve your performance when you get back on the ice. However, there ARE ways to improve your skill at thinking the game while staying at home. That’s why I’ve secured a discount for all those in the BRS High Performance Hockey network to get 6-month or 12-month licenses to The Hockey IntelliGym® for 15% off when you Click Here and enter BRS2020 at checkout. You can also qualify to win a 6-month license for FREE by participating in our Pet Food Drive for MaxFund Animal Shelter

In addition, I’ve been taking part in some free webinars put on by Alex Chénier of Hockey Developpement (pronounced day-vel-up-mon) in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, QC (say that ten times fast!) featuring skills coaches from the WHL, OHL, QMJHL and Hockey Canada. While these webinars are targeted at coaches, they feature some next level insights on skill development that players can use to give structure and direction to their own training. Just visit Alex’s Instagram page for the link to register for the next one. In addition, I am happy to send links to video recordings of any of the past webinars presented by coaches from the Ottawa 67’s, Regina Pats, Winnipeg Ice & Hockey Canada just to name a few. Just send me an email if you are interested!

Number 3: Learn How to Cook

There is no single better way to take control of your nutrition and improve your diet than learning how to cook! With everyone eating at home, now is a great time to get kids in the kitchen (with proper supervision and safety precautions) learning how to cook for themselves. I’ve given some personal recommendations for online cooking classes below: 
– America’s Test Kitchen Online Cooking School (better for kids 11-13 and up to adult) 
– America’s Test Kitchen For Kids (better for kids 10-12 and under)
– The Seasoned Chef Cooking School (they offer many live online classes)

Number 4: Get a Soccer Ball

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The rinks might be closed, but your backyard is open and so too are many parks. Now is a great time to improve your overall athleticism and one of the best ways to do that by yourself and in limited space is with a soccer ball. If you don’t have a soccer ball, you can even try juggling a tennis ball with your feet! 

Look up simple dribbling, juggling or agility drills or one of the thousands of videos on how to complete the moves of masters like Ronaldinho and Messi. Above is a video about how to do Ronaldinho’s classic elastico move, but don’t stop there. You could, literally, spend all day looking up and working on moves like this. Just remember to break the move down into chunks and build it up step by step. Oh, and read The Talent Code. Seriously. 

You can also check out this article from Soccer Today with renowned coach and author of Soccer Starts at Home Tom Byer on simple soccer drills to do at home during Covid-19. 

Number 5: Set Meaningful Hockey Goals

Take some time to sit back and look at your hockey career. Where have you been? Where do you want to go in the short term, medium term and long term? How do you intend to get there? What are your process goals (things you will do, like completing a certain number of quality reps per day) and outcome goals (things that are somewhat out of your control, like how many goals you want to score next year)?

Try these two exercises.

Exercise 1: Set, some S.M.A.R.T. goals. One each for the short, medium and long term. Be sure to follow the criteria below: 
– S: The goal should be specific. Being a better player is NOT specific enough. 
– M: The goal should be measurable. You have to be able to definitively say with some objective measurement whether or not you reached it.
– A: The goal should be action-oriented. Whether or not you reach your goal should be determined by whether or not you DO something. 
– R: The goal should be realistic. Setting unrealistically high goals actually lets you off the hook from doing any work. Don’t fall into that trap. 
– T: The goal should be time-limited. You have to set a deadline by which you must reach your goal. If you leave the time-frame open, it is too easy to make excuses. 

Exercise 2: Pick some teams that you want to play for in the future. Go to a hockey stats website like EliteProspects.com and search for that team. Click on an average player from their roster and trace his career path back as far as you can. Are you on the same path? What are you going to do to GET on the same path? 

Number 6: Work on Your Stickhandling & Shooting Skills

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Everyone is on a level playing field right now. Who is going to do the most to get better under difficult circumstances? You may never have a better opportunity to catch the players ahead of you than right now.

A few weeks ago I sent out the above video with some drills that you can do at home to improve your stickhandling and shooting skills. These are two skills (as opposed to skating) that most players with a modest home training area can work on at home. Remember, you have to break skills down to their component parts and put them back together piece by piece. Have I mentioned that you should read The Talent Code?

There are tons of other great resources for off-ice drills that you can do at home. Just send me an email if you are looking for recommendations! 

Number 7: Get Stronger

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The guys at Moving Forward have been putting together some great performance-oriented workouts that you can do at home with no equipment. Check out their YouTube for videos like the one above. 

A couple points on effective training at home:

You can train effectively without equipment, but a couple of cheap dumbbells and a TRX Suspension Trainer can really open up a lot of possibilities (such as goblet squats or inverted rows) that are hard to accomplish with just body weight.

The following movements (and their progressions/regressions) are some of the most transferable to sport performance whether you are at home or in a dedicated facility. 
– Squat (body weight or goblet)
– Push-Up
– Hip Bridge (two-leg or single leg)
– Row (TRX row, DB row, etc.)
– Lunge (forward, backward, lateral or rotational)

Don’t have any weight, but want to make a squat or push up harder? Slow down the negative (or eccentric) phase as much as you can. 

Number 8: Help Someone in Need

If a higher level coach asks your current coach about you, the two questions that will come up are: “What’s this kid like off the ice?” and “What are his/her grades?” (See the next topic.)

However, don’t just do good work because it might help you make a team. Do it for the sake of doing it. Remember, high-caliber hockey players are high-caliber people. If you want to be like the players on TV that you admire, you have to start becoming like them on and OFF the ice. 

It’s a drop in the ocean, but an easy way to start is by participating in our Pet Food Drive for MaxFund Animal Shelter. It’s a great way to help those affected by Covid-19 and you could even win a free license to The Hockey IntelliGym® or sweet gear from places like Green Biscuit or Hockey-Dot

Number 9: Improve Your Grades

You don’t have to spend time commuting to school. You don’t have commitments like hockey practice pulling you in other directions. Now is the time to buckle down and focus on improving your performance at school. 

First of all, this relates to hockey performance because just about anywhere that you are going to go in hockey is going to care about your grades. It’s not only a prerequisite to competing in places like the NCAA, it’s also a sign to potential coaches of your work ethic and discipline. 

Here’s a couple of quick study tips to improve retention and use time efficiently: 

– Make 20 flash cards for French/Spanish vocab and quiz yourself but, if you get one wrong, stop and go back to the start. Don’t stop until you can get all 20 in a row alphabetically, reverse alphabetically and randomly. 

– Instead of reading a chapter in your textbook over and over, read the chapter once, put the book down and write a one page summary of what you just read. 

– Teach the math concept you are learning to a sibling. Do you understand it deeply enough to explain it to someone who doesn’t?

By the way, have I mentioned read The Talent Code?

Number 10: Go Barefoot

Hockey players spend a great deal of time in a restrictive cast-like boot, also known as a hockey skate. As a result, many hockey athletes have limited ankle mobility, lack strength in their feet/ankles/toes, suffer from chronic conditions like plantar fasciitis and have difficulty with sensory perception through their feet. 

Now is the time to improve those qualities! Start with a simple myofascial release (aka foam rolling) program by rolling your foot on a lacrosse ball or tennis ball and rolling out your lower legs (look up some tutorials on how to do it right or give the coaches at Moving Forward Performance & Fitness a call). When it is safe and appropriate, try to do your strength training barefoot. Try the soccer practice mentioned above barefoot. You may notice your balance, mobility and proprioception improving!  

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Brandon Reich-Sweet

Brandon Reich-Sweet is a former AAA hockey player from Colorado, currently a coach for the historic Littleton Hockey Association south of Denver, a lead instructor with the Ice Ranch’s Learn to Play Hockey Program and a private instructor offering lessons and small group camps. He is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with Distinction (CSCS*D), a Level 4 USA Hockey Certified Coach, a Level 2 USA Weightlifting Certified Coach and a strength & conditioning coach with the Colorado Rampage AAA Hockey Club. He is the founder of BRS High Performance Hockey, a hockey skills and training company dedicated to comprehensive and long-term player development through the 4-pillar approach of fundamental skills coaching, game-representative problem solving training, strength & conditioning, and athletic development. Brandon is currently pursuing an M.S. degree in Applied Exercise Science (Sports Performance Concentration) at Concordia University Chicago.