Coaching Philosophy: The 4-Pillar Approach

What Are the 4 Pillars of Performance?

BRS High Performance Hockey is based on the 4-Pillar approach of (1) developing players as well-rounded athletes, (2) developing sound fundamental skills through progression-based and games-based coaching methods, (3) training athletes to use their skills to solve problems in the context of a dynamic and ever-changing game environment and (4) utilizing science-based strength & conditioning programming to develop a variety of important physical qualities to improve athletic performance.

Athletic Development

It’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason: 9 times out of 10, the best hockey player is going to be the best overall athlete. At BRS High Performance Hockey, our on-ice and off-ice programming is designed to develop whole athletes rather than hockey robots.  Through a combination of plyometric, coordination, reaction and multitasking based drills (even more on that later) as well as an off-ice program which develops quality movement patterns and emphasizes multi-sport training our athletes are able to develop deep athletic qualities which translate to improved hockey performance and the potential for improved performance in other sports as well. Our programming won’t just make you better at an edge drill, it will make you a more coordinated athlete who is ready to respond appropriately to the wide variety of physical and mental demands that are placed on you in a game.

Fundamental Skills Coaching

You crawl before you walk and you walk before you run. However, you probably learned these movement skills through play, experimentation and interaction, not through explicit instruction or repetitive drilling from your parents on “the right way” to do them. BRS High Performance Hockey founder Brandon Reich-Sweet has worked with a variety of hockey players from complete beginners to experienced competitive players and has years of experience teaching the fundamental skills of the game (skating, passing, shooting, stickhandling and contact/checking) using interactive and games-based methods that DO NOT require players to stand in long lines while waiting to do pre-determined and unrealistic drills. What makes our system different from many others is our combination of games-based teaching methods with an understanding of proper biomechanics and how hockey skating differs from figure skating and speedskating.

Our fundamental hockey skills coaching is not just a random assembly of drills collected from the internet and books, nor is it a “coach-centered” approach with lots of standing in line, explicit instruction and waiting to do a pre-determined pattern with no pressure. It is, instead, a program in which the athlete-environment relationship is emphasized; wherein players develop fundamental skills by solving problems within a shaped/constrained, but still dynamic environment (IE, playing meaningful games that are designed to develop specific competencies). In addition, Coach Brandon’s training as an NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and his experience as a strength coach sets him apart in his ability to identify biomechanically efficient movement patterns for hockey. You WILL NOT learn a skating technique here just because it looks pretty in figure skating, because it makes you go fast in a straight line in speedksating or just because a coach in the past said that it “looked right”…here you will learn the “why” behind an exercise and the techniques that are the most efficient for use in hockey. This doesn’t mean lots of speeches on every detail of skating mechanics, but rather that games are shaped and structured to emphasize hockey-relevant skills with only minimal explanation from the coach ever being necessary.

Remember, hockey is an ice-sport unlike many others, which requires a higher degree of lateral movement and the need for “optionality” or the ability to execute a variety of skills at any given time. High performance in ice hockey isn’t about aesthetics, as is the case in figure skating, and it requires a great deal more lateral movement than speedskating. Hockey also requires deceptive and evasive skating skills, which are not necessary to be good at either figure skating or speed skating. Being good at hockey doesn’t mean you can “shoot the duck” or do a circus-act edge drill with your elbow on the ice; it means you can use real hockey skills to solve real problems in a real hockey environment. Unfortunately, many powerskating and skill instructors coach as though all ice sports are the same. We don’t.

Problem Solving Skills

Does it seem like you’ve worked for years with the same powerskating or skills coach, spent lots of money, gotten good at the drills and then never made the team you wanted or really improved your in-game performance? Unfortunately, that’s a common complaint. And it’s because traditional powerskating and skills development programs allow players to perform skills in an environment that is nothing like the real game. Players repeat isolated and de-contextualized movement patterns over and over with no pressure, no speed and no requirement to solve problems in the context of a real game environment. Players might become extremely proficient at edge drills or c-cut drills, but they will never be able to perform at an elite level in a game because they have been trained to the drill, not to the game. Players might get good at the drills, but they don’t get good at playing hockey. Unfortunately, the ceiling for this type of player is extremely low.

The BRS High Performance Hockey method is different because it forces players to solve problems within game-like environments. Rather than having players repeat a pre-determined drill, players are asked to accomplish a task within a constrained environment. In our approach, the coach is not a “transmitter of information” but, rather, the “architect of an environment” that the players explore. This is the method behind the madness of having players jump over PVC pipe while spotting the puck into open ice, play odd-number keep-away games, or play a miniature cross ice game (using a miniature puck) with real rules enforced and all of the lines of a real hockey rink spray-painted on the ice.

This is how you produce elite hockey players (and it’s a method backed up by a huge body of sport science theory, research and practice). The best player is NOT the player with the most technically perfect crossover, shot, pass etc., but rather the player who can cooperate with teammates, compete against opponents and interact with a dynamic game environment while applying the right skill at the right time in an athletic and effective way. This is the sort of player that our method produces. And the ceiling for this type of player is extremely high.

Strength & Conditioning

Players are only as good as the physical tools that they bring to the ice. If a player is slow, weak and injury-prone, then that player is going to have a tough time getting the most out of training, let alone performing in a game. BRS High Performance Hockey takes a step beyond the traditional “day-camp” model in which off-ice strength & conditioning (sometimes called “dryland”) is either not included or is treated as “filler.”

Very few hockey coaches can claim to be (1) an NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist with Distinction (CSCS*D), (2) a USA Weightlifting Level 2 Certified Coach, or (3) a master’s degree student in applied exercise science, like BRS founder Brandon Reich-Sweet. Most hockey coaches don’t have these credentials and that’s one reason why their strength & conditioning programs are often ineffective or counterproductive. Did your player spend last summer’s hockey camp “going for a run,” “stretching” or “playing games at the park” during dryland training? That’s a problem, and the staff at the camp probably treated these sessions like “filler” just to “kill time” in between ice sessions.

At BRS High Performance Hockey, our strength & conditioning program is science and progression-based, tied intimately to the training we are doing on the ice and completed at a dedicated performance facility with highly-trained, highly-educated and highly-certified strength & conditioning professionals. We offer off-ice training that is meaningful and designed to improve performance through the development of qualities such as strength, power, speed, agility, stamina and mobility. It’s not “filler,” it’s an integral part of everything that we do.