Hockey Practice Armstong Arena Ottawa3

Image by Sokhar via Flickr

By Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS

Interval Training: The Key to Conditioning

No matter what your age or ability level, interval training will give players the best bang for their buck.  Period.

Interval training is by far the most efficient and effective way of conditioning players.

Interval training involves high intensity efforts interspersed with periods of rest.  The key to effective interval training is to ‘work hard and rest easy’ by adhering to proper work-to-rest ratios.

But how do you determine the appropriate work-to-rest ratios to use?

The challenge when designing an interval program for most sports is that:

•   The work-to-rest ratios are often unpredictable

•   It is difficult to predict how athletes will respond to the program

Know Your Sport

The average hockey shift could be as short as 30 seconds and as long as 1.5 minutes while the rest periods can vary from 30 seconds to 3 minutes in length.   It is impossible to determine the exact work-to-rest ratios used in each sport, so you must do your best to use conditioning drills that mimic the ratios most commonly seen in your sport.

Once you understand the unique work-to-rest ratios of your sport, you can begin to design a conditioning program that will address the needs of your athletes.  If a hockey forward gets an average of 8 shifts per period that are 45 seconds in length and rests for an average of 1.5 minutes between shifts, you will want to address these unique needs in your training.  You can design a program that progressively builds the athlete up until the point where they can put forth 100% effort for 45 seconds and recover in as little as 45 seconds!  You can put together a very specific and defined program, but you need one more piece of the puzzle first.

Know Your Players

Quite often, coaches will get their hands on conditioning programs that have been used before by different teams or players.  Some of these programs will be more appropriate and reputable than others.  You could have your hands on the best conditioning program in the world, but it won’t be effective unless you know how it effects your players.

When determining whether a conditioning program is appropriate for your players, the most important thing to look at is NOT whether they can perform the hard working effort but rather how well they recover from that hard effort.

As I mentioned above, proper interval training requires that athletes ‘work hard and rest easy’.  All too often, coaches will use work-to-rest ratios that are inappropriate to their athletes’ current fitness levels.   A coach wants to get their players into shape in time for first game of the season but only has 4 practices before the puck drops.  So in the interest of time, they start their players on an interval program using work-to-rest ratios that are in the 1:1 range.  This means that if players are skating hard for 45 seconds, they only get 45 seconds of rest before they must go again.  This is perfectly appropriate work-to-rest interval – if you are gearing up for playoffs and your players have been building up to this high level of intensity.

But it is NOT an appropriate place to start the season!

Odds are that your players aren’t going to be performing these 1:1 intervals very well.  They may be fast in the first few sprints.  But by the fourth sprint, their performance may drop off markedly.  They start gasping for air and their skating form gets sloppy.  In order for interval training to be effective (especially during the early stages of the season), athletes must have adequate time to rest.

How must Rest is enough?

Here are a few easy ways to determine whether your athletes are getting enough rest between intervals:

1)   Quality of Efforts: This one is easy to see.  If your players look sloppy by the third interval when they are supposed to perform 10, they probably aren’t getting enough rest between intervals.  It could be that they simply aren’t in good enough shape to perform 10 intervals well.  It is then our responsibility as coaches to ensure that we are assigning our players a number of intervals that are appropriate to their conditioning levels while simultaneously addressing their needs.

2)   Talk test: A simple way to gauge whether your athletes have recovered enough between intervals is to do the ‘talk test’.  If after finishing an interval, they can tell you a long story about what they did that day, they either aren’t working hard enough or the rest interval can be decreased.  On the other hand, if they are practically hyperventilating after an interval and can barely squeeze a one word answer to your question, they probably need a little more rest.  The general rule of thumb for when a player has recovered enough to perform the next interval is that they should be able to give you a one sentence answer to any question you ask.  This usually means that their breathing rate has slowed down enough to indicate sufficient recovery.  It isn’t overly scientific – but it works!

When trying to get your players into peak shape, keep in mind:

•   The unique work-to-rest ratios in your sport

•   How well your athletes are recovering from the intervals you prescribe

Bottom line: Your conditioning program will be only as good as its sport-specific design and its athlete-specific application.

About The Author

Kim McCullough, M.Sc., YCS is a highly sought-after expert in the development of aspiring hockey players and has played at the highest level of women’s hockey in the world for the last decade.  Kim’s player development website gives coaches and parents of aspiring young players access to programs, articles and advice on how to help their players take their game to the next level. To learn more about how to have your best season ever, visit:  Total Female Hockey.

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Check out this article before you start your girls hockey season training:

How To Get In Game Shape FAST

By Kim McCullough, M.Sc., YCS

When I went to university as a freshman, I was projected to be a fourth-liner.  I wasn’t a high-profile recruit – I never made any provincial teams in high school and never went to any National team camps until after my first year at college.  I was by no means a “polished” player – I was definitely a “project”.

And yet I was able to go from the fourth-line to being the leading scorer on the #1 ranked team in the country in less than 2 years.

I may have had fourth-line skills, but I also had first-line fitness.  It was my dedication to being the strongest, fastest and fittest player off the ice that allowed me to take my on-ice performance to the next level so quickly.

My commitment to off-ice fitness in the summer gave me a significant edge over both my teammates and my competition on the ice in the fall.

While everyone else was struggling to make it through our off-ice and on-ice training sessions, I was able to push myself to take both my fitness and performance to the next level.

While my tired teammates were staring up at the clock wondering how much time was left in practice, I was able to stay completely focused on learning the skills and systems that would allow me to move up from the fourth line.

If you are going to be a great player, you have to develop extraordinary skills and amazing game-sense.  But you must also have the fitness to be able to consistently showcase those skills in every practice and in every game all season long.

You could have the best one-on-one moves in the world, but if you are struggling to get down the ice at the end of your shifts, your effectiveness will be limited.  If you have fourth line fitness, your first line skills will only get you so far.

How To Get In Game Shape FAST

With training camp and the start of the season just a few short weeks away, players still have time to develop the first line fitness they need to compete at the highest level.

Ideally, players would be involved in an off-season training program all summer long.  But life and leisure get in the way, and all of a sudden, you find yourself a few weeks away from the start of the season and you are not in hockey shape.

It is physiologically impossible for young players to get stronger, faster or more powerful in only 4 weeks.  The muscular and nervous systems simply cannot make significant changes in that amount of time.

However, the cardiovascular system can adapt much more quickly, which means that it is still possible for players to develop first line fitness in only a month.

Players of all ages can use conditioning circuits that combine short sprints and strength exercises to vastly improve their hockey-specific fitness in a relatively short period of time.   These high-intensity circuits simulate a shift out on the ice by incorporating both the change of direction and change of body position that is inherent in the game of hockey.

Here is an example of a conditioning circuit that can be used with players during training camp or early in the season:

•       Start with 10 push-ups.

•       Sprint 20 meters as fast as possible.

•       Perform 10 squat jumps.

•       Sprint 20 meters back to the start.

•       Perform another 10 push-ups.

•       Sprint 20 meters.

•       Perform 20 meters of walking lunges back to the start.

•       Sprint 20 meters.

Perform one round of the circuit and then rest for 3 minutes.  Repeat this sequence 3 or 4 more times and you will be well on your way to getting in shape for the in-season.

By developing first-line fitness through the off-season, you are putting yourself in a position to excel in training camp and beyond.  And when you are a few steps ahead of your competition in September, you can open up an even bigger gap in fitness and performance as the season continues.

About The Author

Kim McCullough, M.Sc., YCS is a highly sought-after expert in the development of aspiring hockey players and has played at the highest level of women’s hockey in the world for the last decade.  Kim’s player development website gives coaches and parents of aspiring young players access to programs, articles and advice on how to help their players take their game to the next level. To learn more about how to get in game shape fast and have your best season ever, go to:

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The Great One
Image by Paul Nicholson via Flickr

I love to make scrapbooking layouts of my daughter’s hockey photos.  I’m always looking for some fun hockey quotes.  Here are a few ideas for quotes and titles for your scrapbooking pages.

Girls Hockey Sayings
(You can use these as scrapbooking titles)

Chicks with Sticks
Eat, Sleep, Play Hockey
Girls Hockey: Too Many Men on the Ice
I Play Hockey Like a Girl
The Coolest Girls Play Ice Hockey
I’m Not A Tomboy. I’m Just Better Than You.
Hockey: The Coolest Game on Earth
Girls Play Hockey (Of course I had to throw that in)
Can’t Check This!
Hockey: Invented by boys, perfected by girls
Play for the logo on the front, not the name on the back
Just Add Ice

Girls Hockey Quotes
(These look great as journaling or word art)

A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.
- Wayne Gretzky

You miss 100% of the shots you never take.
~Wayne Gretzky

It’s not necessarily the amount of time you spend at practice that counts; it’s what you put into the practice.
~Eric Lindros

Hockey captures the essence of Canadian experience in the New World. In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, and an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive.
- Stephen Leacock

Every day is a great day for hockey. ~Mario Lemeiux

If you’d like more scrapbooking quotes for your hockey layouts, check out  scrapbooking titles and quotes.

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When my son was playing travel hockey, we had the coolest ice hockey goalie car sticker on the back of our SUV.  Below it in the same color red was his jersey number in the same color.   We’ve since changed cars, and haven’t replaced it.  This is the first time I’ve seen a car decal for a girls hockey player.  It’s a magnet, but a sticker, but my daughter would be so thrilled to have this on the back of our car.  This time, if we change cars, it can easily be removed and placed on the  new car.

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Bantam AAA BC Women's Hockey Championship
Image by Uncleweed via Flickr

Did you know that womens’ hockey is increasing in popularity? Hockey has typically been a mens’ sport, not a womens sport. Women hockey players have increased by 350% over the last ten years. However, the number of womens professional hockey leagues is still significantly smaller than mens professional hockey leagues. Still, you might be surprised at how many womens’ professional hockey leagues there are.

In 1970, a woman officially became a professional hockey player. It was then that the Marquette Iron Rangers signed Karen Koch on as a contract player. The very first time womens hockey was included as a medal sport in the Winter Olympics was in 1998. During that year, the United States won the gold medal, Canada the silver medal and Finland took home the bronze medal. You might be surprised to learn that in 1992 the Tampa Bay Lightning, an NHL team, played some preseason ice hockey games with a woman as goaltender. Manon Rheaume is the first and only woman to play an NHL preseason exhibition game. She also played many minor league ice hockey games between 1992 and 1997. Also, there have been other women ice hockey players in the minor leagues.

In womens ice hockey leagues, there is one major difference in hockey play. In womens’ hockey there is no checking. This is also a big difference in the youth ice hockey leagues. Girls hockey also does not allow body checking. Penalties are given by the referee when checking occurs in girls hockey games. Women also wear full face masks. You don’t see the fighting and roughness in womens hockey either. As more girls discover womens’ hockey by watching the Winter Olympics, it is likely we will continue to see this sport gain in popularity.

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If you’ve been into girls hockey for any length of time, you already know how tough it can be to find girls hockey accessories.  It’s definitely not like shopping for football or baseball novelties.  My son is also a hockey player, and I learned just how slighted the hockey community is when it comes to T-shirts, bedroom accessories, and other decor compared to other sports.  For girls hockey, it’s even more of a challenge.

I’ve created a new category on Girls Play Hockey for Girls Hockey Accessories.  I’m going to spotlight a few of my finds in girls hockey “stuff” – not girls hockey equipment – but stuff like bedroom decor, T-Shirts, jewelry, ornaments and other things that girl hockey players might find as a fun way to share to their sport.

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It’s difficult to find ice hockey books specifically for girls. This has been one of my daughter’s favorites. The book covers the history of women’s hockey as well as advice on choosing equipment and finding a team. Each section includes profiles of women hockey players. The author includes the basics of the game and skill development for shooting, passing, scoring, stickhandling and, of course, skating. In addition, the book covers coaching and officiating the game.

“She Shoots…She Scores: The Complete Guide to Girl’s and Women’s Hockey” is a rare book for girls who love and play hockey.

The USA Hockey site has a section for girl’s and women’s ice hockey. USA Hockey provides some interesting statistics on the growth of women’s and girl’s hockey indicated by the increase in registered members. You will also find featured stories and camps for girls and women. One of my favorite resources on the USA hockey site is the Find Hockey Near You tool. You can search by state or use the advanced search to search by organization type.

The Generation Girl poster is available through USA Hockey as well.

I have seen this question on a few forums, and I’d love to hear your opinions. Should girls play girl’s ice hockey or can they continue to play with boys? If so, at what age should a girl stop playing on coed teams? Is this just a matter of the size and strength of the girl? Or can skill level influence the decision? Please leave your comments below.

Younger boys and girls hockey teams are becoming more popular each year. There was a time when this was not the case, especially with the girls hockey teams. Young ladies did not, as a rule, tend to enjoy the aggressive play that is associated with this game, but the times have changed. There are more females enjoying this fast-paced game today than ever before.
And why shouldnt they? With the proper coaching and training this sport can be as safe as any other sport. The benefits that it offers for both physical and mental activities are well known. Without a doubt, this is a sport that requires quick movements, concentration, focusing skills, team spirit, and the need to make fast decisions. All of that is good, and all of it can help build character in a child regardless of gender.

Often, however, it isnt the child who stands in the way of a young lady joining a girls hockey team but the other adults in hockey. This only makes sense given the amount of violence that we so often see the professional players conducting upon one another. But again, with the proper coaching and training, violence does not become an issue. In fact, a good coach will not stand for violent behavior from any of his or her players. This helps to build good character and helps the child to learn to vent frustration in a more civilized way.
On the upside, young boys and girls hockey teams are a great place to socialize and meet new friends. Any sport that requires self-discipline will also help the child to grow in a mature and thoughtful way. The physical requirements for this sport are such that no part of their little bodies will lack exercise. And as stated above, the mental skills can be very rewarding to them as they grow and become better at the game.

One issue that many parents are faced with in the beginning is where to get reliable and useful information concerning the sport. Some of the issues that parents have to become informed on are such things as how to pick a good team for their child and what equipment is needed for the sport in relation to the position the child wants to play (for example, a goalie needs special equipment as compared to a player). Other issues might be proper nutrition before, during, and after a game and injuries–what are the most common injuries and how to best avoid those injuries. These are just a few of things parents want to know about before they sign the consent form.

The problem, of course, is where to find all of this information. Thankfully, there is a free website that has been developed to answer these questions for parents. It also contains information for coaches, managers, and officials. The information is all very easy to understand and the site is easy to navigate.

Fire n Idea Inc. ( is a privately owned holding corporation in Canada and is the producer of The Hockey Source providing valuable information through its website about girls hockey.

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