ON-ICE TRAINING SEPARATES THE FLYERS ELITE PROGRAM FROM THE REST
Highly qualified coaching staff on the ice for all practices
- In addition to many years experience at the youth level, many of our coaches also have experience coaching and/or playing at the NHL, Division I & III collegiate, Prep School and Junior Hockey levels
- Our coaches have the proper perspective required to develop elite hockey players and solid citizens
- Focus on skill and concepts development through repetition at practice
POWER SKATING sessions conducted weekly with Philadelphia Flyers Skating Coach Slava Kouznetsov
FOUR-DAY Pre-Season Training Camp in August
OFF-ICE TRAINING PHILOSOPHY
Our philosophy is Long-Term Athletic Development
The goal of Philadelphia Flyers Elite’s off-ice training at all levels is to prepare our players for the demands of on-ice work in a way that allows them to improve their athleticism, maximize their strength and minimize the risk of sustaining injuries.
Our off-ice programs are structured based on USA Hockey’s American Development Model recommendations, which are taken from well-established Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD) guidelines. Following an LTAD model allows kids to maximize their development at each age level in a way that best promotes the athlete reaching his or her full potential. This is in contrast to the more common approach, which overemphasizes performance at the expense of development. These traditional methods help to create high-level athletes at relatively young ages (e.g. middle school and high school) that fail to progress beyond that point. Because they did not develop a large enough foundation, they aren’t able to realize their full potential and compete at the most elite levels (NCAA Division I and professionally). In fact, it is because they rushed the development process that they’ve actually limited their full potential. This flawed process is a classic example of sacrificing long-term glory for short-term gain.
Our development model is based on an understanding of both psychological and physical development, the latter of which is driven by research demonstrating “windows of trainability” for the development of specific athletic qualities within a player’s maturation process.
Based on these sensitive time periods, age-specific programs are designed for teams at each age group to optimize the players’ development of these qualities in a way that supports their on-ice work.
Philadelphia Flyers Eliteplayers train following structured training programs. This is in contrast to random workouts that only serve to make a player sweat, without any consideration to the specific training effect the players get from the session. While the specific programs are different for players at each age level (as mentioned above), the Athletic Development Coaches running the session all emphasize learning proper movement/technique before anything else. Simply, players need to move well before they move faster, with more load, or with more frequency.
In addition to the in-season training structured into all Philadelphia Flyers Elite teams, we also offer an outstanding off-season package. The off-season provides an outstanding opportunity for players to make significant leaps in their speed, power, strength, and endurance, as there aren’t as many on-ice demands and therefore more time and energy can be dedicated to off-ice training.
Philadelphia Flyers Elite offers comprehensive hockey-specific programs designed to improve a player’s speed, power, strength, flexibility, and conditioning. The programs also include specific training progressions geared toward preventing the most common hockey injuries (e.g. groin and hip flexor strains). With long-term player development in mind, Philadelphia Flyers Elite programs are age-appropriate, functioning to build a solid foundation of athleticism and proper training habits at younger ages, and progressing to the more advanced training methods expected of players at the collegiate and professional ranks as players advance through the Philadelphia Flyers Elite system. Philadelphia Flyers Elite’s goal is to ensure that each athlete is properly prepared to compete and excel at the highest levels, and following a structured off-season program is a big part of that.
TRAINING SAFETY FOR OUR PLAYERS
Hear from Kevin Neeld, MS, CSCS, USAW, PRT, LMT, ART, FR
The biggest concern most parents have about resistance training for young athletes, rightfully so, is whether it is safe or not. You, like me, have probably heard that no one should lift weights until they’re at least 13 years old. This is an idea that has two origins:
A concern about unclosed growth plates being at greater risk for fracture
Pre-pubescent kids have not hit the stage of hormonal development where they’re able to put on substantial amounts of muscle mass from resistance training.
To address the first issue, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) put out a position statement years ago stating that resistance training is safe for kids as young as 6. Even at 6, the concern is mostly social and psychological, not physical. The concern that kids will fracture growth plates and stunt their growth is entirely unfounded (e.g. to my knowledge, less than 2 documented cases in the history of documented evidence). There are more reports of kids being rushed to the hospital from complications related to consuming energy drinks in the last year than there are of fractured growth plates EVER. In other words, fractured growth plates and stunted growth is not a legitimate concern. Simply, it does not happen.
It’s also important to remember that sometimes resistance training can be a way to DELOAD body weight. For example, performing a push-up requires pushing ~75% of an individual’s body weight. For a 100lb kid, this is ~75 lbs. While many parents are fearful of lifting weights, they’re in full support of body weight exercises such as push-ups, chin-ups, lunges, etc. The reality is that most kids aren’t strong enough to do very many QUALITY push-ups with good technique, and performing a dumbbell chest press (a bench press movement with dumbbells) with 2 15lb dumbbells can be an effective tool in improving the kid’s upper body strength in this pattern, along with a number of other benefits. External load often gets mistaken for internal load, which leads to underestimating how stressful certain body weight activities really are. As another example, the stress going through the kids’ bodies when they sprint full speed on the ice with ~10+ lbs of equipment on and stop sharply to change direction are higher than those resulting from doing lunges holding light dumbbells. Furthermore, research documenting injury rates from different sports shows that injury rates are DRASTICALLY higher in common youth sports like soccer, hockey, football, etc. than they are in weightlifting. In other words, in addition to growth plate fractures and stunted growth not being a serious concern, resistance training is actually incredibly safe when performed with proper progression and coaching.
If you look at Long Term Athletic Development models, you’ll see that 12 year olds are in a “sensitive period” for the development of speed and conditioning. Simply, this means that they can improve in all athletic areas (speed, power, strength, balance/coordination, movement efficiency, conditioning, etc.), but speed and conditioning are the qualities that will experience accelerated rates of improvement. Speed comes down to putting force into the ice (or ground) quickly. High force output and explosive movements rely heavily on “high threshold” motor units or “fast twitch muscle fibers”. One method of training these units/fibers is through resistance training. If you can increase the athlete’s ability to produce force, they get faster. That is one reason why resistance training is appropriate for athletes at this level.
From a conditioning perspective, adding load to someone that is proficient in a movement increases the heart rate response to that exercise. This is fairly intuitive. If you walk 50 yards, it’s not very taxing. If you walk 50 yards holding 60 lb dumbbells, your heart rate goes much higher. In other words, while people view “weight lifting” strictly in terms of improving muscle size (unlikely at 12) and muscle strength (possible to an extent), the reality is that there is much more to it. Resistance training at this age can be used as an effective tool to create a cardiovascular response. This is one reason why we pair lower and upper body exercises; it necessitates blood flow/circulation to the entire body.
Is it appropriate for a 12 year old to do an exercise like lunges with 30 lb dumbbells? If an athlete can do body weight lunges perfectly, giving them 10 lb dumbbells increases the load, requires more of a muscular force output, and generates higher heart rates. If he/she does that perfectly and easily, continuing to do reps with 10s won’t generate any adaptation; essentially it’s a waste of time. This is one of the fundamental concepts of training; you need to have a progressive overload to continue to adapt. If one of your kids has 30s, it’s because he/she was able to perform a given exercise with lighter loads with perfect form.
There are other methods of developing speed and endurance. I think most people would prefer to see their kids running endless sprints and jogging laps around the rink. While there may be some merit to this approach, the reality is that we’re seeing drastically more cases of overuse injuries in youth sports, largely as a result of year round competition; as a sport society we’ve replaced preparation with more competition. The fact that 10-14 year olds are complaining of groin and hip flexor pain is completely ridiculous. That said, the more repetitive stress you put through this musculature OFF the ice, in addition to what they’re inevitably doing ON the ice, the further you push them toward an overuse state. We use a combination of plyometric exercises, full body training (with external load if appropriate), core exercises, and a variety of other methods to help the kids develop their speed and conditioning, while simultaneously minimizing their risk of these overuse injuries.
I realize this is a longwinded message, and I appreciate you taking the time to read this far. Your child’s safety is our primary concern, and we proactively take steps to minimize their risk of injury, both in the training process and in their sport. We look forward to working with your kids this year, and helping them to have a productive, safe, and fun season!
Kevin Neeld, MS, CSCS, USAW, PRT, LMT, ART, FR