Hockey camp on a budget
By Bettina Young Prochnow
Do you want to improve your hockey skills but are short of cash for a camp or clinic? Look no further than your basement, garage, or backyard to put together some home-made equipment that will improve your skating, shooting, and stickhandling abilities.
“What you want to develop as a player,” says Bob McCrum, Minnesota’s Twin Cities District Head Coach for USA Hockey, “along with those basic skills, is also explosive power and quickness followed by a short recuperation time.”
Start now and be ready for the Fall by following Bob’s “Top 10 List” of hockey skill development. It’s cheap, readily available, and best of all, it hits each and every one of those all-important hockey skills.
The “Top 10”
#1. Hockey Golf. “If you can stickhandle a golf ball on a cement floor at top speed,” says McCrum, “then you’re great.” Any smooth hard surface that allows that golf ball to really zip will work. A surplus piece of linoleum laid down on the front sidewalk will do and that shouldn’t cost too much!
#2. Shot Doctor. Improve your shooting skills with a 10’ piece of surgical tubing. Tie one end to the heel of your stick-blade and the other to a tree, pole, or post. Practice your wrist and slap shots by pulling against the resistance. Or cut yourself a shorter length, tie it around your own leg and your hockey blade, then pull back and shoot.
#3. Doctor, Two. Do the above exercise with a weighted puck, which you can find in a hockey equipment store. Or use the linoleum from Tip #1 to shoot the puck off of while aiming at a target that you made. The target can be as simple as a piece of plywood with a painted-on bullseye that you can lean up against a closed garage door. You can even shoot the golf balls at this target, too! McCrum’s tip of the day: “Make sure you hit the target—this (exercise) can ruin garage doors. I know, because I’ve had to replace mine!”
Avoid problems, kids: Check with mom or dad first!
#4. Sliding. It’s the basic hockey motion, and no, you don’t need one of those expensive, state-of-the-art slide machines. Get yourself a long narrow piece of plywood and cover it with some Formica. Wax it before you use it the first time, put on some socks, and practice “skating” by sliding side to side.
#5. Quick Feet. If you want them, you’ve got to develop them, and inline skating usually won’t do it. According to McCrum, that’s because most of the time kids are not inlining at top speed. This not only enforces slow foot movement, but also teaches the legs to recover slowly because of the weight of the equipment. The solution? Find yourself a short, steep (approximately 30’ hill), perhaps like those around a water reservoir.
Time how long it takes to run up and down the hill going as fast as you can. Then use a 5/1 recovery ratio—in other words, if it takes 10 seconds to run the hill, then wait 50 seconds to recoup before you attacking it again. Try doing 10 reps a day, gradually working your way up to 30 runs a day by the end of a month. This exercise works on both your speed and your explosiveness!
#6. Hot Peppers. No, not the kind you eat, but the kind you do with a jump rope. This is not only great training for explosive power but also for coordination.
#7. Jump the Bench. Get that picnic-table bench from the backyard (or deep within the garage) and wedge it between something so it doesn’t tip over while you develop your skills at this exercise. Start by jumping up on the top and back down the other side and repeat until you get good enough to jump completely over it. This is hard work, so start by doing it in timed intervals—say 15 seconds to start. Work up to three reps at 30 seconds each.
Be careful! Don’t overextend yourself.
#8. The Wall-Sit. “I wouldn’t want to mess with anyone in a dark alley who can do this well,” says McCrum. Place your back against a wall and inch your feet out until you are in a sitting position. Ready, set—JUMP vertically as high as you can. Try to do this three times in a row (or more). This builds strong thigh muscles that pay off in three ways: with explosiveness, speed, and power!
#9. Shuttle Runs. Keep that garage or basement cleared out. Mark two lines 25-to-30 feet apart and run back and forth with a stop, touch-the-wall, and turn at each end. Come on, you can do that faster! No garage or basement? Pick two trees and zip back and forth between them. Look out for cars!
#10. Strength-en your neck. A tip for all those who are “checking age” and above.
“It is important to remember,” says McCrum, “to keep (all) exercise and a physical fitness program age-appropriate.” Mites and squirts don’t need a program because they’re already running around at top speed at all times. “Any weight training from 10-to-14 years of age should only involve the use of their own body weight,” he adds. “Then, after puberty, with adult-strength bones and ligaments, outside weight-training (can) begin. Neck strengthening exercises (will) help counteract the impact of being checked.”
“You’ve got to warm up before you exercise,” says McCrum, so stretch well—longer than you think you need to—before doing anything else.
Easy, fast, and cheap, Bob McCrum’s Top 10 List can make you a better hockey player.
Bettina Young Prochnow is a hockey player with the NCWHL and has two sons in hockey. She is a columnist for a newspaper in Livermore, CA.