This past weekend I was given the opportunity to work at the STX 68 camp. Now, for those of you who may not be aware what that is, it is a collection of the 68 best 2000 birth year hockey players in the country.
I know, I know. Just like the “Who’s who” book, people probably pay to be a part of this right? Nope. This was a prestigious invitation only event that highlighted the best of the best in the country..for free.
Throughout the weekend I learned some invaluable things I wanted to pass on to you.
1. Surround yourself with those better than you.
This applies both in business and athletics. For the hockey players, they were all surrounded by kids who were just as good, if not better than them. They were given an opportunity to compare themselves in various tests, and the friendly competition raised everyone’s game.
As for business, this was the place to do just that. From Kevin Mann, Nelson Emerson, Kevin Neeld, Brian St. Pierre, and many others…there were individuals at this event all over that truly made me want to continue to be a better version of myself and strive for more.
Iron sharpens Iron. When you’re around those who are push you, you have no choice but to get better. I’m sure every athlete there feels like they got better that weekend. I left knowing that I did.
2. These were really the best 68
The selection committee got it right. These kids were absolute studs. While I had a limited amount of time watching them on the ice, I did get to test them all off-ice, and they all had impressive showings. There were certainly a few times I questioned whether or not they were 14 years old because of some of the impressive numbers they put up.
Furthermore, those that put up the most impressive numbers off-ice tended to be the players who were shining the most on the ice. This shouldn’t be a surprise at this point.
Which brings me to my next point…
3. Get a Strength Coach
Look, I get that I have a bit of bias recommending this, but I do know this: Out of the 68 here that I asked, 62 had a Strength and Conditioning Coach. That’s 91 percent!
I’ll bet you 20$ that if you walk into any hockey/wrestling/soccer club and ask around, the number will be closer to 20%, if that. While it’s not the ONLY reason these kids are good, it’s certainly one of them.
4. Different demeanor
One thing I heard during Opening night that stood out to me was this: When faced with two athletes of similar talent and ability, scouts will generally pick the one who is more independent.They generally don’t like the athlete who lets his/her parents make all the decisions.
Clearly I wasn’t the only one who listened. The whole weekend, these athletes acted like adults. They worked hard, were professional, and sucked it up and gave their best even when sore/tired.
I’ve been part of various sport camps before, and this was far and away the best behaved group. It’s clear they treat this journey as athletes seriously, and they deserved the recognition. If you want to reach a high level of athletics, you should act the part as well.
5. Size doesn’t matter
Even though that’s not what she said, I saw plenty of smaller athletes killing it both on the ice and off. Just like Coach Neeld said, “Strength and Conditioning is the great equalizer”. When you bust your ass, train hard, and know what your strengths/weaknesses are, size is NOT a necessity (although it never hurts).
Like they say, Hard work beats talent (or size!) when talent doesn’t work hard.
Speaking of Coach Neeld…
6. Kevin Neeld is a badass
I have come across a decent number of Strength Coaches in my career. I believe they generally come in three categories:
1) The guy who knows tons of research and data but is unable to effectively communicate that knowledge to the athletes in a real world setting.
2) The guy who knows nothing, but interacts well with athletes so he gets some improvement out of them.
3) The guy with a lot of knowledge who also relates and interacts with his athletes the right way.
Kevin is unequivocally #3. If you are in the NJ/Philly area, you’re an idiot to go anywhere else. Furthermore, if you’re a Hockey Coach or Player looking for a comprehensive training program written by one of the best (not a word I throw out often), then check out Ultimate Hockey Training.
7. Hockey Players NEED to Stretch and Foam Roll
This is getting old. I tell my athletes this all the time, and sadly they rarely listen until it’s too late. I saw more of this here. Every athlete needs to be taking care of his body, and that involves stretching and rolling. I don’t know how to say it better.
It’s sad that at this stage in their career (13-15y old), 63% of hockey players have hip issues. Stretching, foam rolling, and strengthening will play a part in lowering that number. It may seem like a nuisance, but it’s worth it if you want to have a long lasting career.
Not only will it help with injury prevention, but more mobile hips will translate into longer strides, which will translate into speed.
8. Fast off the ice means fast on the ice.
It just does. I promise. Of the top twenty in the off-ice 30m dash, 15 were in the top 20 of the on-ice 30m dash.
Start sprinting, increase your squat and deadlift, and jump explosively in multiple planes. You won’t be disappointed.
9. Pulling strength=Speed?
While this may not be the case for Sam Bennett (Who, by the way placed top 10 in a few lower body combine tests), out of the 20 fastest on-ice times, only FIVE athletes couldn’t do more than 10 pullups. In fact, a study done on the 2007 NCAA D1 National Champion Hockey Team found that pullups correlated very well to on-ice performance, with the top 6 athletes averaging 17.5 pullups.
We’ve discussed before how important relative strength is to speed and how pullups tend to correlate to it as well. This is another great example.
Do your pullups!
10. Heidens/Lateral Bounds
More of the same. 14 of the top 20 athletes with the highest relative lateral bound were in the top 20 of the on-ice sprint test. You need to be moving in the lateral (frontal) plane for hockey speed.
P.S. If there are any baseball pitchers out there, you need to be doing the same.
Keep working hard
Far too often, I see athletes of all sports reach a certain level of success and start to taper off due to laziness or complacency. I encourage everyone at this camp and in general to continue to work hard and strive for more. Never allow yourself to think “you’re too good” because there are thousands out there who are working to take your spot.
As Pro Bowl Center Dave Diehl says,
[Tweet “”In sports, you either get better or worse. You don’t stay the same””]
Never forget that, and never stop improving.