School is in session, the days are getting shorter and the cool, crisp air of fall has taken the place of the sweltering summer. In the State of Hockey, these are all signs that a new season of sticks, pucks and on-ice celebrations is on the way.
To help families get ready for their next hockey chapter, Minnesota Whitecaps legend Brooke White-Lancette shared her thoughts on some important pre-season practices to keep players’ skills and their skates sharp.
“I love this time of year and the anticipation of what’s coming,” said White-Lancette, Minnesota Hockey’s Girls Player Development Coordinator. “Just getting back to the rink, getting to know your team, and building chemistry. Every year they go through it, applying what they learned from last year and thinking about how they can get better. It’s just fun. Everyone’s excited.”
Included on every pre-season checklist should be the obvious things, such as confirming the appropriate level for your young skater and remembering to register, first with your local association and also with USA Hockey. For those playing multiple sports, it’s important to understand what your game and practice schedules will look like to help set the weekly routine.
White-Lancette also suggests:
· Check your sticks – “Look for cracks at the heels, listen for rattling within the shaft. You want to be sure your sticks are in really good condition because it could affect your shot or making or receiving passes.”
· Sharpen your skates – “I’d suggest getting them sharpened and also sized to make sure they fit properly. Kids don’t realize how much they can grow in a few months and can have their toes pinched. I’d also recommend having a second set of blades sharpened in case you get a nick and need to change them out quickly.”
· Make sure other equipment still fits – “Some kids have had the same shoulder pads since they were Mites or Squirts, so make sure the rib cage is still covered. You want shin pads to fit right, so the space between the shin pad and the skate tongue is protected and covered. Also, a lot of people don’t like to change their breezers because they’re comfortable or broken in, but the height makes a difference, so that the area above the knee is protected.”
· Get on the ice before tryouts – “If you can, hop on the ice to keep your skills sharp, so the first time you throw your equipment on isn’t right before tryouts. Most associations have ‘pre-skates’, so sign up for those if ice time is available.”
· Develop your skills off the ice – “Off-ice training is important to develop your skills. You don’t need much to practice stickhandling, just a tennis ball or a golf ball. For shooting, if you don’t have a net, find something like a box or shoot against the garage (if mom and dad approve).
· Stay in shape – “It’s important to keep in hockey shape. We’re not talking about intense training, but things to keep your quick-twitch muscles going. Intervaled sprints are good. If you don’t have a treadmill, that’s ok. You can go outside and do short sprints, mailbox to mailbox, so you’re getting used to that quick acceleration, and it simulates quick bursts of speed on the ice.”
· Set goals for the season – “It’s great to be able to set some goals before the season starts. When you get with your team, hopefully your team will set some team goals. But personal goals also help keep you on task. Maybe it’s getting faster or being a good teammate, something you can control. If you need help reaching those goals, talk to your coach.”
· Don’t forget about nutrition, hydration and getting rest – “Kids are doing so much - they’re getting up early, going to school, they have hockey, maybe other sports. So, they need the right amount of sleep and proper nutrition and hydration. Make sure you’re staying away from too many processed foods and sugar, which won’t fuel your body the right way. This will help you be mentally and physically ready for tryouts and avoid being too tired at school.”
· For parents: Volunteer! – “There are a lot of jobs parents can get involved with, whether it’s being a team manager or hosting a team meal or something like that. We always say it takes a village, and it’s so true. During the year, everybody’s part of a big family. So, if everyone can lend a hand, it will make things a little easier and make you feel involved and part of it all.”