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KGB VOL 17: Leadership Longevity -The health grind for coaches

With a new season not too far out on the horizon, the last month of training can set players and coaches up for success or failure. I recall realizing the difference in prepping college and professional players when I was in my first season with the Iowa Wild. Our young players had come from a summer filled with a prospect tournament, development camp, NHL main camp and, finally, AHL training camp. Most of them were running on coffee, Chipotle and a roller coaster of emotions. College athletes train hard all summer, show up on campus and either train harder or fall back into the campus life of late nights and bad decisions. I had this same realization about our coaching staff.

As a coach, this can be a time to focus on setting the tone for the rest of the season. Very often this early tone centers on hard work and culture development. In general, it is a very exciting time for both player and coach. For the support staff, this can be a very hectic time of the year. Managing equipment, fulfilling training room duties and fostering player recovery can be daunting at this phase in the season. At all levels of competition, the more prepared everyone is, the smoother this process rolls.

As a coach, peaking for a season is not that different from the experience of a player. Key habits for coaches can range from healthy mental and physical outlets to communication and cultural development. Many coaches lose sight of keeping themselves healthy and find that they are eating and sleeping very poorly. In my day, I have met some coaches who prioritize fitness and some who could care less. Finding your health grind as a coach is not easy but is crucial to longevity just as it is for players.

For optimal performance as a coach, what really matters?

  • Get enough protein each day. How much? Try to get 3-4 servings of 30-40 grams of protein. Don’t be afraid to drop a scoop of protein in a shaker during video review or after practice while sitting in the office.
  • Take care of your feet and your lower back. Standing in skates for long periods of time is brutal on the feet and lower back. Spending time taking care of your feet from a mobility and soft-tissue perspective can be impactful; shoot for 5-10 minutes after practice, for instance. Focus on rolling out the bottoms of your feet and calf muscles with a lacrosse ball or foam roller. Spend some time massaging the front of your shin with your hand or use that same foam roller. Take 3-5 minutes to open your hips. Hip flexor and glute mobility will go a long way to reducing low back pain. Check out the following links for exercise ideas:

foot                 shin & calf                  hips  hip flexor

  • Develop a healthy sleep routine. There are several approaches to attaining quality sleep, but one that most coaches could use is to recognize the impact of screen time. Learn to use blue-blocking glasses as well as the nighttime setting on your screen. Monitoring caffeine intake is crucial to deep wave sleep. This is the type of restful sleep that helps regulate hormone release and recovery.
  • Find time to strength train. Resistance training is a very important aspect of aging in a healthy and graceful fashion. The more muscle you have, the better you will function. Just 30 minutes spent lifting heavy weight a couple times a week can preserve strength and mass in the muscle. You don’t have to train like a player! Here’s how to lift like a coach:
  • push-ups/rows/rotator cuff work/biceps/triceps
  • lunges/hamstring curls/lateral walking with bands/single leg deadlift type movements
  • plank-based abs
  • hip and spine mobility
  • sprint-based cardio 1-2x/week
  • slow and low cardio 2x/week (Target HR=180-age or LESS) walking is an option here too. 

A consistent routine goes a long way to creating health habits as a coach. Your players need you at your best and taking care of yourself away from the game ensures that you can bring your best to the rink each day.

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