Make the difference off ice

Top female U18 players get in shape

13.07.2018
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The 106 players from 22 countries did not only work on the ice but also learn off the ice what it takes to be a world-class athlete. Photo: Timo Saarinen

The 2018 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp will soon end with the last game between the mixed teams consisting of players from 22 countries. The players, coaches and staff will use these to learn on the ice but for the 106 female U18-eligible players at the Sport Institute of Finland it was as much about learning off the ice.

It’s been a busy week for the players with lessons on the ice, in the locker room, in the class room, the athletic track and the gym.

Colin McAuslan and Ben Bahrami from Canada came to the camp as strength and conditioning developers to work with the players and to mentor the strength and conditioning coaches from six countries working at the six mixed teams. Similarly, Claire Biafore works at the camp as athletic trainer developer with the players and six athletic trainers who are with the teams.

“Some already have the base, the knowledge and the people around them and are trying to get a little bit more to take back home and train harder so they can elevate the game. For some of them it’s the first introduction to a high-performance setting. Some of them are learning lot and are setting the goals they need to be successful,” Bahrami said about the group here.

“Mostly it’s about how to prepare as a high-performance athlete, what they need to look at in order to get some information, set the goals and elevate the game for the years to come. It’s an under-18 group so we’re looking at how they prepare day in and day out.”

Bahrami and McAuslan had a busy start as they were in charge of testing the fitness of the players. Jumps, sprints, strength and aerobic capacity with the famous beep test were among the tests on the program. The importance of being in shape became clear from the very beginning.

Yesterday the players saw their data and where they are at. So who are the fittest players? The strength and conditioning coaches looked at the overall fitness by seeing how often the athletes reached certain standards in eight tests. 17-year-old Swedish goalie Tindra Holm was first with four gold standards, three silver standards and one bronze standard in the eight tests. Well done! Austrian forward Lena Wurzer (4 gold, 2 silver) and Finnish defender Elli Makela (3 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze) reached the “podium” of the top performers in the tests as well.

“With some people starting their journey, this is a really good group. It’s an elite group with the testing level, we saw some incredible athletes here. There’s a general understanding of the training process this age group can get a hold of. It’s a great opportunity to grow the women’s game if we can expose them to these other ways to train consistently the year round to take their game to the next level,” McAuslan said.

What should hockey player focus on when they train? For the younger ones it’s more general training than specific exercises but there are indeed parts of the body that can be emphasized for elite ice hockey players.

“At this age group it’s general strength to focus on. Common areas for hockey players to work on would be the strength of the upper back, the strength of their mid-section and core, and the posterior chain, so your glutes, your hamstrings, your ankles,” McAuslan said. “That way we can decrease the prevalence of lower-back injuries, groin injuries, hip-flexor injuries, shoulder injuries and can create a more endurable athlete. They miss less practices, they miss less games and have a better opportunity to develop.”

A weight room session, one on integrity, team meetings and the last games are on today’s program before the closure of the camp for this year. It was an eventful week for the players, of whom many already played an IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship before and who will be counted on next winter. At the Sport Institute of Finland in Vierumaki on the way from Lahti to Heinola, they had great multi-sports facilities and luck with the weather for their camp.

“The girls, the coaches have everything they need here. It’s a complete environment to have a high-performance camp,” Bahrami said. “The daylight until 2am is nice. It’s beautiful. It’s a different environment. It’s clean. The best thing is all the cultures and the different people from across the world coming together, talking, sharing, networking, laughing and learning from each other.”

The players will tomorrow travel back with a full load of new ideas and experiences. What they do with it will determine the success of their stay at the camp.

“I’d say to fall in love with the training process,” McAuslan answered the question on what to give them on the way.

“It’s easy to fall in love with the game, we all love our game, we are all passionate about it. But it’s the thing you do the other 23 hours of the day which will make the biggest differences in their careers. Falling in love with things off the ice or outside of the meeting room can really make a long-term difference for the athletes and push the women’s game to another level.”

MARTIN MERK

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