Every athlete competing at a high level needs traits like passion for the sport, a strong work ethic and talent, but they also need to know how to take care of their body.
The 70 players participating in the USA Hockey Girls Under-18 Select Player Development Camp in Biddeford, Maine, are learning all about the importance of off-ice training and nutrition from the USA Hockey staff this week.
“It’s extremely important,” said Jeremy Hoy, who is the head strength and conditioning coach at camp this week and who also served in that capacity for the 2018 U.S. Under-18 Women's National Team that captured gold in Russia in January. “Off-ice training, including nutrition and the whole gamut of the sports staff, is one of the most important things and can make the biggest difference quickly.”
Hoy has been leading the off-ice training portion of this player development camp, which included testing and work in the weight room.
“In the weight room, we are teaching players proper warm-up, cool down, stretching and then we’re introducing them to a lot of examples of what a workout should look like for them,” said Hoy. “They will leave here with a workout for at least six weeks to get them going from here.”
Hoy is part of a team that also includes USA Hockey nutritionist Kate Davis and athletic trainer Sheri Walters.
“It’s incredibly important for us to work as a team. If the athletes are listening to the nutritionist and the strength coach, it actually makes my life a lot easier because they’re healthy,” said Walters, who served as an athletic trainer for the U.S. Women's Olympic Hockey Team at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and also worked with the team during its residency program leading up to the Winter Games.
Davis has been focused on teaching the U-18 players how consuming the right food can help them on the ice.
“We are really emphasizing the basics of performance nutrition, so really getting them thinking about food differently. Getting them thinking about what they’re eating at meals, and how what they eat can make a difference in their performance,” said Davis, who has been involved with USA Hockey's women's program since 2016. “(We are) helping them put together what’s called an ‘Athlete’s Performance Plate,’ and understand how to plan better snacks for themselves and better pre-and-post workout fuel.”
One way keeping the correct diet can help athletes is in terms of recovering quickly to get back on the ice.
“We talk to them a lot about how well they choose their food and how they time their food intake can really have a huge impact on how quickly their body is able to recover,” Davis said. “Especially here, where they have sessions happening twice a day. They might have practice and then a game or two practices, so they have not even eight hours before they are expected to go again. In that sort of situation, performance nutrition is incredibly important to help the body recover.”
Hoy, Davis and Walters work together to keep the athletes in top form.
“They’re not getting sick. They’re hydrated so they’re not pulling a muscle. They’re strong and they’ve got the right muscles working at the right time to prevent injuries. So it helps from a sports performance standpoint, but also injury prevention,” said Walters of proper nutrition and off-ice training.
The USA Hockey off-ice staff has also enjoyed a close relationship with the Olympians who are on the coaching staff this week.
“The National Team players have been awesome. When they are talking to the girls, they really emphasize the importance of the buy-in to doing this regularly and creating patterns and being consistent with making good food choices and telling them how much that’s helped them improve their own performance,” said Davis.
“They help a lot with educating the younger athletes about the recovery and injury prevention, but they also go a long way in helping the athletes understand the culture of the system as a whole — how to behave in the training room, things to take care of and manage along the way,” added Walters.
The one thing the USA Hockey staff — from the nutritionist to the on-ice coaches — is looking for this week is to start these young athletes on a path to success.
“It’s all about the long-term development,” said Hoy. “Some of these girls are 16 years old, 17 years old, and they are at an age when they can really fine-tune and take advantage of those windows of trainability for speed and acceleration.”