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Ball Hockey: The Journey

Nick Carter; Strength & Conditioning Coach, USA Defenceman Jason Daley; Athletic Trainer, Robert Morris University

The agony of defeat when you lose your shot at a medal. You were there to win! The hours spent in the gym, the time devoted away from a career, school, or loved ones. The effort to align your personal expenses, all spilled into roughly 9 days at a shot to win a gold medal with your brothers and sisters wearing your country’s flag. The sport at the international level is as close to professional ice hockey as you can get without having to lace up skates. Playing in front of a few thousand fans at the ISBHF World Championships makes you feel like you are one of the pros. That is why we love Ball Hockey.

The preparation, the pain, the grind, the success and the ability to cope with defeat. This is what I signed up for at the age of 17 when I first put on the USA jersey. No one told me that my body, both mentally and physically, were about to endure hardships that I wasn’t ready to cope with. “You probably won’t be able to put your socks on tomorrow,” aren’t quite the words that came out of a scout’s mouth.

So how do you prepare for the toughest competition in the world that this game has to offer? How do you take the next several hundred days of your life to train for what will be over in the blink of an eye? Here are 5 tips to prepare for the grind and the pain both mentally and physically:

1. Hit the gym.

Devote yourself to being the strongest, fastest and smartest you can be by entering a weight room 4 or more days a week. Running on a treadmill for an hour isn’t going to cut it. This game is about explosiveness, speed and agility. Having the ability to sprint forward, back pedal, move laterally left and right, many times at the will of another person’s actions can change everything. Think about it, how are you going to separate yourself from the defenceman while running up the rink?

The old adage is “bigger, faster, stronger.” Feeling a fairly heavy weight, feeling hot, and feeling an acidic burn are the three threats that drive the muscle building train. When it comes to driving adaptation, you need to scare your body, so threaten it the best you possibly can. The hardest obstacle to overcome is how do I achieve this without sacrificing speed and agility. The game is unpredictable. How do I push myself to train like I was playing?

The training splits that have been found affective have several different approaches. Some include circuit training, alactic/aerobic triphasic training, volume based stimulation, and hypertrophic linear training. The most successful are a blend of all of these types, encourages the muscles to grow in a fashion that they are most capable of generating a great non maximal force and exerting it with unwavering repetition. Most closely mirroring the demands of the game itself. It’s also important to listen to the body and if it needs recovery providing it with the time and material, to which I will speak April 2019 NEWSLETTER 001 later, that it may need to ensure repeat performance both on and off the rink.

2. Diet.

There are three primary constructs of a successful diet. They are balance, variety, and moderation. It assists us not only in ensuring that we obtain all of the nutrients our body requires on any given day but aides in preventing boredom and increase the likelihood of adherence. Have variety in your food choices, caloric as well as in nutrient content, will ensure the body is obtaining all of the material it needs to provide itself with adequate energy, build and maintain body cells, and finally run the numerous involuntary processes that take place every second of every day. With that moderation understanding that no single food or nutrient provide us with all of these things. We need to choose judiciously from all groups and within that across all groups themselves. Having a balance of food and caloric choices will ensure that the body is successfully given all the materials it needs to function at its highest level.

Diet is just as important as the gym. In athletic competitions that are decided by fractions of an inch and fractions of a second, providing yourself with every competitive advantage is paramount to ensure the greatest chance of success. Now, I’m not saying every player has to look like a fitness model, but in order to achieve your goals you may want to treat yourself like one. Eat as healthy as you can. The goal should be to eat as “nutrient dense,” as you can. Nutrient dense foods provide the body with the most nutrients available for the caloric cost of the food itself. By consuming whole foods, lean protein, fruits and veggies, and low fat dairy products we can ensure that we are maximising the nutrient consumption per calorie consumed. Mind blowing, right? You would be amazed at how easy it is once it becomes a habit.

The old adage is “bigger, faster, stronger.” Feeling a fairly heavy weight, feeling hot, and feeling an acidic burn are the three threats that drive the muscle building train. When it comes to driving adaptation, you need to scare your body, so threaten it the best you possibly can. The hardest obstacle to overcome is how do I achieve this without sacrificing speed and agility. The game is unpredictable. How do I push myself to train like I was playing?

3. Play.

Sounds so easy, but there’s no better practice than to always keep playing. No one can pick up a stick and be one of the best ball hockey players in the world after being on the couch for months. It takes a lot of time, effort and practice to get to that point. I have been fortunate enough to have played with some of the best in the world, and you know what they all have in common? They are always playing.

You can’t improve on your stick handling or shooting if you don’t go out and practice. Play in as many tournaments as you can with the top competition. Ask your coaches what you can improve on. Work your tail off
every time you step on the rink. Can’t get to a rink? Set up trash cans, cones, or whatever you need to do to help improve your game. Kicking any kind of rust leading up to the World Championships will help those hands
coordinate with your feet and your mind.

4. Recovery.

Not only are these the hardest games to play in, but the longest. It is gruelling on your body to be able to run around for 45 minutes against the top athletes in the world. Then to do it day after day. How do you recover
and prepare for a game 24 hours later? Many of my athletes have asked me the secret to recovery as if there is a secret sauce or pill but the narrative has been the same for years and is simply hydrate, refuel and sleep! Your body loses so much water and electrolytes when playing
in these games, you need to rehydrate and refuel. Research now shows that the body requires approximately 2 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight (lb/2.2=kg). That should be consumed within 2 hours of athletic competition this ensures the replenishment of glycogen stores which is the primary energy source of our body. When glycogen stores are not refilled, it’s like going on a road trip without topping off your gas tank. Athletes that abide by this plan replenish glycogen stores four times faster than those who do not. Hydration is also vital, but to believe it’s a day of or In game endeavour would be foolish. Hydration begins the days and even weeks leading up to activity, an extra half

5. Trust.

25 teammates join together for 9 days. Some you may know, some may be
new. The only time you’ve all gotten to play together has been camps. The true test of trust and care for your teammates come out in these tournaments. Sure some people make mistakes. It happens. It’s how you pick another teammate up and show them you have their back. With
that, you build a camaraderie and family in the locker room and on the rink. You experience that trust, care, passion, and sometimes, heartbreak. Text the guys and girls on occasion to make small talk or chat hockey. Participate in team dinners or activities such as team walks around town.

Not even 2 years ago we experienced heartbreak in the 2017 World Championships which were held in Pardubice, Czech Republic. One day you’re a top seed heading into the playoffs and 24 hours later your dreams are crushed at winning the gold. You can only feel disgusted and helpless at what happened, but we still had to prepare for another game the next day. Coming into the locker room, it was silent. What was there to say? We
lost our shot at a medal, but still had to play 2 more games. It’s how we picked each other up to pull out two more wins and to prove to ourselves that this family will be together longer than just 9 days.

It is not easy getting ready for the World Ball Hockey Championships. Like I said before, it is unpredictable. The best you can do is work hard in the weight room and on the rink, to show the world what you’ve got. There may be times when it doesn’t work out in your favour, but that should motivate you to be better. You were picked to win a medal. Not a bronze or silver one either. Gold. You get to represent your country in front of thousands of fans on top of that, just to showcase your talent that dates back to outdoor
games on a wet rink in the middle of winter at 9 years old. Your hard work, dedication, and pride get to be on full display. Take it all in because you never know when you’ll get a chance to experience that again.

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