The Kids Are Alright

The Kids Are Alright

While back, I received a text message from one of my junior hockey players thanking me for the past 1.5 years we'd been working together.

As it was his last night in town before heading over to play high school hockey in New England, I took a trip down memory lane to reminisce about this particular athlete's background and progress over the last two summers.

When he first walked into my weight room, he was so banged up he was an inch away from hanging up his skates for good.

Overuse injuries in the low back (note the plural), knee problems that prevented him from running and jumping, busted shoulders, skull fracture, and the list goes on and on...

Frankly, he was a mess.

And like I said, could have quit hockey and sports altogether.

But the athlete stuck to it. And I'm proud of the fact I could help him get back to health and be able to play the game he loves for another few years.

Around the same time he sent me that thank you message, I was having a farewell lunch with another athlete of mine - college hockey player about to begin his freshman year at a top D1 school.

The jump I've witnessed in his on-ice game during the last few years has been nothing short of impressive, as have been the individual as well as team accolades he has racked up.

He had always been a hard worker and decently gifted athlete.

But nobody had ever taught him how to properly train for strength and performance.

I'm glad he decided to put his trust in me and follow my advice on that front.

It didn't take long for him to start experiencing the results of a simple, progressive strength program.

(Like I said, he's gifted)

All of a sudden, scouting reports started praising him for improved skating, puck skills and winning board battles.

Something he told me he largely attributes to the strength and power gained in the gym.

While a coach can never take credit for an athlete's success, I'm happy this player sees the value that off-ice training has provided for his on-ice performance.

Another junior player also heading over to the US to play high school hockey in Colorado told me that the past 1.5 years he spent training with me have been a great time in his life.

I still remember the first time this scrawny, 15-year-old kid walked into the weight room like it was yesterday.

Tall guy, moved like shit.

Terribly uncoordinated.

Weak overall.

But his attitude was top notch.

What stuck out most about him is that he would stay after training sessions to work on his form and ask me training related questions...

"What should I eat before training?"

"Should I squat down or be more upright on deadlifts?"

"How can I get better at chin-ups?"

Little things like that.

No wonder he went from a weakling to one of the strongest guys on the team.

The first time we did chin-ups, he could perform three acceptable reps before hitting a wall.

He barely managed to bang out 5 reps with a pair of 25 kg dumbbells on split squats.

And on power cleans, he struggled with his form and timing with a measly 30 kg on the bar.

Some 15 months later, he could perform chins with 25 kg of additional weight.

He split squatted 130 kg for a single.

And nailed a 90 kg hang power clean after his last on-ice practice with our team before leaving for the US.

Why am I telling you all this?

Since many strength coaches and hockey coaches read this newsletter, I wanted to address something significant today.

Being a coach, especially one working with teenagers, gives me an immense opportunity to influence the future of these young men.

Too often, us coaches become inundated with the technical aspect of coaching that we tend to forget our influence reaches way beyond that. Picking the right exercises, drills, rep and set schemes, perfecting our coaching cues...

I'm telling you none of that really matters at the end of the day.

Much more important is whether the athletes I work with will learn to view training as something fun that enriches their life, rather than a necessary evil they have to go through with because "Coach said so".

Will they grow to enjoy the process of lifting weights and continuous improvement? And will they keep up with these positive habits long into their adult lives?

Or will they resent everything about strength training, never setting foot in the gym out of their own will once they finish their athletic career?

A coach can have a huge impact on how the kids of today think, act, move twenty or thirty years from now.

In both the good and the bad.

It's something that's easy to overlook.

And it certainly took me a while to "get it".

Athletes won't remember you because of your awesome explanation of how the shoulder blades should move during a proper execution of a barbell row.

Or because of reminding them to eat their proteins at every meal.

Or any other reason why we pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.

They will remember you because you taught them principles for success in the weight room that carry over to success in life.

Setting goals.


Developing a strong work ethic.

The value of pushing yourself beyond your previous limits when things get hard.

Discovering you're more capable than you thought.

That you can achieve greatness when you set your mind and body to it.

And helping them build confidence in their own abilities in a way their parents and teachers at school likely never did.

Anyone involved with training young athletes should keep that in mind.

Only a couple of the young'uns I train will ever have a realistic shot at playing in the NHL.

A handful may make it to the pros.

What about the remaining 90%+?

Who knows?

The odds are stacked against them ever earning a dime playing hockey.

One way or the other, though...

I know the kids are alright.

Yunus Barisik

P.S. Discover my proven blueprint that turns hockey players from weaklings into studs by visiting:

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Yunus Barisik

Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for an elite junior hockey organization based in Espoo, Finland. He has trained hundreds of hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.

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