Private lessons are an essential part of elite athletic development starting around the age of 13 (age varies with maturity and desire to improve). They offer the athlete an opportunity to solidify their pre-existing knowledge and skills or to change their technique with a training plan specifically made for them. Compared to a group lesson, a private lesson will allow the athlete to perform more quality reps with player specific corrections and video feedback to accelerate their performance. Through the nature of one-on-one lessons, an intimate connection will be formed between the coach, player, and parent. This allows the coach to push the mental and physical capabilities of the player while teaching the parent the most important cues to look for in the game/practice. This parent-skater-coach triangle is a powerful tool for your son/daughter’s success.
For younger athletes, private lessons offer an opportunity to gain information quickly and target specific areas in their development. It homes in on specific areas to allow players to reach new levels that they are on the cusp of.
With that being said, I think of private lessons as an earned privilege. They are more intense and exposing; they require more focus to get the most out of them. Private lessons are also considerably more expensive and are not for everyone. However, they are an incredibly powerful tool for an athlete when they are ready.
See you on the ice!
Many of you know us from our skating classes, but what you might not know is that we also train teams! We can prepare and run practices for teams of any age and skill level. Our practices focus on power skating and technical skating, with the option of incorporating or adding technical shooting and/or puck skill. Depending on your team’s needs and/or budget, we will send 1-3 coaches to run/co-run your practice at a 5:1 player coach ratio. We find that a 5:1 player coach ratio is the best ratio to give technical corrections while maximizing repetitions without bag-skating players (it’s hard to make technical corrections and even harder to make them when you’re tired).
Our team training is structured in a repeating pattern of assessments and developments to ensure progression towards your team’s goals. It starts out with a discussion between one of our directors and one of your coaches about the teams needs and aspirations. We would then run a session with 3 of our coaches to evaluate the skill level of your team. This allows us to recommend a development plan with your team’s needs and desires in mind. Depending on your team’s development timeline, we would reassess the skill of your team every 6-8 weeks (if you opt for an 8-week period, there is less room for changes based on reassessments compared to a 20-week period). All development decision would be made in collaboration with your team’s coaching staff to ensure that your players are progressing towards your end goal.
We encourage all of your coaches to join us while we’re leading your practice to see different ways of teaching and correcting. This also allows you to understand the cues we give and correct your team when we’re not around for a consistent message.
See you on the ice!
The Method Behind the Madness
For those of you who don’t know, my name is Dave Levtov and I have this blog to help, educate and make you think. I grew up playing hockey and music throughout junior high and high school. My minor hockey coaches kept telling me to “try harder”, “go faster” and “I hope you grow”. That didn’t allow me to hone my skills in team practices; most of my learning was done on a D.I.Y. backyard rink. However, in music, I had incredible teachers who gave great technical lessons that educated and inspired me. As a result, I became a professional musician. In early adulthood, I was exposed to elite figure skating where a light bulb turned on. I saw the direct correlation between hockey skating and figure skating. PowerSkating Academy was formed as a conglomerate of hockey skating, figure skating, music study and performance, functional movement, and proprioception.
Let’s first agree on one thing: hockey is a game of sprints. If both teams are equal in skill but one team is faster, the faster team will have the advantage. Because fast skating is so effective in hockey, I’ve had numerous parents come up to me saying:
“Why are they skating so slow? You can’t get faster by skating slow, they need to be skating faster!”
“My son/daughter can do that already, why isn’t he/she being moved up in skill levels?”
“This doesn’t look like a real hockey practice.”
And to that, I have to say yes. Yes, we teach skills at a slow pace, yes, your kid can do that skill, and yes, this doesn’t look like a “typical” hockey practice, but these answers aren’t interview answers, they’re things we ACTUALLY believe in.
Like many great teachers, I take core concepts from other avenues and implement it into my hockey school. For example, when you’re learning how to play a new song on guitar, would you try to play the song full speed, or would you take it slow? Learning new skills slowly allows for you to create good habits. In turn the repetition of these “good habits” over time create a neural pathway from our brain to our muscles allowing for what people call “muscle memory”. The problem when you want to always skate fast–even in practice–is that it produces a multitude of errors in the beginning – technique, posture, timing, etc. Even if you start correcting some errors, new compensation errors will inevitably pop-up, making you less efficient. Our goal at PSA is to solidify a strong foundation in your muscle memory, so that you can continually build upon that skill and use it in a game with confidence whenever you need!
Well, now you’re saying your son/daughter can already do that skill, and yes, he/she has learned that skill but it’s not to our satisfaction (we are very picky). Let’s use a tight turn as an example: aside from the little ones, the majority of hockey/ringette players can turn around a pylon and stay on two feet. That might be good enough for some people, but we’re different; our coaches look for a couple key things during the turn:
Are they on both feet? Is one foot on an inside edge and the other on an outside edge? Where is their weight during the turn? How is their posture? Are their knees bent and in front of their toes? What is their head looking at? Where is their stick and what is it doing? Are they accelerating or decelerating through the turn?
A lot of younger students have strong inside edges, but struggle on their outside edge. A weak outside edge will hurt you when you do more complex movements like a cross-over. During a cross-over, it is important that skaters are using both their inside and outside edges effectively to generate the most amount of power. We would love to promote your son/daughter to a higher level, but we want to see them become more of a well-rounded skater first!
As for the elephant in the room, our practice doesn’t look like other practices. You’re correct! We pride ourselves in technical lessons, where information can be disseminated in 3 different ways: audibly, visually, and using physical manipulation. We manipulate your body into the correct technique to kick start your muscle memory! Once you master the skill at slow speeds, we will test you with higher paced drills. We also understand the importance of edge control. Being able to use your whole blade – front inside edge, front outside edge, back inside edge, back outside edge and the flat – will provide you with more power, balance, and agility! Thus, we dedicate 20 minutes on edge work, whether that’s using figures or specific patterns.
With that being said, we want to see your son/daughter succeed and we believe that a deliberate, focused, hands-on, technical lesson with an emphasis on edges is the best way of doing so. Hopefully this helps you understand how we operate! As with any post, if you have any questions email us at email@example.com or DM us on Instagram or Facebook!
See you on the ice!
This is a continuation of our previous blog where we talk about the two biggest building blocks of skating. The second most important building block of skating is knee bend. Believe it or not, good knee bend can help your posture! Your lower body, specifically your knees can be thought of as shocks in a car, while your upper body can be thought as passengers in the car. Your knees need to be soft enough to minimize bumps for your passengers, while having enough rigidity to not collapse from impact. Separating your lower body from your upper body will help keep a smooth ride for your upper body to allow you to handle a puck more effectively.
Your knee is a hinge joint—it only allows movement in one plane (sagittal; allows for flexion and extension). Ideal knee bend is about 90° during a stride and about 70° for the rest of the time. More knee bend (flexion) allows your centre of gravity (CoG) to be lower (increasing your balance), while providing you the potential for a longer stride resulting in more power. Did you know that your skate blade is about 3mm wide? That means, at any given moment, you are standing on a maximum width of 6mm! With such a small room for error, any major shift of your CoG will cause you fall or sacrifice power in your stride or shot. With more knee bend, your CoG lowers, giving you more stability and balance—two things important for hockey players. Furthermore, more knee bend allows for more extension; as knee flexion increases, the potential for knee extension also increases. More knee extension will lead to a longer push and more power (if done correctly). Remember, power can be thought of as how fast you can move your leg forcefully over the longest displacement (P = Fs/Δt). So, to skate the fastest, push with as much force as possible over the farthest amount of distance in the shortest amount of time!
Good knee bend does not guarantee speed; remember velocity = distance/time. It is how fast you get from point a-to-b; that being said, knee bend will give you the potential to skate faster. Some key points for good knee bend are keeping your knees in-front of your toes, keeping your hips bent in a neutral position and having good ankle bend. If your knees stay behind your toes, your hips will stay backwards keeping a large portion of your weight behind you. As we touched on in the posture blog, any push downwards on your lower back will make you fall backwards because your hips act as a lever point in your body. Another common mistake we see is anterior pelvic tilt (rotating your pelvis back to create a larger curve in your lumbar spine). Anterior pelvic tilt creates less stability in your torso and can cause hip extensor tightness resulting in a weaker stride and more instability. You want to keep your hips in a neutral position to maximize power and stability. Finally, because you want to maximize the surface area of our blade on the ice, you need a lot of dorsiflexion in the ankle. Since your knees are in front of your toes, there is a small angle between the top of your tarsals and your tibia; that means you need a large range of motion in your foot, ankle, patellar tendon, and calves.
Proper knee bend can be easily achieved through off-ice training. One of the best exercises to practice good knee bend and to strengthen your quads and glutes is body weight/weighted squats! You can try this in front of a wall (as a postural guide), where your toes are about 5 inches away from the wall, drop down into a 90° squat keeping your knees over your toes and your head looking forward. When you reach the bottom of your squat, pause for a second before coming up (try for 10 reps and 3 sets). If you want to challenge yourself, try working out barefoot. Don’t allow your footwear to be an ergogenic aid or hindrance. During the majority of on- or off-ice exercises you want to have good knee stability, while keeping your knees, hips, and shoulders in a line vertically. Any deviation inward or outward may be a sign of muscle weakness or tightness. Remember, always warm-up before stepping on the ice or working out. As always, if you have any questions about knee bend or any beneficial exercises, don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on Instagram or Facebook!
See you on the ice!
We are starting a new blog series and it will be about our foundations of skating. The first topic we want to address is posture; it is one of the two most important building blocks of skating. Posture is the orientation of our body in space; it can be thought as the framework of our movement and is dependant on many things. Some factors that affect posture are bad muscle memory, muscle tightness, muscle weakness, injuries, and body contact. Most of these factors are compensations, but they all have one common theme: they move your centre of gravity (CoG) away from its normal position. Your CoG is about two inches behind your belly button in a neutral standing position; if it moves too far in one direction, you will fall. When you lean to one side, there is more weight on that side, moving your CoG to that side. In a squatting position, your hips move slightly backwards, and your chest moves slightly forwards—this moves your CoG forward, outside of your body. Note that when we are squatting on the ice, it is important that our weight stays on the back half of the blade when you are preparing to skate forward; this allows us to generate the most power for our forward stride. Remember, great posture doesn’t create great skating—it enables great skating.
The easiest way to get great posture on the ice is to start with great posture. It is much harder to correct posture mid stride than maintain the starting posture. If you can’t perform the proper posture stationary, you won’t be able to do it moving or under pressure during a game. This is why we make all our skaters start in their “set-up” position before every drill. In the set-up position, we look for a couple of things: your skates should be around shoulder width apart, with their skate blade on a slight inside edge, your knees should be bent to around a quarter squat, your hips should be underneath your body (not sticking out behind you), your chest should be upright (we should be able to see the logo easily), your head should be in a neutral position with your eyes looking forward, and your hands are should both be on your stick, in front and away from your hips with a slight bend in the elbow of your grip hand.
We find this position to be the most advantageous to start skating from and handle a puck from. Your feet are close enough where you can maximize your stride length, your knee bend has your quads loaded for a push, your chest is up maintaining good balance, your eyes are up and ready to scan your surroundings, and your hands are away from your body allowing them to move freely for or with a puck.
The most common mistake we see skaters make is having their chest down. As we mentioned earlier our posture moves our CoG; with your chest down, your CoG moves forward even more. Our body compensates by straightening our knees, moving our hips further back, and putting our weight on the front half of the blade instead of over firing our back and abdominal muscles. It is important to note that your thorax is the heaviest segment of the body, followed by your pelvis. That means if you move your chest forward by 3 inches, you’ll need to move your hips back by more than 3 inches to keep your CoG in the same position. Any gentle nudge pushing down on the small of your back will send you flying backward or any push on your upper back will send you face planting.
Our coaches want skaters to try to maintain the posture in the set-up position throughout the entire drill because it is the most efficient position to generate a powerful stride, while being balanced and in control. If you have any questions email us at email@example.com or DM us on Instagram or Facebook!
See you on the ice!
Questions? Get in touch with us at (416) 406-0550