As a new hockey season begins there is plenty of on and off ice preparation that takes place. The players should be doing strength training and conditioning, the coaches are preparing practice plans and the trainer is recertifying /preparing for potential emergency situations. Most trainers have completed relevant post secondary education as well as ongoing courses. The most common background includes a diploma or Bachelors in either Kinesiology or Physical Education. Some of the continued educational courses include the Alberta Sports Medicine Council’s taping and strapping as well as sports first aid, sports nutrition or a group fitness leader certificate. It is required by Hockey Alberta that at least one person on the bench complete the Hockey Canada Safety program and attend all of the games. Other courses include health care provider CPR, Advanced First Responder, Respect in Sport and Speak Out.
My training career began while I was in Kinesiology at Red Deer College. I was the trainer for the RDC Kings basketball team and supporting trainer for various individual athletes. Later, I began working for the Red Deer Rampage Major League Lacrosse and was introduced to a whole new sport. I found Lacrosse to be just as rough as hockey but arenas in the summer definitely are not as cold! As I started to deal with more contact injuries I became eager to have more usable skills in my “medical bag of tricks.” I decided to become a registered Emergency Medical Responder with the Alberta College of Paramedics. This was my first official provincial licensing examination, it was stressful but then again so are emergencies! Not long after this, I strayed from the main stream health care system and dabbled in oilfield emergency medical services.
After I rolled up to the oil rig site, the smell of invert and oil was unsettling. I soon realized I preferred working with athletes; a hockey dressing room packed with 18 sweaty kids doesn’t sound appealing but it was more like home to me than an isolated oil rig. This is when I pulled out the old track suit out of retirement and became an athletic trainer for the Midget AAA team of the Maple Leaf Athletic Club.
The first day back at the rink is the coldest because it is usually in the middle of August. This is when you can find me putting on an extra sweater, gloves and my track suit before heading onto the bench. The beginning of the season starts with a few weeks of conditioning camps followed by tryouts. Week one of conditioning camp is the hardest on the players who sat around all summer playing Xbox. Some of the coaches and I like to make farmers bets on who we think will come off the ice first to “tighten their laces.” One of my main concerns during conditioning camps is ensuring any players with medical conditions such as asthma or previous concussions have disclosed this information. This enables me to be prepared should they require my help. Although some of the players do not want to inform me of any pre existing conditions it becomes quite apparent when the coach calls out “board rushes” which kids have a lower cardiovascular tolerance or have been slackers all summer.
After the grueling conditioning camps are finished the teams start doing tryouts. This process can be physically and mentally draining on athletes. Some players will have performance anxiety because they know they are being evaluated and some will out shine the rest because they like to be watched. It is important for me to talk to players who seem to be having a hard time. There could be an underlying injury they are trying to play through in fear they would get cut because they are hurt or it could be a psychological block. I act as the behind the scenes eyes and ears for my coaching staffing when a players attitude, sportsmanship and personality are being considered. A coach will usually choose a player who may not be the most skilled player on the ice but demonstrates respect, follows directions and is eager to get better versus a well talented player who is stubborn, has a poor attitude or authority issues. It is easy to pick out these players when they pout about ice time, blame other players for a play not working out or bring negativity to the team. I advise kids who feel like they may be getting cut to keep doing their best, have a positive attitude and perhaps approach the head coach to find out what they can work on.
Next week I will discuss the impact parents have on the outcome of tryouts as well as the transition from tryouts to being a team member- you made the cut, now what!?
Emma Van Ulden, BPE