I originally developed the All-N-Stride training curriculum 12 years ago, and I have revised it several times in an ongoing attempt to better meet the needs of the players. With each passing year, my staff and I have come to understand that there are parts of the curriculum that work really well for certain players, but not for others. And we have also come to understand that there are parts of the curriculum that needed to be emphasized more, and parts that can be downplayed or even completely omitted. The original training curriculum that I designed only had 5 Phases, our curriculum now has 17 Phases!!!!
As a professional coach, I feel very strongly that one of my responsibilities to my athletes is making sure that I am providing high quality top-notch training for everyone. Although this is a tall order with players ranging in age from 5 years to NHL adults, the 17 Phase curriculum provides appropriate starting points and progressive programming for all ages/levels. Starting points are determined for each player on their first visit. The starting point is based on several factors:
- Current skating ability
- Overall athleticism
- Attention span/coachability
We tend to err on the safe side and start players where they will feel as though they can easily handle the workout. The elevations and speeds are kept low enough to allow them time to become accustom to the skating treadmill. Since our emphasis is on form and technique, these slower speeds and lower elevations also allow the players to make good corrections in their first few visits.
Many players and parents do not understand this. They want their child to “go fast” and they want their child to completely exhausted after 10 minutes! The LAST thing we want to do is put the players in a situation where their time on the treadmill is spent reinforcing bad habits. This is what happens when the elevations and the speeds are too much for the player, and they are forced into “survival mode” just to maintain their ability to keep up with the treadmill. Their stride mechanics begin to break down (short choppy strides and flailing arms return!), and worse, their ability to listen to the coach’s directions and make adjustments becomes impossible. The skating treadmill is just a tool, like any other piece of athletic training equipment. Used incorrectly, it actually has the potential to make a player WORSE. Long story short, FORM AND TECHNIQUE ARE THE KEYS TO BECOMING A GREAT SKATER. Testosterone fueled, “let’s crank it up and see how fast he/she can go”, or, having to use the puke bucket as a training goal, is NOT the way to become a better skater.
Fortunately, most parents/players understand that learning to skate correctly takes a long time. One of our biggest challenges is making sure that young players who attend All-N-Stride training sessions frequently aren’t put into high elevations and fast speeds too quickly. We are thrilled that we have players age 8-12 years who come 1-2 times/week ALL YEAR ROUND! But this means that they will advance through the curriculum very quickly and often times find themselves at a training level that is too demanding for what their size, age, and leg strength can handle. How do we continue to help these younger players improve?
The answer to this question is the additional training Phases that we have added to the original 5. The original 5 Phases were really meant for players who were around 13 years or older, and typically playing at the AAA or High School levels or above. It became obvious very quickly that we needed to design additional lower-level workouts to the curriculum to accommodate the 5-12 year-old age ranges. Thus the Foundational Training series, Phases 1-5.
The Foundational Training (FT) series is truly the backbone of the program. Almost 99% of our first-time players start somewhere in the FT series, even high school players usually start in FT 4 or FT 5. The workouts are progressive in nature, and each Phase adds other new skill sets (like backwards skating or resistance cord training, etc.) to the training. Keeping the training “fresh” and interesting for the player is also very important. We recognize that we are working with young athletes, and if the skating treadmill training is just hard and not fun, they will lose interest quickly. As coaches, we have actually discovered that by providing players with an opportunity to try other skills, we are using the skating treadmill in a more robust and comprehensive way! The players NEED to work on their core strength, ankle/knee/hip flexion, backwards skating technique, crossover technique, pivoting, etc., and they find these types of exercises to be fun. It’s a WIN-WIN!
Each Phase has 10 workouts for a total of 50 workouts, so if a player comes 1x/week for a year, they would complete the FT series in 1 year. In the case of a 7, 8, 9, or 10 year old player we still had the same problem-progressing through the curriculum at a pace that was too fast. FT Phases 1 and 2 are meant for the very young or beginning level player, and it is a big jump up to Phase 3, and an impossible jump to Phases 4 or 5. Again, I went back to the drawing board and made the second big revision to the curriculum by adding 3 more “bridge” Phases-FT 3.5, 4.5, and 5.5. These .5 Phases are WONDERFUL because they allow the younger players to continue to keep advancing (no child likes to be told they have to repeat or stay on a level). Since I was writing 3 brand new levels, it also allowed me to get really creative and put new exercises and skills into the .5 Phases that are not found anywhere else in the curriculum. It has turned out to be another win-win in that the players LOVE the new challenges found in the .5 levels, and we are able to continue to offer age/level appropriate training to our most loyal athletes. Making sure that we are providing training programs that improve and enhance a player’s skating ability is ALWAYS OUR #1 OBJECTIVE!!!!
It has been 3 years since I updated the curriculum with the .5 bridge Phases. Right before the COVID-19 shut down situation occurred, I was actually in the process of revamping the entire curriculum again. Many of my staff had been making good suggestions (I am really proud to say that I have a staff of young coaches who are observant, caring and invested in being a part of the player’s success), and we agreed on several key items:
- The need for a Phase 2.5 to bridge the difficulty gap between Phases 2 and 3.
- The need for MORE core strengthening exercises on the treadmill
- The need for LESS resistance cord exercises at the lower levels
- The need for more player involvement is selecting exercises
With our daily operations temporarily suspended, we were able to finalize the new curriculum, and when we re-open after this crisis we will be using our new curriculum. We’re so excited!!!
Food for thought-it seems to me that if you are implementing the same program that you were offering over 10 years ago, well, something’s wrong. All programs, curriculums, business models, companies, even governments need to continually upgrade and change and adapt. That’s why we have review processes in place at most reputable organizations. There needs to be discussion about what is working and what isn’t, and new programming put in place that addresses the deficiencies of the older models. We are very happy with the updates that we have made, and we hope that all of you find the revised All-N-Stride curriculum to better than ever!!!
Stay safe and be well!!