Success factors needed to earn a hockey scholarship

The 3 Success Factors Needed to Earn a Hockey Scholarship

Just a few days ago, I had a conversation with a friend about why in particular the northern states are such a hotbed for developing excellent ice hockey players. We knew the first obvious reason would–of course–be the weather (even though, *breaking news*, the north has a summer too…). We also realized other reasons for the difference could be the lack of ice time afforded to the players in southern states, higher prices in the south, etc. Though the list went on, I still couldn’t immediately settle on a conclusion that answered the question of why we don’t see more top tier Junior, Division I, and professional hockey players from the southern United States.
So I decided to write about it.

With the introduction of 2 NHL teams to the state of Florida (Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers) in the ‘90s, the Floridian hockey market has expanded at an incredible rate. Over the span of the last twenty years, we’ve seen increasingly more kids being introduced to the game and a lot of ice rinks being built all over the state. Andrew Yogan, a native of Boca Raton, was the first “Florida-raised” NHL draftee (drafted in 2010), and we can now see about five other Floridian players in the league, but why not more?

I realized there is no good reason we don’t see more top-tier hockey players from the southern United States. It’s not about weather, and it’s not about the money it costs to play the sport. Players in the south, particularly the ones we coach at Crossfit SOFLA, have just as much potential as players in the north.


No matter where you live, there are three success factors needed to earn a hockey scholarship :

1. Genetics

A simple fact of life is that every single athlete has a limited amount of potential. This is not to be confused with the fact that NO athlete is confined to a certain level of performance. So don’t ever give up! Everyone can improve. Even the most “untalented” athlete can make it big, if the effort is put forth. That being said, South Florida is exploding with talented players. Players whose superior genetics and nervous systems allow them to be incredible athletes with an absurd amount of untapped talent. I know because I see it every week.
That talent can be tapped through the following two factors:

2. Drive

How badly do you really want that scholarship, and what distance are you willing to go achieve that goal? Those are questions I ask every single one of my athletes. You must be willing to sacrifice a lot of your free time, friends, girls/boys, weekends, so that your training takes precedence and is only second to school itself. Be committed. Does that mean 1-2 training days a week? Nope. That means 5-6 days a week either on-ice, off-ice, reviewing tape of previous games/practices, stickhandling in the garage, running laps around the neighborhood, training in the gym, etc.
You don’t need ice to become better at shooting and stickhandling, you don’t need ice to get stronger, and you don’t need ice to get faster and more agile. Yes, you must practice hockey to get better at hockey, however, the biomarkers of the sport remain the same. Power, Speed, Coordination. We work on these in our gym, and honing these can help you become a top-tier player.

3. Knowledge

Know what you are training for, and figure out the best way to meet your personal training objectives. In my recent article titled “Why your teenager should be training with a strength coach,” I discuss the importance of this factor. Knowledge is half the battle and building strong foundations in the weight room will set you up for success both on and off the ice.

Schools in the south should realize what an incredible amount of talent there is in the local area — and northern schools should come recruit here more often. Both sets of colleges need to offer more scholarships to southern-raised hockey players, because they have the genetics, drive, and knowledge to be successes at school and in the sport.

For a young teenage hockey player, the time is now to make a commitment. Have the drive, obtain the knowledge, and get fired up to work hard and improve. There plenty of opportunities to make a name for yourself in the sport–so long as you want it. Don’t fall victim to excuses.

Now, let’s get to work!

Teenage Athletes need strength coaching

3 Reasons Teenage Athletes Should Train With A Strength Coach

Having the opportunity to train teenage athletes has really opened my eyes to the importance of both an effective coach and an effective program when it comes to the development of the athlete. I use the word development loosely in that the training we do prepares us for not only our sport, but it prepares us for what we are to experience in life. A small percentage of hard working, talented athletes will receive D1, 2 or 3 scholarships and an even smaller percentage will play their sport competitively beyond that. When looking at those stats, it begs the question: What are we REALLY training for?

1. To Build a base level of strength for their specific sport, and life.

I remember growing up playing hockey and the coach of my junior team was friends with a guy who ran a popular gym in town. The coach worked a deal with his buddy that we would be able to go in and workout 3 times a week. It was cool that we had access to a nice facility, unfortunately none of us knew what we were doing. I literally heard my coach tell us in the locker room, “do legs one day, upper body the next, both on one of the days, and do abs everyday.” How many times have you heard something like this? Now, me being the kind of kid that was taught to do as you’re told, I did exactly what he prescribed and I’m pretty sure I got worse. Actually I know I did. Effective programming is essential in this stage of a young athlete’s life. There must be a purpose behind everything that is done. Strength coaches should know this and play on that advantage. Additionally, someone who holds athletes accountable and instills a hard work ethic in them will help them realize their goals and awaken the dormant potential and talent.

2. To Improve strength, power, and speed while identifying limiting factors.

If a strength coach knows what a teenage athlete is training for, they can use that as leverage to improve performance. But not before familiarizing the athlete with good posture, balance and coordination under stress. A lack of coordination is expected due to the teenager becoming familiar with his/her body in space and what their limitations are. As a strength coach, I put all my athletes through a very basic test to determine how well coordinated they are. These simple exercises tell me a lot about the athlete and can show me limiting factors that could be holding them back. It’s not uncommon to see someone who is fairly good at their sport have the coordination of a toddler (not kidding). Imagine the potential that could be unlocked! The greatest gift the strength coach can give a young athlete is a base level of strength with a program that focuses on accelerated adaptation and identifying limiting factors, yet still allows them to practice their sport the next day. It’s a balancing act.

3. To Develop character, mental toughness, and values.

A lack of excitement in teenage athletes is something I deal with on a daily basis. I don’t know what it is about youngsters today, but more often than not there is a lack of excitement when it comes to training. That’s where the strength coach makes the biggest impact.

If you come to any of my classes, chances are you’ll hear my raspy voice and see my sweat soaked t-shirt once the warm up is complete. That’s because as the strength coach, I want to be the thermostat for that room.

“The strength coach is the thermostat for the team, not the music! This means energy, discipline, positivity, shit-talking, and calling out effort and quitters! A range is necessary to apply the appropriate lesson or spark. A coach that only has one temperature, whether it’s too positive or too much of an asshole, will limit the buy-in. You can be the greatest programmer in the world, but without buy-in, your athletes are just exercising.”

–Tex McQuilkin, MS, CSCS, CHES

Building up young men and women in the weight room does more than just get them physically strong for their sport. It builds character, integrity, instills values, and teaches hard work and promotes a never-quit attitude, all of which apply to us as human beings, regardless of age.

Learning these lessons as a teenage athlete is priceless and doing it while training for their sport gives it purpose for them. A good strength coach will have an athlete leaving the facility with a smile on their face knowing they did something great that day and have them itching for more.

At that Gym I went to when I was young, I received none of what you just read. I didn’t know what was right, what was wrong, and I didn’t have anyone pushing me to work hard or focus on the right things. I was lost, and it cost me valuable time. Simply put, the culture and success of each player or team begins with the development of an effective strength and conditioning program and coach, built around improving strengths as well as identifying and addressing weaknesses.