I’ve had a passion for ice hockey since the sport was introduced to me when I was 7. After spending hundreds of hours working on my stick skills and maneuverability with my older brother outside, I became know for being a player with great hands, seeing the ice well, and being indescribably slow. Short, overweight, and slow isn’t exactly the physical profile top programs look for. When I was 13, I started training pretty seriously and, within a single Summer of excessive dedication, starting catching coaches’ attention with my speed. That year I finished 2nd on a team in points that I had been laughed off of the year prior. That was really the first time I had witnessed/experienced the incredible benefits that training can have on a player’s development.
Training has been a huge part of my success as a player. I’m very fortunate in that I knew from that age that I wanted to pursue a career in helping athletes with the determination, but without the physical ability to compete at the highest level possible, to fulfill their potential. The last 12 years has just been a continuation of that dream: reading everything I can get my hands on, volunteering as much time as I can, coaching as much as possible, and building a network of people that I can learn from.
2. What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem you see within the fitness industry today?
A LACK of education. Hear me out. I completed my program at Delaware with a 3.9 gpa and finished my graduate degree at Umass Amherst (a Top 5 Kinesiology Program in the US) with about the same. With that preface, of the nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate credits I took in 6 years, I think I took about 9 that contributed to anything I do as the Director of Athletic Develoment at Endeavor. If people are serious about training, they need to educate themselves by attending seminars, watching DVDs and reading books/manuals from other top professionals in the field, and getting a ton of experience by volunteering in settings that mirror what they want to do for a career.
Academia has limited application to do what most people in the athletic development industry do on a daily basis and most certifications, I’m sorry to say, are a joke. I know people that have the NSCA’s CSCS that I wouldn’t let train my dog and uncertified coaches that are brilliant and well-experienced. It’s frustrating to get into arguments with people that get all their information from infomercials and “muscle magazines”. Contuining to learn, grow, and develop is paramount to be successful in this industry.
3. You work with a lot of hockey players. Could you give my readers an idea of what it is like to coach this population?
A ton of fun. Except for a few minor exceptions, every player I work with is HIGHLY motivated. They don’t need to be sold on the benefits of training. They show up, listen well, and work hard. From a coaching standpoint, I couldn’t ask for anything more. The only problem I have is that some love the game so much (or have been convinced of this necessity by people that don’t know what they’re talking about) that they spend TOO much time on the ice, which inhibits their development. The prevention of adductor and hip flexor strains, hip labral injuries, sports hernias, and other shoulder injuries is a huge part of what I do, which are injuries somewhat unique to hockey players.
4. Who has had the biggest influence on you as a coach?
Michael Boyle, Eric Cressey, Chris Boyko (UMass Amherst), and Brijesh Patel have taught and continue to teach me more about strength and conditioning than I could ever put into words. I highly recommend that anyone reading this reads EVERYTHING that any of those people have ever written and buy everything they’ve ever sold. I guarantee it’ll change the way you train people.
5. Sometimes there seems to be a huge gap between some physical therapists and strength and conditioning coaches. How in your opinion can this gap be bridge?
As I mentioned above, I think education is key. Many physical therapists are hesitant to refer people to strength and conditioning coaches because so many strength and conditioning coaches (and personal trainers) end up hurting people. If people on the training side of things take some time to educate themselves on injury prevention and volunteer some time shadowing a PT to learn more about the profession, I think the relationship between the two will improve.
With that said, it’s easy for PTs to look back and say “you shouldn’t have done this, because now you’re hurt.” From a training standpoint, clients need to be pushed. There is an inherent risk associated with this and sometimes, despite our best efforts, injuries happen. Hindsight is 20/20. Foresight isn’t so great. It sends clients mixed messages if every PT (or doctor for that matter) bad mouths strength and conditioning coaches everytime someone comes in with an injury. Unfortunately, the lack of education on the part of the training industry generally justifies this stand point by PTs and doctors. In general, we need to know more about what they do, and they need to know more about what we do.
6. What are you all-time favourite books in the following areas:
- Strength Training: At the risk of being vague, EVERYTHING from Michael Boyle, Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, and Bill Hartman are great investments. I also think Christian Thibaudeau’s books provide a lot of great program design information.
-Physical Therapy Rehabilitation: Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes by Shirley Sahrmann, Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers, and Muscles: Testing and Function with Posture and pain by Florence Kendall are great reads. Kinesology of the Musculoskeletal System by Donald Neumann was recommended to me by Shirley Sahrmann a couple years ago. It’s an incredible resource to have to look up specific questions, but it’s a pretty intimidating bathroom read!
- Nutrition: Precision Nutrition by Dr. John Berardi
- Business: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The 8th Habit by Stephen Covey, Million Dollar Habits by Brian Tracy, and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie are ALL must reads for anyone that works with people.
7. What do you do to for your continuing education (Seminars attended etc)?
I have a never ending list of textbooks related to physical therapy and neural aspects of movement that I’m slowly working my way through as a way to better understand the way the human body moves from a scientific stand point. I also keep in regular contact with many of the people I’ve mentioned above through email, buying their products, and reading their free stuff online. I make it a point to attend as many seminars as I can. For the hockey crowd, there’s an annual Boston Hockey Summit at Northeastern that I’ll never miss as long as they continue to have it. I also highly recommend a new site that I run along with Michael Boyle, Sean Skahan (Anaheim Ducks) and Mike Potenza (SJ Sharks), http://hockeystrengthandconditioning.com/. There are over a dozen coaches that work with NHL and NCAA hockey players with a great perspective on how to develop great athletes. It’s the single-best hockey training resource out there. The Perform Better Summit’s are another great choice for seminars.
8. What resources that are out there, would you recommend to young up and coming coaches (Podcasts, Websites, Blogs, Products)?
StrengthCoach.com, HockeyStrengthandConditioning.com, KevinNeeld.com (haha), EricCressey.com, NickTumminello.com, SBCoachesCollege.com, mboyle1959.wordpress.com, BillHartman.net, RobertsonTrainingSystems.com, BoddickerPerformance.com, and brianstpierretraining.com. That’s far from an all-inclusive list, but that should get you started!
9. If you could chose one exercise, and one exercise only, what would it be and why?
The reverse lunge. It’s my favorite lower body exercise because it improves single-leg strength and mechanics in an acceleration pattern and reinforces core stability and potentially grip strength (if you’re holding dumbbells). Naturally, I would never write a training program with just one exercise, but this is definitely a great lower body exercise that I think everyone should include.
10. Could you give my readers a basic summary of what your methodology on training is (eg. how do you assess, and design, and periodize programs)?
We use the Functional Movement Screen and a selection of other movement and ROM tests to assess hip and shoulder ROM and control. In general we use an undulating periodization model, with changes to the Set x Rep scheme every week. Every exercise is paired or “tripled” with other exercises to make the most out of our rest periods. For example, I just had a group of hockey players leave that started their session with: A1) Broad Jump (Discontinuous): 3 x 6; A2) Seated Psoas Lift: 3x15s/side; A3) 135° Pec Stretch: 2 x 30s/side. They’d cycle through these three exercises until they’ve completed all the reps. Our programs are all set up: Foam Roll, Dynamic Warm-Up, Speed, Power, Strength, Conditioning.
11. Last question. What advice would you give to young coaches, like myself getting into the field?
Find a good mentor and spend as much time as you can learning from them. My internships under Chris Boyko and Eric Cressey taught me more about how to train athletes than anything else I’ve ever done. As I mentioned, they continue to be invaluable mentors to me
Kevin, thank you so much for your time. Where can my readers find out more about you, and any projects that you may have coming up?
My pleasure! Your readers can check out my site http://KevinNeeld.com; I regularly post training info and let people know about other projects I’m working on and great products to look for. They can check out http://Ice-Hockey-Training.com for more information on my books, programs, and videos. I also recommend that anyone that works with hockey players (or that wants to) invest in a membership to http://HockeyStrengthandConditioning.com. The forums are hopping and get responses from many of the top hockey strength coaches in the world. In fact, there was recently a job posting for a Hockey Strength and Conditioning position in Switzerland. It’s rapidly growing from an incredible hockey training information resource to an incredible networking resource. If anyone has questions about that site or anything else I’m happy to answer them.