Individual approach is the key to player development. Interview with Norbert Javorčík

Individual approach is the key to player development. Interview with Norbert Javorčík

Summer is a traditional holiday time and at the same time the beginning of hard individual training for professional hockey players. Later, they will gather at training camps in their clubs, but the foundations of physical and mental preparedness are usually laid individually. However, this applies not only to professional players but also to the youth categories - camps, and new training procedures ... What are the new trends in player training? Has the seemingly ending pandemic affected players' training processes? How best to prepare for an exhausting season? We talked about this and even more topics with our expert and former coach of the Slovak national team under 18, Norbert Javorčík. Norbert is today head coach of HKM Zvolen youth and head coach of HK MŠK Indians Žiar nad Hronom.

Greetings Mr. Javorčík, how do you perceive this summer period for the preparation of players? Are there any new trends, especially in the context of this "post-covid" period?

If we mean trends in terms of revolutionary training practices, then I don't think so. Although, innovations in the development of physical fitness, the cultivation of technical or tactical skills, or the way of regeneration, are constantly coming. However, what I perceive as a "new" trend left to us by covid is the emphasis on individual preparation. Young players have also become accustomed to this form, and I think many continue to do so now. On the other hand, I feel that the players seem to feel that they have "missed" a lot of training and want to catch up. So, we have a large number of players, willing to work extra. On the one hand, it is good to use this potential to improve them, on the other hand, it is necessary to find the right amount of individual trainings so players do not "burn out". It is up to the team coaches as well as the individual specialists to harmonize the training and help educate modern and successful players.

So, what do you think is the key to the success of a modern player?

The key to each player's success is their technical skills and their proper use in individual game situations. The wide range of gaming activities, supported by repeated power-speed training, will allow the player to be successful on the offensive and the defensive, to play instinctively, quickly, and regardless of the space on the field in which he is located or his game post. The more such players the team has at its disposal, the more surprisingly they will be able to play, whether in possession of the puck or in an effort to gain it.

What do you think needs to be done to meet these conditions?

In order to educate such players, it is necessary to involve them in the training process. Players must be involved in setting goals, creating training content, choosing methods and evaluating their progress. The second requirement is to focus the coaching on the player, not on the training process. The goal is to be a player, training is just a means to improve it. In our hockey diagnostic and training center, the progress of each client is the primary goal. We strive to do this by emphasizing feedback, individual approach, quality of the environment and the use of specific procedures.

As you mentioned, do you put a serious emphasis on the feedback? What does this mean in practice?

Feedback provides the player with information about his current status and allows him to compare his abilities with himself or with other players. In addition to objective information, we try to ensure that our coaches have positive eyes and that their feedback towards the players evokes a feeling of satisfaction and motivation. The information we share will help the players evaluate their progress and be co-creator of their individual plan. Good feedback makes it clear to clients that we care about them. In practice, we try to use the most objective sources of feedback possible. Specifically, it is mainly about: 

  • information about performance (jump height, the weight of resistance overcome, achieved time, achieved power in W / kg, shooting speed ...);
  • information about the method of execution (video recording of the movement technique);
  • information about the success of the movement task (number of successful shooting attempts).


hockey center

OK, it is clear that proper and timely feedback is the key to the rapid development of players, but I guess it won't just be because of that ...

Another essential component of the effective development of sports readiness is an individual approach. Every player is different. Knowledge of his personality, body structure, functional readiness, and health are the basic framework for creating the right training that will guarantee us appropriate adaptation. The individual approach has, among other things, the task of promoting self-confidence, motivation, and passion. Self-confidence and passion give the player the courage to create, take risks, and sacrifice. An individual approach is not just a matter of the coach. It is necessary to teach players and subsequently require them to actively participate in their own development. The basic steps of such a procedure are:

  • Goal-setting based on communication with the player
  • creation of a training plan and its ongoing control and possible correction
  • continuous communication with the player
  • objective demonstration of progress and evaluation of the program.

So, an approach to the player is individual and they receive quality feedback. What if his/hers progress is still insufficient?

A good environment can help here. The quality of the environment supports motivation and improves the quality of training. A pleasant environment and meaningful equipment ensure that the efforts of players and coaches will be targeted and will serve as a tool to achieve the goal. A good example of such an environment is the hockey diagnostic and training center. The coaches there have the equipment to work appropriately with every single player. The training process in the center will allow the player to work in a targeted way to achieve a specific goal, such as developing speed and explosiveness, improving skating technique, shooting accuracy, stickhandling, peripheral vision, and more. Modern technologies also help.

It is obvious that modern technologies are part of several aspects of ordinary human life. What is the biggest trend in the preparation of the player?

The training of a top-notch player nowadays can no longer do without technological innovations. Science is also used by ordinary people in fitness centers, where they measure their pulses, count calories, etc. Of course, top athletes use technology more often and especially connect with them much more. The main technological equipment that helps to create a quality environment in the hockey training and diagnostic center is a skating treadmill and its connection with other equipment. All the equipment together we use in one of the zones of the center which is called the Fusion skating zone. In this zone, we try to make the most of all the benefits of the skating treadmill to improve the player.

How is that done for example?

With the help of the "Instructor", the trainer has, for example, video demonstrations of exercises and pre-prepared training exercises according to age categories. Live Delay will give him instant feedback. Skating Analysis, based on artificial intelligence, correctly and quickly evaluates the shortcomings of the skating technique. The Shooter allows you to practice reaction speed and shooting accuracy. Peripheral Navigator supports peripheral vision training. All technologies give the coach an almost instant picture of the player's condition and are a tool to improve him.

So, let's summarize it. What exactly we can develop in such hockey centers using modern technology?

The basic skills we try to cultivate in our center include the technique of skating during repeated force-speed pulses, as well as skating at a constant speed, puck control in time-space discomfort, puck passing, and processing in difficult situations; unexpected and precise termination. Specific procedures allow us to achieve an advantage in the didactic process even over the environment on the ice. We have the opportunity to:

  • Track the player from all sides during his maximum skating effort
  • repeat shooting while skating from the same position
  • maximally control the development of special fitness readiness thanks to the monitoring of skating performance in W
  • constantly provide video feedback
  • immediately detect shortcomings in skating technique and work on their elimination in a targeted manner
  • ...

In conclusion - what would you say to the players and coaches, maybe some personal advice?

It has always been worthwhile for me to try new training methods or technologies. Although later, I evaluated some as non-suitable for my way of coaching, most of the new procedures helped me and I continue to use them every day. Let us not be afraid to seek and innovate. Innovations and their application to training will not only help your players but will certainly help each coach in personal development.