Each summer, I have the opportunity to work with a group of young hockey players. These kids range anywhere from age 14 and up. What had first started out as a group of my son and a small group of his friends has grown into a larger group over the last few years.
As I was preparing for this summers' group, I received a message from a young man who lives about an hour away. He wanted to train with us. He had just completed a season of junior hockey and wants to improve as a hockey player. He was welcomed aboard.
Prior to us starting our live group training, I was providing an at-home program to all of the kids during the COVID-19 pandemic. As I was providing the program, he was asking me questions in regards to exercise modifications. I asked him why and this is what he responded with:
“I was born with radial aplasia which means I'm missing my radius bones in both arms and I have four fingers in each hand. I had 6 surgeries when I was a baby to try to get them as normal as possible and this is how they turned out. I have been playing since I was 3 and I've just learned to adapt.”
“I'm super pumped to get started. My dream is to get as high up in juniors as I can and if that means I have to fill a bottom role, I will but I'm not stopping until I can't go any further. It's only a setback if I let it be.”
To be honest, my initial reaction was “Wow, how is he able to play at the junior hockey level?” To me, this is nothing short of amazing. (He was also a wide receiver and a defensive back in high school football).
I was honored to help him achieve his goal of continuing his hockey career.
But I had to ask myself a few questions:
1- What does he need?
2- What can he do?
What I had found was that he wanted to do what everyone else was doing.
He would make the necessary adjustments as needed. However, what I initially observed was that his technique wasn't what I thought it should look like. What I quickly found out that it was ok- for him. I had struggled with this at first because I was afraid of him getting hurt. But, like anything else in this man's life, he just adapted.
His body isn't like everyone else's. I actually got to a point where I thought, "Who am I to say that he couldn't do something?
What I really like about him is that he knew what he couldn't do. For example, chin ups and pull ups were no- go's. His trap bar deadlifts weren't pretty and we have to adjust the bar height for barbell bench pressing. We also needed to understand that his technique was going to be a little different.
Here are some pictures and videos of him training:
From a coach's perspective, he has made an impact on me. I am totally impressed with how he pushes challenge and adversity to the side and just goes about his business.
The other athletes have benefited tremendously from working with him on a daily basis.
He is a leader. He is the first athlete to arrive at the facility and he is the last one to leave.
He is also the first one to help out with putting equipment away.
Actually, as I am going to be away from the group for some time for the NHL playoffs, he texted me to make sure that I knew that he would keep an eye on the group.
This young man is going to play club hockey at collegiate level in the fall.
What does he want to study? Strength and Conditioning.
It's been an honor to work with him and I will do whatever I can to help him in the future.