BRACKNELL, UK – Bracknell Hornets are preparing for the new season with a little more intensity than most with the help of a fitness boot camp to ensure they hit the ice in the best possible shape in the NIHL.
No sooner had the last puck dropped on the 2011/12 season then Bracknell Hornets and their Head Coach Lukas Smital had to devise a plan to make sure the amateur Berkshire outfit could compete, in an ever improving NIHL.
The former Guildford Flames star got together with former Haringey Greyhounds and Slough ENL Jets defenseman Joe Webb to produce a lengthy summer plan to ensure that the Hornets and number of other locally based players had the best possible preparation before returning to the ice.
“I have formed a close relationship with Lukas and the Bees over the past three seasons working as a conditioning coach for individual players to take advantage of” explained Webb, who owns and manages JW Training.
“This off-season I put together a formula and started working with the players. We had a mixture of EPL and Hornets players, all of which were looking to get the edge this season and make their marks on their respective teams”
“We had two camps, the first an eight week off-ice boot camp geared towards stripping the athlete down and building them from the ground up for total body strength and conditioning”
“Then a six week camp where we focused on getting the athlete ready for the ice with all the plyometrics and explosive work needed”
One player keen to get involved early was returning Hornets star Grant Rounding; fresh from an injury blighted season on the island with Wightlink Raiders, Rounding had been signed with his goal scoring prowess in mind by Raiders Coach Jeremy Cornish.
Unfortunately, the third collar bone break for the South African born winger meant he didn’t pull on a Wightlink jersey until December, by which time title rivals Romford and Chelmsford were well clear in the quest for silverware.
“I was never going to quit so I knew had to work on my physical side of the game and what better place to do that than on the Island” explained Rounding.
“Most people thought I was crazy. Having had a setback from the surgeon I wasn’t able to start the season but decided to get back on the ice after a few months”
“It’s always tough coming in to a team half-way through a season, especially back from an injury and I never really got going until the play-offs but by then it was just too late”
“Having said that, I really enjoyed myself on the Island, learnt loads and definitely improved my heads up/physical side of the game and would recommend anyone to sign there if they have the chance”
With an increase in studies and work commitments, Rounding has found himself back with a team that he impressed for in the 2010/11 season with 15 goals and 14 assists in his 27 appearances. In that campaign he was called up to the EPL with the Bees and that will likely be his aim this year assuming the hard work pays off.
“I think it’s quite obvious that UK hockey lacks the off-ice training over the off season compared to all other hockey nations and I think this boot camp is exactly what is needed” admitted Rounding, who trained alongside the likes of Alan Lack, Lewis Turner, Scott Spearing and Smital himself.
“All the guys have been so motivated knowing that the majority of other players are enjoying the summer and alcoholic beverages, whilst we are being put through these intense workouts knowing that we will be that much fitter, stronger and hungrier come season time”
“It not only tires your physically but mentally as well, meaning you create that desire to not quit even though your body wants to give up”
“We’ve been carrying tractor tyres and concrete blocks, jumping hurdles, sprinting and tug of war, it really has been a killer. Joe has worked out a great plan and it would be good if others take advantage of it in the future”
The complimentary language is mutual, and Webb has seen first hand the improvements in the players attending the camp.
“To say Grant is stronger would be an understatement” explained Webb, who won the ENL South play-offs with Haringey in 2007/08.
“He’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen him- he’s managed to put on just under a stone of functional muscle and this is crucial for him to avoid further injury in the future”
“Topping the muscle gain chart in the boot camp was Lewis Turner (now moved up to the EPL Bees) who added a stone of lean muscle mass this off season ready for his new EPL season”
“My aim at JW Training is to give players exactly what they need to go further in their hockey careers I have been working in this industry for eight years- my approach is not for the faint hearted”
“If you want to be in shape, you better be willing to suffer some pain and these players have suffered it all- and even asked for more”
Reflecting on the Hornets recruitment campaign this summer also brings further good news to a side that struggled at times last season and scraped into the play-offs despite looking like relegation candidates at one stage.
Assistant Coach Danny Hughes and the aforementioned Lack were relied on heavily to get the goals for the team; however their summer recruitment has plugged a lot of gaps.
Highly rated goalie Chris Douglas was a surprise signing from Bristol, whilst Oxford’s dependable blue liner Richard Wojciack offer composure in defence. The standout signing however was the capture of Slovak Peter Jasik, who has been a high end scorer in the EPL for the last five seasons.
“It’s been a crazy off season for the Hornets, picking up such top end players and with the young team we have the experience will help no end” admitted Rounding.
“This season will really give the younger players in our team so much more guidance and we can really learn off these guys so I’m pretty excited. I’ve been lucky enough to play with Jasik before when icing for the Bees, so I know how good he is and I’m sure he will light the league up” “I’m really excited for the new season, you’ve got so many guys dropping down from the EPL every year which is making the NIHL so much stronger, and with every team strengthening this year, it’s going to be a good one for the fans” “I think Bracknell really has the perfect mix of youth and experience this year and we will really will surprise a lot of people. Winning the league may sound a lofty ambition but there is no point aiming for second place”
Bracknell have organised two pre-season friendlies with a double header weekend against the Streatham Redskins in the last week of August. For more details visit either clubs respective websites.
For more information on JW Training and the packages they offer to hockey players of all ages and abilities please visit their website on www.jwtraining.net or look out for them on Facebook and Twitter.
For anyone wondering why the players are wearing gas masks, it is a technique to simulate altitude training.
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