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Prairie Hockey Academy holds speed camp with NHL-calibre strength and conditioning coach

Lucas Azeredo Lobo with Gary Roberts High Performance Training stages three-day camp at Canwest Sports Science and Performance Centre in Caronport

MOOSEJAWTODAY.COM -- For the most part, Lucas Azeredo Lobo doesn’t spend a lot of time these days working with younger athletes in his time with Gary Roberts High Performance Training.

While some of his clientele are of the younger set, most of his work is spent with athletes who are a little more experienced and developed in their abilities.

You might have heard of some of them: Connor McDavid, Zach Hyman, Leon Draisaitl, Gabriel Landeskog, Connor Bedard, to name a few.

So there was a sense of excitement when Lobo took part in a series of speed clinics with Prairie Hockey Academy at the Canwest Sports Science and Performance Centre this past weekend, with over a dozen athletes taking part in the three days of learning how to be faster.

It’s all part of GRHPT continuing to grow their offerings and spreading their expertise outside of the ultra-high-elite training they’re traditionally a part of.

“We have the opportunity to work with some really great athletes and as a premium product, it comes at a premium price, but we thought we’d put something together for those who don’t always have the opportunity to train with us,” Lobo explained as athletes warmed-up for the three-hour early afternoon session on Saturday. 

“With the way sports are developing, speed is becoming imperative at this point. Knowing how to train that and how to implement that training into your daily training program is really important, especially when you’re young and developing, so camps like these can help in that direction.”

The idea behind the camp is, well, ideas. Athletes who took part in the multi-day session were given a suite of training tools, tips and exercises that will help them develop both their straight-line and multi-movement speed across the board.

The first day of work was all about straight speed and acceleration, with day two featuring change of direction, working on cross-overs, shuffling, multi-directional movement and just general athletic improvement.

“No one is going to come out of one of these and be significantly faster, but now they have an idea of what they can put into their program to help them improve their speed over time,” Lobo explained. “A lot of it is teaching them how to run more efficiently and be more athletic. Especially with how kids are specializing earlier, it brings more athleticism into their lives and that can really help down the line.”

Of course, working with players who are just beginning their athletic careers is far different from, say, Connor McDavid, who already has a pretty good idea what speed is all about.

Still, there are always bits of refinement and improvement that can make an incremental difference, just in smaller steps.

“When you have the NHL guys and athletes at that level, they’re so refined that it’s more about making sure they stay healthy and then setting them up to find success with what they’re already capable of doing,” Lobo said. “With the kids you have more of a chance to have an impact, where pro athletes are more set in their ways in terms of their movement and what they’re capable of doing.

“You can make small changes like adding a little more range of motion here and there, but when someone is younger you have a chance to mould them into what you feel a high-performance athlete looks like.”

That takes a bit more work, but the rewards are obvious -- especially when the training starts with youngsters in their early to mid-teens, like the crew at the Canwest was on Saturday afternoon.

“Puberty is a heck of a thing,” Lobo said with a laugh. “That’s where the biggest changes are, and some of our pro guys we’ve had since they’re 13, 14 years old and now they’re men in their 20s and it’s almost hard to believe. From eight-year-olds to going off to play in college or the NHL, that’s really cool, having an impact on their lives and helping them in ways that get them to the highest level possible.”

The good news is the camps will likely become a regular stop for Prairie Hockey Academy and GPHPT in the future, offering local athletes multiple opportunities to pick up exposure to elite speed training.

“As long as there’s a demand for it here, why not make it a regular thing?” Lobo said. “That’s the whole thing, to come here on a more regular basis, which would be pretty cool.”