Posts Tagged ‘Sean Skahan’

 When I say ‘Model Success’ this isn’t what I mean.

We’re all familiar with the expression ‘to learn from our mistakes’.

And this sometimes encourages people to forge ahead before they have the best information. This can lead to wasted time and, obviously, mistakes.

A better option would be to model success.

With that in mind I have taken some time to sit with Sean Skahan who is the strength and conditioning coach for the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL. While under his coaching the Ducks have won a Stanley Cup and were represented by 8 players at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

I think it’s safe to say his programs generate success on the ice. So to model some of Sean’s success I asked him a number of questions about this training methodologies.

Read on to find out Sean’s answers and model his success.

5. What are some things you wished players did a little less?

Sean didn’t have too much to say here. I guess this is a testament to the fact that he has earned the respect of this players and they don’t veer too far away fro whar he wants them to do.

Earlier in his career there was the occasional challenge of hockey players doing too much cardio for their off-season training. This might take a variety of forms but basically came down to long, aerobic conditioning.

Another challenge from earlier on was to have hockey players head home for the summer and do their own thing. They may enlist the help of coach or trainier in their area but this individual had different ideas about what these players were going to work on.

6. With the recent increase in head injuries in the NHL are the Ducks doing any specific related to this?

Sean does include some neck specific work for his players but admitted that head injuries are a part of the game. If a player suffers any type of head injury here is a very strict protocol that is followed involving various levels of the team’s medical staff. He did make one interesting comment about neck training and head injuries and that was to say no amount of neck training is going to off-set an opponent’s speed.

7. Another question I had for Sean involed the level of intensity used during lifting movements. There is some debate as to how heavy a player should lift. Some coaches like their hockey players to leave it all on the weight room floor. Others want to see them approach a max but be just under it.

Sean’s take on this was the load was secondary to the form of the lift. He wants the last rep to be excellent, just like the first rep.

In this regard I see what he is saying. It would be worse for a hockey player to use a submaximal load with terrible form than to attempt a 1 RM with excellent form.

8. Next I picked Sean’s brain about shoulder development. This is another area where you will find varying opinions from coaches as to whether or not they overhead press their hockey players.

While he didn’t express a hard rule for overhead pressing he did stress the importance they place on posterior shoulder work. They spend some time doing face pulls and going through their YLTW patterns.

Stay tuned for Part III in this series where I pick an NHL s&c coach’s brain for your benefit.


When I was still in university the plan was to go to medical or dental school.

I took all the required classes, did the admissions tests and had interviewss at a few schools. And while some may be happy just to get an interview I was pretty bumbed that I didn’t get in.

So I changed my focus from a physician to a performance coach. And I knew there were a number of ways I could get started in the field.

One way would be to move to a major centre and work as an intern to gain experience before returning to the Okanagan valley and beginning my own operation. The other option would be to start in the Okanagan from day one and invest as much as I could afford to travelling to various conferences and to try to network with as many people as possible.

I went with option B and haven’t regretted it for a second.

I’ve been able to meet, network and learn from a number of top people in the business. And the interesting thing is the higher you go in a particular field the more humble and helpful people are.

Such is the case with Sean Skahan.

Sean is the s&c coach for the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL. Going back a number of years I contacted Sean with regards to connecting with him in Anaheim and being able to see what he was doing with the Ducks.

He was very accomodating and willing to share what was working to keep his players healthy and performing at their highest level.

Since then I’ve made it a habit to visit Sean about once a year. And if I don’t make it down to California we’ve been able to talk on the phone and online.

Last month we connected and grabbed a quick lunch. Over lunch I picked his brain on a number of topics related to hockey s&c. There is no real order to the questions just things that came up while we had something to eat.

So here are 11 questions I had for Sean.

1. When he is coaching a hockey player where are his eyes? Is there something specific he is looking for?

He said it depends on the exercise but he is always looking for something. Sometimes there is a particular focus on something you don’t want to see.

2. What things would all hockey players do well to develop with regards to theb ir strength & conditioning?

Sean wants his players to really develop their posterior chain strength. This includes the glutes, hamstrings and low back. It is also important to have good core strength and stability and posterior shoulder development. Lastly he encourages his players to work on their hip mobility.

3. Training is different from competition for a number of reasons. For example training typically emphasizes driving through the heels on ground-based movements whereas sports usually involve an athlete being on the balls of their feet. I asked Sean if there were any other features of his training style where training was unique from  competition?

He answered that some exercises may differ in the position at the start but both are ultimately trying to achieve the same end goal which is to maintain and develop athleticism. As an example Sean compared the hang clean and squat.

4. Next I asked Sean what has changed in his programming in the past year or so?

He said that they are doing fewer trunk flexion exercises such as crunches and reverse crunches. He has added in more Turkish get up variations and been more selective on prescribing hang cleans. Some players will have learned the Olympic lifts in college and have no problem handling them in the program. Others either have little to no experience with these lifts and may not handle them as well.

He still likes to front squat his hockey players and incorporates more single leg training due to low back issues associated with higher loads on two legs.

One other consideration unique to the Ducks is the amount of travel they have which makes coordinating training sessions on the road more of a challenege.

Stay tuned for the remainder of this interview with Sean Skahan, NHL s&c coach.