PLYMOUTH — When Bruins Strength and Conditioning Coach John Whitesides opened his talk at Boston Bruins Summer Camp by asking the kids if they have seen Behind The B, nearly all 80 campers raised their hands. If they have seen the team’s all-access television show, they are doubtlessly familiar with Whitesides, who made quite a few appearances on its first season.
This afternoon, though, instead of coaching prospects through burpees or assisting veteran players with their midseason rehab, Whitesides had a simple objective: Give the campers a look into what he has been doing for the last 13 years with the Bruins.
“We try to talk to them and kind of give them an insight of what I do with the Bruins, but also give an insight on healthy living and what they can do at their ages to have some success,” said Whitesides, who is primarily responsible for designing and implementing the strength, flexibility, conditioning and testing programs for all players within the Bruins’ system. “But it’s always good, and they always are interested in what our guys do — what our guys do, and how they work out, and what do off the ice, on the ice, how big they are. So a lot of it’s talking about that stuff, too.”
This week’s camp, presented by YoKids, Stonyfield and Pro Ambitions, took place in Plymouth, Mass., and featured campers from ages seven to 16. After the kids spent the morning on the ice, Whitesides addressed them about the training goals he sets for the Bruins every season. He told his captive audience that he focuses on injury prevention and sport performance — or guiding the players toward being more efficient, leaner, stronger and faster.
“I think my main point is what you put in is what you get out,” Whitesides told BostonBruins.com afterward. “It’s how much effort you’re willing to put in — to your schoolwork, your life on the ice, off the ice — you’re going to get out. If you give half effort, you're going to get half back.
“I’m a big believer in that. I think my mom told me that at a really young age: If you put in half your effort in school, you’re going to get half of it back. She was right. Sometimes we all know, we do that — we don’t give our best effort, and you don’t get the results that you hope for.”
Whitesides cited B's players such as Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara as athletes who live by his philosophy and have obviously reaped the benefits. “He eats, sleeps, breathes, lives hockey,” Whitesides said of Bergeron.
Part of what makes No. 37 one of the best in the league, Whitesides explained, is that he excels in the five areas that comprise an elite NHL athlete. He is dedicated — “He puts in what he gets out” — he abides by a healthy diet, he gets enough recovery time and sleep every day and night, he has the proper flexibility, which helps to prevent injury, and of course, the reigning Selke winner’s on-ice ability is second to none.
Whitesides — who grew up playing football and lacrosse in addition to hockey — also encouraged the campers to avoid pigeonholing themselves into one sport. The skills an athlete acquires by playing a variety of sports can greatly enhance his or her hockey skills — as evidenced by Bruins such as Dennis Seidenberg, who excels in tennis, and David Krejci, who played competitive soccer growing up.
Of course, there was also plenty of time for a Q&A session.
While the campers were eager to know how many pull-ups Chara can do (It depends on whom he’s competing against, Whitesides answered), there was a very important question that trumped the rest:
Who’s really taller, Brad Marchand or Torey Krug?
“I try to stay out of that,” Whitesides answered with a laugh, before adding, “It depends on who’s standing on his toes that day.”
Having the opportunity to talk to the campers about what it takes to make it at the NHL level is something Whitesides always loves to do — and it’s quite a bit more laid back than working with the Bruins, or with the Development Camp attendees, whom he saw a couple of weeks ago.
“I come in here, and I can at least relax myself a little bit,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t have to be so on top of it all the whole time. It’s fun seeing all the young faces, and you don’t know who the next Bergeron is going to be — they could be sitting in that group, so it’s kind of crazy to think that. But these kids have such a great experience to come to something like this.”