Islanders players aren’t the only ones who can benefit from having access to the best strength coaches in sports anymore.
The team’s Director of Sports Performance, Sean Donellan, brings two decades of experience to the Summer All Sports Training Program. These summer sessions, based out of Islanders Iceworks in Syosset, offer a curriculum geared toward athletes of all ages who play all sports.
In addition to coaching the Islanders, Donellan and Islanders Strength and Conditioning Coach Derrek Douglas, have worked with elite athletes including NFL stars Mathias Kiwanuka, Justin Tuck, Victor Cruz and Ryan Grant. Donellan says the mission of this program is simple – the better athletes are able to move, the better they will be on the field or on the ice.
“The philosophy of our youth training program at Iceworks is identical to that of our professional athletes’ training sessions, whether it’s here on the Island with our hockey players, or back in New Jersey where we’re training all our NFL guys,” Donellan said. “The goal is movement – to improve the way we move. If you improve the way you move by improving your speed, power, agility, balance, strength, and motor patterns and how you utilize all those tools, then you move better at whatever sport you play.”
The summer program is open to athletes aged 15-years-old and over, who are either part of a team or trying to make a team at any level from high school to the professional ranks. Cruz is just one of the NFL stars to improve his overall game using Donellan’s techniques since joining the New York Giants in 2010.
“When I first came in, he didn’t just throw me in and start working out,” Cruz said. “He talked to me about what he does and about the different workouts and how each workout improves your game specifically to your position. I think that part of it had me sold on Sean. He’s just been a great guy, a great friend and I speak to him almost every day. He’s been very influential in my success.”
The program is designed for smaller groups and is broken down into three sessions: one in June, one in July and one in August, with participants training up to four days per week. Each day is broken down further into three segments.
First, the athletes work on flexibility and mobility. Next, they focus on movement, with a lot of feedback from the coaches on technical mechanics. Finally, they work on strength, performing a unique weightlifting routine.
“We have a bunch of guys who are going to prep school and a few D-1 college hockey players,” Douglas said. “They have a bright future if they keep progressing. All the guys have shown huge improvements in their numbers, as far as squat or bench, and just their overall body strength. They’ve also become better movers, which is the biggest and most important thing for us.”
Donellan and Douglas have worked together for several years, teaching a similar program at Velocity Sports Performance in Mahwah, NJ, where they have had a number of success stories.
“A couple of the kids who we had over at Velocity are now doing bigger and better things,” Donellan said. “One is with the Redskins and another is with the Giants on the practice squad. He (Dan DePalma) started with me in college as a sophomore at West Chester University. Sometimes it’s about getting to the pros. Sometimes it’s about getting a D-1 opportunity. For some kids, it’s about making the jump from JV to Varsity.”
Donellan added that while not every athlete can make it to the pros, being more successful in a sport can have positive effects, not just on the ice or on the field, but elsewhere in life.
“Competence equals confidence,” Donellan said. “And the better you are at something, the more confidence you have, and the more fun it is to play.”
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