Only one man can make the Sharks sweat. And that’s Mike Potenza.
As the team’s Strength and Conditioning Coach, Potenza is responsible for preparing the Sharks for an 82-game regular season and a stretch run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This process began two weeks ago with dry land training and Captain’s Ice practices at the team’s training facility in San Jose.
“We just completed our second week of Captain’s Ice practices and we went four times a week,” said Potenza. “Everyone contributed a set of drills that they like to do or coach and then we ran a set of conditioning drills that I spoke with Patrick Marleau
about. The third part was a little scrimmage.”
In addition to Marleau, Potenza had forwards Curtis Brown, Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrick Rissmiller, Joe Pavelski
, defenseman Kyle McLaren and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov in town for the hour-long sessions which were preceded by 90-minute dry land workouts focusing on hip, groin and core exercises as well as weight and strength training. Defensemen Craig Rivet, Matt Carle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
along with prospects Devin Setoguchi and Mike Morris will join the group this week.
Potenza’s goal with these pre-Training Camp practices is to build work capacity and endurance. Once he has that foundation, he works on strength.
“We’re doing work capacity now with the off-ice workouts,” explained Potenza. “We’ll go to max strength training in a couple weeks and on the ice we’re trying to get them acclimated to skating again. We don’t want them to have a two-hour, on-ice practice five days a week but we just want to get them acclimated with baby steps so their low back and their groin can get used to it progressively.”
August might not seem like an important month in a professional hockey player’s season, but the work done now is critical to building the strength and stamina needed to survive the year. With the hopes of playing more than 100 games over the course of nine months, players need to build muscle in the summer because it is virtually impossible to grow stronger throughout the season.
“It’s like farming,” explained Potenza. “You can’t do your farming in the winter months. You have to spend time in the summer and the spring cultivating the land and watering and preparing it to reap the benefits through those winter months. Similarly, if you don’t come into camp in shape, then you’re obviously going to be behind and run the risk of more injuries.”
Potenza will open Training Camp for the Sharks in early September. The rookies will begin a week earlier than the veterans and will also be judged differently when Potenza tests the team. Younger players are expected to grow in strength during every offseason, while veteran players are expected to maintain their strength.
“We’re looking for guys who have made the commitment, guys who are ready and prepared to win and compete hard,” Potenza said. “Have the rookies come in stronger especially the young guys like (Steve) Bernier, Pavelski, Vlasic and (Milan) Michalek? Are they coming in every year and getting stronger? Older guys won’t really be. They’ve hit their strength peak so you want to maintain that, but our younger guys have to continue to develop and come in stronger every year until they’re about five or six year veterans.”
To answer these questions the Strength and Conditioning Coach will asses his players through strength testing, cardio vascular testing and body composition.
After all the workouts, the choices players make off-the-ice can greatly effect the way they play. In a July article featured on sjsharks.com (click here to read article
), Bernier attributed his smart eating habits to program designed for him by Potenza. When asked about how nutrition affects performance, Potenza referenced a Ferrari to explain the correlation.
“You can train as hard as you want, but if you’re not giving your body fuel, it’s like trying to race a Ferrari on no gas,” he explained. “So for performance reasons you need to be fueled well and that’s what I want to teach the younger guys and help the older guys with. They’re trying to run this Ferrari that they have great performance out of and they’re very strong and fit, but if you don’t have the right fuel you can’t run it right.”
September will be the month for Potenza to get the Sharks running like sports cars.