Volume 76, Number 44 | March 28 - April 3, 2007

Sports

A hockey player works on sharpening his skating skills on artificial ice at Chelsea Piers.

New technology to improve speed, agility, endurance

By Judith Stiles

Hardcore hockey players used to improve their skating with endless ice time on frozen lakes. Now, at Chelsea Piers, however, they are awaiting the plasticized artificial ice patch on a skater’s treadmill, coming to the complex in May, courtesy of BlueStreak, a high-tech sports training organization.

The treadmill features a maximum speed of 17 miles per hour and up to a 32 percent incline. Using this new training tool, a hockey player will strap himself to a safety harness, don his or her hockey skates and begin a comprehensive, six-week, performance-enhancement program, with the goal of improving speed, agility and endurance.

Forget about old-fashioned skating down the winding river or round and round the rink. Through videotapes and weekly analysis from a FAST (Frappier Acceleration Sports Training)-certified trainer, an athlete will incrementally achieve a better on-ice sprint speed, improved skating biomechanics, greater stride length and frequency and increased explosive power.

During the training program, not only is the patented FAST Generation III Hockey Treadmill used, but training time will be spent on a mini-rink of artificial ice where individually tailored performance-enhancement programs are designed to improve stick handling, game skills, greater puck control and on-ice maneuverability. And, for the first time, skating will not be cold because the artificial ice is room temperature, not subfreezing. Just as Astroturf revolutionized ball fields and eliminated the mud factor, high-tech artificial ice may someday replace real ice in hockey arenas. Unthinkable!

It’s not just hockey players who can hope to benefit from BlueStreak training; the good news is that Chelsea Piers BlueStreak will offer similar programs for football, soccer, basketball, track, figure skating, gymnastics, lacrosse, baseball and tennis. This type of program is geared to the aspiring athlete age 12 and up, elite college players and professionals, as well as any sports nut who wants to improve performance. Success stories have seen BlueStreak users increase their vertical jumps by 2 to 4 inches and shave 0.2 seconds off their times in the 40-yard sprint.

The training has received a glowing endorsement from professional football player Logan Mankins. Mankins attributes his making the New England Patriots’ active roster to his time well spent in the FAST program. He completed standardized pre- and post-program evaluations that were entered into a database as part of AIMS (the Frappier Acceleration Athlete Information Management System), which measure improvements.

“Most of the drills I had done before, but I hadn’t been used to practicing them,” Mankins said. A fundamental concept behind the training programs is that by repeating correct movements over and over for six weeks, the information is programmed into the athlete’s memory bank and muscle functions, so that the improved techniques become automatic. For soccer players, many of the drills are performed in a sand pit, a technique inspired by Brazilian soccer stars who often trained at the beach.

Another series of exclusive drills are designed to improve hand-eye and foot-eye coordination and reaction time. Through juggling, blind exercises and using what are called “reaction balls,” athletes can increase coordination and reaction time. Part of the program includes cardiovascular endurance training and increased anaerobic tolerance. With high-intensity running sequences, athletes achieve personal maximum speed for longer periods of time. There is also an emphasis on abdominal and lower back muscles that support twisting, turning, jumping and lateral movements involved in most sports.

“We will work with athletes as they move through their competitive careers,” said Jarrod Jordan, BlueStreak’s new director of programming and operations. “We can improve the jumping skills of a 12-year-old figure skater or the sprint speed of a 22-year-old N.C.A.A. [soccer] striker.”

“We build confidence in athletes because we have measurable results of progress. Science is on our side,” added Chris Gannon, who played midfield on North Carolina State University’s Division I soccer team.

We live in an era where youngsters take academic performance improvement classes for SAT tests and tutoring programs for the citywide fourth-grade reading test. So it’s no surprise that sports-performance programs are coming to town. Measuring and quantifying how young people can become smarter, faster and more athletic is a contemporary phenomenon that hopefully doesn’t cramp the fun of being a kid.

BlueStreak was keeping kids in mind when they turned many of the drills and exercises into fun little games for youngsters. But what about the oldsters? Get ready, BlueStreak, for the diversity of New York City, because there just might be a demand for programs catering to cricketers, aficionados of hurling and curling and perhaps even a fellow or two who might want to improve their spin on the bocce ball.


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