Live, Play and Recover: NHL Coaching from the Heart

Firstbeat story: Personal Trainer Sami Alalauri, Prässi Oy

Personal Trainer Sami Alalauri knows hockey and the art of coaching. He can read a player’s mood by the position of his cap. This is hardcore stuff.

When you’re a professional hockey player you do everything what the coach says. Or do you? Sometimes it’s okay to change the plan and to loosen up a little – with a permission of the coach, of course. This is possible with Firstbeat Sports, an essential tool for tracking of both training and recovery data.

“I always say that the best player is the one who recovers the best. The measurement data is extremely important to us because it gives a comprehensive understanding of basically everything that happens both on and off the ice”, says Sami Alalauri. Together with another coach Katja Kukkula, he owns a company called Prässi, which offers exercise and wellness services for private customers, businesses and professional athletes.

He discovered Firstbeat ten years ago, when he wanted to see what recovery really is – and what it looks like.

“All the players I coach are wired with Firstbeat HRV (Heart Rate Variability) sensor (BODYGUARD2) and analyzed with Firstbeat Sports as this helps me as a coach and the player itself to identify how the body functions in 24/7”, Alalauri clarifies and tells an example:

At one time, I noticed that Monday was an unusually bad day for training because the guys were getting more and more injuries. It didn’t make any sense since after a free weekend you should be in the prime of your life with all the resting and relaxation. As it turned out, a look at the data revealed that the boys were not sleeping well. After seeing the results, their eyes opened to see that their recovery was not what they thought it was.”

Alalauri emphasizes that the secret for optimal recovery lies in the small choices that we make every day. If coaching is an art, so is recovering. It’s important that one knows what types of activity promote recovery. For some, it can be a walk in the park, reading a biography of Teemu Selänne or going to yoga. It’s about finding those things that suits you the best. But when talking about athletes – or anyone, actually – a wild night at the club while drinking your brains out may be a fun choice but not a smart one in terms of recovery.

“In professional sports, there’s a significance on how you spend your weekend. The data I get from Firstbeat Sports has definitely helped me identify the best training choices, and it has helped the guys improve recovery between practices.”

alalauri

For its hockey players, Prässi serves as a mother hen.

“We have doctors, masseuses, physical therapists and three full-time coaches. We also offer an indoor ice rink and a gym, so the facilities are top notch”, lists Alalauri, who played in over 300 professional hockey games himself as a member of the Oulun Kärpät in Finland’s top domestic hockey league. This is a man who knows his stuff!

 

Doing What the Game Requires

Elite Finnish NHL players Jussi Jokinen (Florida Panthers) and Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) have been under Alalauri’s wings for over four years. Alalauri believes that his commitment to always taking things to a next level has beared fruit in the form of long customer relationships. He says that in coaching an individual approach is a road to success.

“In physical training, we do what the game requires. But every player is different and the load is individual.”

Alalauri describes Jussi Jokinen as a player who has developed a remarkable ability to interpret his body and feelings during practices. Some players are like Energizer bunnies who cannot stay still even though instead of playing with the puck they should be playing it cool.

“Rinne does everything with 110%. He is not familiar with the concept of starting it slow and that’s why he always hurls in the first trainings. So these guys definitely are their own characters, like Joonas Donskoi (San Jose Sharks), who wants to do everything differently, or Miikka Salomäki (Nashville Predators), who is nonstop and always does what he is told. Then there’s Juhamatti Aaltonen (HIFK), the most eccentric player ever who is also very friendly”, Alalauri portrays and continues:

Atte Ohtamaa (Ak Bars Kazan, KHL) is a role model of a conscientious professional athlete. He possesses the skill of recovery.”

Now we know something about the players’ personalities, but what kind of person is Alalauri himself?

“Well, I am kind. I cherish the value of helping other people and through coaching I can do that”, he says.

This guy obviously loves what he does and truly cares about his hockey charges. Can you already guess what he does every morning after he wakes up?

“I check the latest NHL scores.”

No explanation needed.