BY TAYLOR LIPSETT
After taking a few weeks off after the World Championships in South Korea to heal — both physically and mentally — all sights were set on Sochi, which starts in Buffalo, N.Y.! The week of July 13-21, USA Sled Hockey called Buffalo home. The week started with the USA Sled Hockey Select Camp, and would conclude with the 2013-14 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team tryouts.
Before focusing on Sochi, I had to remind myself that the first stop on the trip was Buffalo, N.Y., and making the Paralympic team. I have seen veteran players in the past get too comfortable with their spots, lose some of that passion and drive to get better, and have a young player with their eyes set on their first Paralympic Games come in and take that spot from them. I promised myself I would not do that to myself or my team, especially after coming off an injury-filled season that concluded with Team USA coming up a couple of goals short of the gold medal. So after a few weeks off, it was back to rehabbing the shoulders, both of which were beat up from last season, and kicking things into high gear to prepare for tryouts.
Each and every workout began with 30 minutes of cardio, then a shoulder rehab routine, then weight and resistance training, and concluded with core exercises. This became the routine three days a week, and then on ice training every Sunday. Perhaps the most exciting addition to my offseason workout regimen was the purchase of my Concept2 SkiErg. Originally designed for cross-country skiing training, many sled hockey players have began using this machine to supplement ice time, as it mimics the exact motion we use when we skate. With my ski erg workouts ranging from 20-second sprints with 40 seconds off for a total of 20 minutes, to 20 minutes straight, this addition to my offseason routine has been awesome!
Next on the list was getting to Buffalo, which turned out to be quite the chore. I started the day with an 11 a.m. flight, which I arrived to the airport for at around 9:30 a.m. Upon checking in I was told we were an hour delayed due to the incoming aircraft being delayed out of Chicago. By the time I got through security and grabbed a bite to eat, it had been delayed two more hours. After quickly rebooking on a later connecting flight, I decided to get a little work in while I waited. From 10 a.m. on, I received an e-mail once an hour until my flight was eventually pushed back until 4:30 p.m., which would cause me to miss all possible connections. Luckily the agents were able to rebook me on a different airline, and I was finally on my way at around 5 p.m. After a two-hour layover in D.C. and a quick flight to Buffalo, I was finally at my hotel at 12:30 a.m. Nothing like a 14-hour travel day to kick off the season! With a 6 a.m. wake-up set for the next day, it was time to get some rest and get ready to go!
After everyone coming off of a great development camp, the final two days of tryouts are sure to be more competitive than ever! This year the coaches and staff will definitely have their work cut out, and my job is to go out there and make their job as hard as possible! I feel confident in my preparation and my experience, and will do everything I can to make the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team! The team will be officially announced on July 24, and hopefully I will be back with an update later next week with the next steps toward Sochi!