The New Jersey Devils have enlisted Sport for Life Long-Term Development Advisor Adam Decker as a performance scientist and assistant strength and conditioning coach. As a long-time hockey enthusiast, and a professional trainer for the past eight years, the role is an exciting chance for Decker to work on the front lines of the NHL.
“It’s hard to say what a typical day is because things change so quickly day-to-day and even hour-to-hour. My major priorities are data collection and analysis, looking at workload, fatigue and monitoring, while working with injured players to help them return to playing,” said Decker.
“I’ll also be overseeing all of the team’s testing and collaborating with my colleagues in Sport Medicine and Hockey Operations.”
Decker grew up playing hockey in Winnipeg, and was a fan of the Jets’ Teemu Selanne growing up. He transitioned to coaching once he finished playing, then started working with professional hockey players in their off-seasons. It was this one-on-one connection that ignited a new passion.
Now, Decker gets to showcase that passion ins a fast-paced gig during a condensed season. It means living in a new country, with a brand new city and work environment to get accustomed to.
“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to continue to learn and try something different. I get to work with experts every single day, which is really exciting for me. The organization has a history of success and they treat their staff extremely well,” he said.
“It’s definitely a little different. The team here has been together for a while and they know each other well. I’m the new guy coming in, so I need to respect their culture and relationships while trying to add in some new ideas and perspectives.”
Decker is drawing from his experiences working for Sport MB, the Canadian Sport Centre and Cirque du Soleil. His idiosyncratic background has given him a unique perspective on athlete development that he hopes to pass on.
“It’s about understanding the importance of collaboration and having systems in place to allow for effective collaboration between colleagues. I don’t try to be a dietitian or a physiotherapist; instead I rely on the expertise of my colleagues and in doing so, I learn,” he said.
His PhD work was with circus artists aged 18 to 28, and there are some interesting overlaps between that world and the world of hockey. His Long-Term Development approach will incorporate Sport for Life philosophy with his own personal twist.
“What I’ve learned is you shouldn’t sacrifice development opportunities for short-term wins. And you should only collect data if you have a strategy in place to actually use that data, as well as communicate it and apply it.”
Decker thinks the future looks bright.
"We have a really young team and our organization is investing heavily on development. I'm really honoured to be able to play a small role in that. Hopefully the work we put in today will lead to a bright future for our club."