Four Question Friday- Ilan Cumberbirch of Factory Hockey Player Development

This weeks guest is Ilan Cumberbirch of Factory Hockey Player Development. Ilan grew up playing minor hockey and rugby in Vancouver before committing to playing Junior A in Burnaby and Surrey, BC. After Junior Ilan completed a Kinesiology degree while attending the University of Saskatchewan and the University of British Columbia. A true multi-sport athlete Ilan competed for both the hockey and rugby varsity teams while completing his degree. Residing full time in Vancouver, Ilan now brings his extensive experience to Factory Hockey Player Development. He has been involved in the strength and conditioning industry for over 10 years and has worked with a wide range of athletes from NHL to minor hockey players, along with a variety of other sports including rugby, football, and soccer.

1. What made you get into strength and conditioning and the development of athletes?

I was always involved in athletics from a young age, playing a wide range of sports and enjoying the physical, mental, emotional and social elements that sporting environments can evoke in a person. I was first introduced to the training floor in my early teens and saw immediate physiological changes and improvements in performance, which subsequently boosted my confidence and self-efficacy both in sport and in life. From that point onward I have been on a constant pursuit of excellence which began in a personal realm; during my playing days in hockey and rugby, and has since transformed to a professional one while trying to further my knowledge and experience base which I can transfer over to the athletes whom I work with.

2. You have worked with a number of athletes from beginners to pros, is there anything specific you notice that separated the ones who make it versus the ones that don’t?

It is always exciting to work with young athletes who are new to training and are ambitious and driven. The young athletes who tend to have the most success and see the greatest results and improvements with us are the ones who are the thirstiest for more, who want to understand the finer details of what we are trying to work on and accomplish on any given day. This desire for a deeper understanding has a tendency to carry forth throughout their careers. Granted, there are some very genetically gifted individuals who will always perform at an elite level, virtually regardless of what is prescribed to them. Having said that, the majority of players who experience continued success throughout their careers and have some longevity to their careers are those who understand, appreciate and continually practice all of the required elements which result in maximal performance.

3. What are your thoughts on the latest trend of developing one- sport athletes versus the old trend of developing all-around athletes?

In my opinion developing one sport athletes is somewhat narrow minded and ignorant. All youth should have the opportunity and be encouraged to participate and experience a wide range of sports and physical activities. Not only will this develop a broader foundation for that individual’s general physical preparedness later on when they might potentially specialize, but it also ensures that their sporting experience does not become stale, leading to potential loss of interest and enjoyment, and that the individual does not suffer from overuse injuries associated with said sport in particular.

Once a sound base of fundamental human movement patterns has been established and an athlete begins to see some elevated success in one sport over another, then one can consider specializing, however, that point generally doesn’t arise until their adolescent years. Even then, there is little argument to suggesting that an athlete should not experience, enjoy and take part in more than one sport throughout their career as cross training has many transferrable benefits.

4. Based on what you have seen in minor hockey development, what advice would you give to coaches who may be starting out, or volunteered because nobody else would?

I would suggest that coaches and volunteers alike ensure that all athletes they work with leave a session having benefited in some way or another. A coach works with and influences more individuals in a one hour session than many do in a week, month, year, lifetime. You are a role model and a mentor to many of these individuals, so handle yourself accordingly. All athletes are different and respond to human interaction in different ways, so learning to read people and communicate with different athletes in different manners is crucial, as all people are unique. Continue to educate yourself and broaden your knowledge base. Do not over complicate; simplicity and efficiency of fundamentals are key. Have fun, be fun, be personable, be real.

Factory Hockey Player Development

Factory Hockey Player Developmentworks with elite players from the NHL to Minor Hockey. They provide players with an integrated package of cutting edge strength & conditioning and innovative on-ice skill development. They have camps located in Vancouver, Prince George and Powell River. For more on them visit:

More on Competitive Thread

Competitive Thread is located in Sherwood Park, Alberta and is Western Canada’s leader in athlete testing and hockey development. They have worked with teams and athletes in the National Hockey League, the Canadian Hockey League and Minor Hockey teams and players across Western Canada. They take a holistic and balanced approach to development and aim to positively contribute to the individual growth of each athlete both on and off the ice. For more information visit or call us at 780-267-5795.