September.

09.12.16
Dave Mason

For millions of kids, September means two things: back to school and back to the rink.

At school, they’re challenged with understanding new concepts and ideas, and with developing new interpersonal and coping skills.

At the rink, they’re challenged with understanding new concepts and ideas, and with developing new interpersonal and coping skills. But they also have the pressure of trying to develop ever greater physical capabilities.

At school, they’re assessed and informed of their progress at every step. The reasons for that are many. First, continuous assessment lets teachers and parents know if a student needs extra focus in any area. Second, it helps identify macro trends in the population so that curricula and teaching techniques can be improved. And third, continuous feedback in the form of quiz and test scores, homework grades, report cards and parent teacher conferences provides kids and their parents with insight into academic and social progress. It all helps teachers teach, helps students learn, grow and succeed, and helps parents stay informed about the people they care about most.

But when it comes to hockey, unfortunately, for most young players (and their parents), formal, continuous assessment and feedback are virtually nonexistent.

Feedback or criticism?

I’ve had great coaches in my life, positive people who wanted me to succeed, provided constructive feedback, offered technical know-how, and pushed me to improve while giving me the confidence to try harder after I’d failed. I remember them with respect and smiles. My kids have had great coaches in their lives too, but from time to time I’ve watched and tried to help them — without being ‘that’ hockey parent — battle through what should have been the most fun parts of their young lives.

When my 8 year-old asked me why Coach Blank only pointed out things he and his teammates did wrong, I tried my best to explain that coaches are supposed to look for things that need to be corrected. I couldn’t explain why Coach Blank always seemed angry and was almost never happy.

When my 12 year-old emerged from her locker room in tears after a one goal tournament loss in which she’d competed hard and been awarded the team’s hard hat for effort, I could barely hold back my anger when she told me that as he gave it to her, Coach Blank had told her entire team that they’d all sucked that day, but that she’d sucked the least.

When ‘feedback’ seems to come mostly in negative form — criticism, missed shifts, status demotions, punishment skating, yelling, or worse — it can be totally crushing for young athletes. And if it generates fear of making mistakes, it can lead to a downward spiral of more mistakes and more negative feedback. Can we really expect kids of 11 or 12 to just ‘know’ why they’re sitting, why they’ve been dropped down a line or taken off the powerplay if coaches don’t provide personal specifics? And we might expect older players to actively seek advice from their coaches, but we all remember how intimidating it can be to approach adults, and many kids just won’t do it.

PowerPlayer makes it easy to deliver constructive feedback directly to kids (and parents). Metrics to document capabilities. Comments and ratings to help explain where to focus. Video to illustrate what’s awesome and what needs work. No yelling. No confrontations. No guessing.

Teach players. Reach parents.

Kids don’t play hockey because they have to, they play because they want to, and they’re motivated by everything that’s awesome about the game. They want to shine. They want to be respected. They want to belong to and contribute to something bigger than themselves. They want to have fun. And some of them want to take it as far as they can.

We’re here for the coaches who know the value in telling players (and their parents) how they’re doing, and who recognize the power in praising kids for what they do well while helping them understand where and how they can improve. We’re here for parents who need visibility into their child’s athletic progress and happiness. And we’re here to help players gain knowledge and see the impact of their own efforts over time, and to help them acquire the self-awareness to make personal improvements that lead to success on and off the ice.

Want to put PowerPlayer to work for your organization, coaches, players and parents? Just let us know.