Ahead of the game.

05.04.17
Steve Kull

There’s a hockey-centric morning radio/tv show here in Buffalo, NY that I tune into quite often. One of their recent guests spoke at length about the emergence of data and analytics as a critical management tool in professional sports, and specifically in professional hockey.

Professional athletes are measured in every way possible.

They’re tested, assessed, quantified and reviewed continuously, mostly as a way for management—GMs, coaches and scouts—to determine who warrants investment (via draft selection, salary, or playing time/special use assignments, for example) and who doesn’t. It’s a hard reality of life at that level, but it’s not that different from any professional job that demands its practitioners meet KPIs (key performance indicators) like sales or production goals.

But what happens before pros become pros?

Before your accountant became a professional accountant, she was a kid. Before your dentist became a professional dentist, he was a kid. Before the leading scorer in the NHL became a professional hockey player, he was a kid. A common thread!

Measuring growth.

As they grow, learn and mature, kids are also measured and assessed, but not for the same reasons professionals are measured and assessed. In their formative years, kids are tested, quizzed, monitored, and provided with feedback to try to ensure that they’re actually learning the things that will form the fundamentals of their lives. As they get older, the same things are used to help them build and substantiate their capabilities in the form of the GPAs and transcripts that help them get into college or pursue the careers they’re aiming for.

As parents, we want to know that our kids enjoy learning, that they’re taking in key knowledge, and that they’re developing the study, communication, critical thinking and work habits that we know will be so important to them as they move into adulthood. And as my wife, who teaches first grade, will tell you, teachers are used to using a variety of tools to regularly communicate the inevitable successes and challenges that come with kids learning and growing.

The best hockey coaches also communicate regularly. They provide constructive and instructional feedback to their players, and where possible (and practical), meet with parents to let them know how things are going. We want to help those coaches.

As hockey parents, first and foremost we want to be sure our kids are having fun, and that they’re learning the game and progressing. PowerPlayer was designed to offer a quick, easy, private way for coaches to provide quantifiable—and trendable—feedback to players, and by extension, to parents.

Much like student report cards and transcripts, PowerPlayer data forms a long-term record of a child’s progress through their sport. It offers coaches a way to identify specific areas for additional focus, gives kids the kind of feedback they need and respond to, and provides parents deeper insight into the teaching that’s happening out on the ice. And over a ten or twelve year youth hockey career, it culminates in a rich, detailed ‘hockey resumé’ that kids can look back on with pride, and that just might just take a few of them into the rarified world of pro combines, Corsi, Fenwick, PDO and zone starts.

Looking ahead.

We know PowerPlayer is a new idea, and we know it’s going to take some time to take hold, but we’re thrilled to be working with some very forward-thinking youth hockey directors and coaches. And the positive responses we’re getting from parents are phenomenal.

We may be ahead of the game, but that’s where we want kids to be. Because as that Buffalo radio show guest said, “In five years, every athlete, in every sport, will be surrounded by data.”

If you’d like to learn more, give us a buzz.