Brian Walsh has been coaching hockey for 11 years, working with players ranging in age from mites to adults. As Hockey Director at Danbury Ice Arena, he ran in-house programs, summer camps, and year round clinics for beginners through high school for all levels of competition, and coordinated and coached specialty development clinics including adult learn-to- play.
He’s currently Mite coordinator and head coach for the Western Jr. Colonials Squirt Minor Tier 3/4 program.
How did you get into coaching? Well, let’s just say I grew up wanting to be Herb Brooks, so really it’s just been a long and crazy road filled with a pure love of the game and the life lessons it teaches.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to player and parent communication? I’m a big believer in frequent communication. In fact, I don’t even subscribe to the “24 hour” rule. If something needs to be said, I prefer it to be said and dealt with immediately, especially after practices or games. My thinking is that things don’t get better if you let them fester, so you take care of issues right away. Of course I love doing that in person, but given the current situation with Covid-19 we need new ways to do things. Tools like PowerPlayer also make it possible to communicate privately more often, and that’s perfect for me.
How did you first discover PowerPlayer? It was introduced to me by another coach who I really respect. I started to use it and just fell in love with it. It’s a development tool for sure, but now, with the challenges of Covid-19, it’s really become the communication platform I rely on.
What are the advantages of communicating with players and parents in this way? With PowerPlayer, I can upload a video and share a comment or two, and kids and parents can immediately see what I see. I’m finding that creates more conversations that might have been lacking before, and I definitely find kids are more likely to ask me about things. That’s a huge positive.
What aspects of PowerPlayer do you use most frequently? I use the practice rating tool all the time. In a normal practice, kids might be intense half the time, maybe less on some days. When they know the coaches will be rating their effort and attention in practice they ramp it up overall.
With PowerPlayer, they’re definitely more tired after practice than games. We can see the intensity, so we know the ratings and feedback are great motivation tools. Kids want the high they get when they see their scores, and they’re naturally competitive. PowerPlayer just brings more of that to practice.
Some coaches say you can’t teach competitiveness, but I don’t believe that’s true. If you instill a competitive spirit in a kid when they’re young, and reward them for it, it just becomes a habit. So PowerPlayer lets me raise the expectation bar, and while each kid is unique, in my experience they always respond.
Let’s talk about coaching the differences in players. How does PowerPlayer factor into that? Like I said, each player is unique. We established baseline metrics on each of our players and we’ll update them every four to six weeks, but the flow of personalized practice and game ratings and comments will be constant. I use this system every day, which I never thought I would. PowerPlayer allows me to focus on each kid as an individual, to really look at them and to try to help them with specific things. That lets them know that I see them, and it lets their parents know. That’s huge.
Any other thoughts about PowerPlayer you’d like to share? To me, a culture of communication is important, and PowerPlayer changes the conversation. We hear a lot about ‘crazy parents,’ but the vast majority of parents are far from crazy. They love their kids, and they want what’s best for them. Better conversations between coaches and parents lead to better coaching and better experiences for everyone, especially the kids.
And I really think this is the way to reach kids now. They communicate through their phones, and PowerPlayer is almost like instructional or motivational social media. It’s like if the kids don’t get a practice rating, to them it never happened! They all want the feedback and they react to it pretty quickly and positively. That’s all a coach can ask for.
Western Jr. Colonials
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For the last 19 years, I was a competitive hockey player, so I haven’t really looked at the sport through a purely coaching lens too often. But I’ve seen a lot of coaches.Read Post
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It must be that time of year. Hockey-centric social media is jammed with posts exhorting people to ‘do the work,’ ‘embrace the grind,’ and to be sure to take ‘no days off.’Read Post
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Video + PowerPlayer data and comments = power tools for coaching.Read Post
First, if you want to make your life better as a coach, focus on becoming a better communicator. PowerPlayer definitely helps with that. And second, PowerPlayer ignites kids. It just fires them up.Read Post
In case you haven’t noticed, we love feedback. So we asked a whole bunch of hockey parents — our users (parents of hockey players whose coaches use PowerPlayer) and non-users (hockey parents in general) — for their thoughts about feedback, as it pertains to them and their young athletes.Read Post
I recently posted an article to a Facebook group in which the author explores the highly divisive topic of ice time, arguing both for and against the idea that ‘shortening the bench’ is a net positive for young hockey players. As you might have guessed, the post generated a lot of comments.Read Post
In youth hockey, where development is (or should be) the focus, wins and losses only tell part of the story.Read Post
We’re excited about our numbers to date, because we know we can build on them. After all, that’s what long-term development is all about.Read Post
I want to do everything I can to get the kids I work with to the next level — whatever that means to them individually — and to give them every advantage possible.Read Post
If you’re coaching youth team sports, you’re coaching other people’s kids — which means you’re coaching parents too. In any successful relationship, communication is essential. The challenge in coaching, of course, is time.Read Post
As a player, I would have loved to get this kind of feedback. I always wanted to be first, to be the best. But how could I know what my coach was thinking about me? Not every player is ready to ask their coach questions — some people are just shy — and I’m talking about players from minor hockey all the way to pro.Read Post
I flipped on the NHL Network the other day. While I usually don’t pay too much attention to the panel discussion stuff they broadcast ahead of games, this time something got my attention.
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When we share feedback through PowerPlayer we know we’re sharing the beginning of a conversation that might never take place otherwise. How cool is that?Read Post
For young athletes—and by ‘young’ I mean anyone who is not an adult—the answer to ‘Which wolf wins?’ could easily be ‘The one their coach feeds.’Read Post
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For millions of kids, parents and coaches, the season is winding down. And all over the hockey world, the thought of a standard one-on-one, end of season coach/player/parent meeting is a stress-inducing prospect for many on both sides of the table.Read Post
I think we need parents to be part of the teams we’re coaching. If parents understand what I’m seeing in their child and can help me motivate them or address something that needs to be addressed, that’s hugely beneficial to their child, to me, and to the team.Read Post
Consisting of three parts, the formula involves providing feedback to young athletes at every stage of the development process as a way to help build their confidence.Read Post
“When you throw the ball, three things can happen and two of them are bad. But you’ve still got to throw the ball.”Read Post
“We’re seeing huge improvements in our kids now and we’re excited to roll PowerPlayer out to more and more of our players in a big way in 2018.”Read Post
“PowerPlayer really helps bring clarity to coaching, and I’m a big believer in communicating with players.”Read Post
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We’ve shared PowerPlayer with countless coaches, hockey directors, and parents, and we’re working with organizations from Anchorage to Philadelphia, from Syracuse to Sweden. No one has told us they think providing meaningful feedback to kids and their parents is a bad idea.Read Post
“The coach-player-parent dynamic is critical. Always tell players what you see and what to work on, because feedback is critical.” Ray Ferraro / Coaches Site Conference 2017Read Post
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Even though I grew up in Buffalo, where winter totally rules, my sport growing up was baseball. Sure I watched the Sabres as a casual fan, but my knowledge of hockey was limited to hating Brett Hull. Google it!Read Post
If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, or maybe even if you haven’t, you might be familiar with the 10,000 hour concept, which postulates that it takes that minimum number of hours of ‘deliberate practice’ to become ‘expert’ at something. Like chess, piano, ballet. Or hockey.Read Post
Growing up with a father who’s been a highly respected member of the Rochester NY-area hockey community for more than 40 years, Chris Collins has led a hockey life.Read Post
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Essentially, our current youth hockey measurement system prioritizes games, where effort can produce wins, and virtually ignores practices, where effort can produce winners.Read Post
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