I just spent a couple of days in a room with a few hundred hockey coaches. And my takeaways from the experience are 100% positive.
The Coaches Site 2017 Hockey Coaches Conference in Vancouver featured an outstanding and varied speaker roster. While the topics ranged from goaltending techniques, to generating offense, to developing young defensemen, to rest and recovery techniques, to mindfulness, common themes clearly emerged over the course of two days.
Coach, author, and former Canadian Olympic rower Jason Dorland kicked it all off with a presentation focused on the challenges inherent in helping athletes to compete, succeed, fail, and ultimately rise to compete again — lessons applicable to all aspects of life. He asked the coaches gathered in the room to think about their personal ‘fuel’, and why they were attending the conference. He surmised that since the vast majority of the coaches in attendance were likely not paid to spend time in ice rinks, the answer had to be rooted in one thing: love. His words — “when you coach from your soul, not from your ego, you raise the game” — really set the tone for the rest of the conference.
Winnipeg Jets assistant coach Todd Woodcroft echoed that sentiment during his presentation, commenting that he was sure that “99% of the people here today are coaching for the right reasons.” In addition to some smart thinking re teaching faceoffs, he also shared some historical/hysterical personal photos (you’ll want to see his video when it’s released!) and pointed out that even at the pro level, the coaches try to make it fun for players, because fun works.
Brad Shaw, an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets, also stressed coaching in the affirmative, reminding coaches to “catch players doing things right” and to always use positive reinforcement when teaching. He also noted that he was happy that early in the conference he’d “already heard the word ‘love’ three times and the word ‘trust’ four times,” and that developing young players requires both.
“Feedback matters. Acknowledge hard work. Develop the individual. Build up your people.”
In his presentation entitled ‘Fueling Passion,’ Calgary Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan recounted the process he employed to help move his team from a state of struggle to a state of success. A believer in the power of the positive to motivate, his approach centered on coaching to improve the mental and emotional state of his players, advising attendees to “teambuild every day, not just in response to adversity, because good teams are tight teams.” And like so many others, he advocated providing constant feedback for players to “acknowledge hard work, develop the individual, and build people up.”
Two-time Stanley Cup winner Jim Paek, now head coach of South Korea’s national team, stressed the importance of building a culture of trust through constant communication with players, advising coaches to always “tell players ‘why’, and have a purpose for everything you do.” He attributed his team’s marked improvement to “thinking ‘success’ and playing like a family,” because, while family members may argue from time to time, when push comes to shove they love each other. He also pointed out the importance of fun, noting that in order to be successful at that level he needed his players to see the rink as a destination. “I needed them to want to be there. And to have fun every day.”
Mike Snee, Executive Director of College Hockey Inc., made a strong case for the power of love to drive excellence in player development in a presentation centered on youth hockey in his home state of Minnesota. Pointing out the unique and clearly successful model that sees most young Minnesota players stay home and play for their local high schools, he noted that “playing with friends in front of friends and family is a powerful thing.”
“The coach-player-parent dynamic is critical. Feedback is critical.”
In 1300-game NHL veteran turned broadcaster Ray Ferraro’s fantastic positivity-centered talk — Building a Player — he noted that “the days of tearing players down to build them up are gone. If a player is playing with a coach on his shoulder he can never be successful, but if the message is positive, the player is more likely to get it.” He spoke from personal experience about the detrimental impacts of negative coaching. “No player wants to be embarrassed in front of their teammates, parents, friends. No coach should create performance anxiety.” In one story of a difficult time in his career that was helped by positive coaching, he commented that “I was 27 years old and I needed someone to believe in me,” then asked us all to “think about that when you’re coaching 10-year olds.”
Echoing coaches Gulutzan, Shaw, Paek, and so many others, Ray also pointed out that “the way coaches talk to players is more important than almost anything else.” And in comments that definitely resonated with us at PowerPlayer, he stressed the fact that for players to be successful, “the coach-player-parent dynamic is critical,” and implored coaches to “tell players what you see and what to work on, because feedback is critical.”
Jets assistant coach Jamie Kompon shared a wealth of knowledge re teaching the new game for defenders, and emphasized in a subsequent conversation that he always lets his players know that he’s their partner, there to help them succeed.
Walter Aguilar, a performance coach specializing in mindfulness, asked attendees if they’d ever played for a coach they’d “go through a wall for.” To those (including me) who raised a hand, he commented “They’re why you’re here.” His talk also focused on the importance of positivity to drive performance, noting that “our energies are generated by the thoughts we have about ourselves.” He pointed out that coaches who provoke fear in their players are actually inhibiting their potential, since “performance equals potential (skill/talent/intuition) minus interference (distractions causing stress reactions).” If players are afraid of you they won’t talk to you, and “fear shuts down engagement, shifts focus to negative outcomes, and creates flight or fight syndrome — negative energy.” He further explained that “power is effortless while force is hard work. When you coach from positivity you create power.” Wrapping up, he reminded us that “coaching isn’t about what you need to do for your players. It’s about who you need to be for them.”
Recently appointed Kingston Frontenacs head coach Jay Varady shared a brief history of the evolution of collecting and analyzing game statistics, and also stressed the importance of communicating with players: “Give your players their game stats. Give them feedback.”
Three-time Stanley Cup winner and Carolina Hurricanes assistant coach Steve Smith shared his insights into the defensive game and into teaching young players, and got us all laughing with the story of the time he almost fought Tiger Williams.
For me, and I’m sure many others, the most moving presentation of the weekend came from Craig Cunningham, who courageously shared his very recent personal challenge. In November, 2016, Craig collapsed on the ice during the warmup before an AHL game, and ultimately had his lower left leg amputated as a result of tissue damage incurred while he was undergoing the 85 minutes of CPR that kept him alive after his heart inexplicably failed. In his talk, Craig certainly didn’t focus on what he’d lost, but instead focused on the love and caring he’d received from his various coaches as he grew up, and the outpouring of support from all over the hockey world that came his way after his injury. His simple but powerful summation: “I can’t put enough emphasis on the importance of positive influence and people who believed in me.”
To say Craig’s talk was emotional would be an understatement, but when an audience member commented that his young son had watched Craig play as a member of the Vancouver Giants, and that he wanted Craig to know that his son thought of him not just as a hockey hero, but as a life hero, it was a powerful reminder of what really matters.
The words I heard at this year’s Coaches Site Conference were encouraging in so many ways. As someone involved in trying to create a better way for coaches to communicate with players and parents, it was great to hear so many of the presenters stress what we believe so strongly when it comes to coaching kids: that feedback is fuel and knowledge is power.
And finally, it was fantastic to hear the words ‘love, respect, and trust’ so often in a room full of people involved in youth hockey. Because while some coaches — the pros whose livelihoods depend on it — might be in the business of winning, most coaches are really in the business of developing winners.
Everyone we know is looking forward to safely resuming all of the activities they love. We sure as heck are! And we’re optimistic about the ‘new normal’.Read Post
The reaction from parents is most rewarding. They’re wide-eyed in amazement that we pay such close attention to their children.Read Post
“Anyone who wants to be good at something wants and needs feedback.”Read Post
Everyone involved was already following Bruce Boudreau’s advice for anyone who wants to succeed in the game of hockey — or the game of life: “If you don’t change, you don’t last.”Read Post
Brian Walsh and the Western Jr. Colonials are changing the coach-player-parent conversation for the better.Read Post
Looking for a fun new way to challenge your players, create team unity, and raise a few bucks? Look here.Read Post
The Covid 19 lockdown has been a challenge in many ways, but it’s also given us something that hockey people clearly value: time and space.Read Post
Small areas games just got huge.Read Post
Right now, we’re not Sabres or Jets or Blackhawks or Kings, we’re human beings. And we’re all on the same team.Read Post
Why not give kids and parents the same level of insight into the sport process that they get into the academic process?Read Post
Every player has personal strengths and positives that can be identified and encouraged and every player can improve somewhere if they’re given the knowledge and support they need.Read Post
If I coach the way I was coached, and my coaches were coached the way they were coached, and so on, then I’m coaching like someone from the 1800s.Read Post
There’s no question that baseball is a numbers game. So when we hear coaches and managers get excited about bringing PowerPlayer Baseball to their athletes, we know we’re onto something.Read Post
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
“We thought we couldn’t ask for anything more, but then the club really out-did themselves by adding PowerPlayer. We’re extremely excited that Pineville Ice House is implementing this. To me it really proves that they have the players’ best interests at heart.”Read Post
It was 92 degrees F / 33 degrees C in Toronto last weekend, so naturally hundreds of hockey coaches converged on Ryerson University to immerse themselves in three days of knowledge, insight, innovation, and storytelling at the 2019 TeamSnap Coaches Site Hockey Coaches Conference.Read Post
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
Kids do best when they instinctively know that the adults they rely on to guide them through life are in alignment. A coach who is backed up by a parent is a more effective coach, and frequent communication goes a long way toward making that possible.Read Post
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.
Apparently Jamie Benn was in a bit of a slump.Read Post
I love the drills and metrics for sure, and so do the kids, but seriously, the most useful thing for me personally is the ability to coach from home.Read Post
Ever notice how people just seem to operate at higher levels when they perceive the thing they’re doing to be ‘fun’? That applies to sports, study, and whatever it is most of us do at our day jobs.Read Post
Kids who are positively reinforced by the people who surround them tend to be more confident, happy, and energetic, and are much more likely to succeed than those who may have similar skill sets, but who are less emotionally secure.Read Post
Anticipation is building as a new hockey season approaches. Maybe it’s the comfort of old gloves holding the promise of a new stick that does it? Maybe it’s the idea that a new season offers an opportunity to build on time-tested knowledge by applying new thinking? At PowerPlayer, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to build on what we learned in 2017-18 — our first full season offering a digital feedback platform for youth hockey.Read Post
“You can’t do player development without coach development. And that’s why it’s so important that you’re all here.” Dave Starman / NCAA Scout, Montreal Canadiens.Read Post
For the organizations and coaches who are adopting our platform, positivity isn’t some new age ‘everyone gets a trophy because kids want to be coddled’ concept. It’s a teaching and coaching technique rooted in science.Read Post
Strong personal intangibles and team chemistry have a multiplier effect on talent. Poor personal intangibles and team chemistry have a diminishing effect.Read Post
Because positivity is contagious, it generates a galvanizing force that supercharges skill sets and work ethics. That force is called confidence.Read Post
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
Today more than ever, one of the biggest decisions a coach can make is how they choose to communicate with their players.Read Post
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
“We wouldn’t accept a teacher telling us that our child had failed a grade at the end of the year without any warning or aid in helping them succeed, so why would we allow our players to go through a season without continuous feedback?”Read Post
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
Team success largely depends on mutual respect, common purpose and uncommon selflessness. In other words, team success depends on intangibles.Read Post
Before your accountant became a professional accountant, before your dentist became a professional dentist, and before the leading scorer in the NHL became a professional hockey player, they were kids.Read Post
Anyone who’s ever been part of a team—either as a player or as a coach—where things have just clicked, or conversely, have never clicked at all no matter what you did, has been subject to the power of group dynamics.Read Post
For many hockey players, a tryout or showcase camp is essentially a snapshot taken from a long, long movie. It can’t tell enough of the story to be meaningful.Read Post
For coaches, a big part of the challenge is communicating in a meaningful way with kids and parents on a regular basis. We’ve adopted PowerPlayer as an organization because it provides opportunities for coaches to share comments, thoughts, video clips, ratings and real metrics with the players and their parents more frequently.Read Post
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
A while back, I connected with a friend who’d spent part of his summer sitting in a hockey rink watching his 10 year-old run through some drills. And he was frustrated. Not because of what was happening on the ice during the camp, but because of what wasn’t happening.Read Post
For millions of kids (and their parents), September means two things: back to school and back to the rink.Read Post
We sat down with coach and skating / skills instructor Stan Kondrotas to get his impressions of PowerPlayer following his first season as a ‘power user.’Read Post
We just spent a couple of weekends at The Coaches Site / TeamSnap 2016 Hockey Coaches Conferences. As sponsors, we were there to introduce PowerPlayer to the coaches in attendance, but we also learned a thing or two about the state of hockey.Read Post
In 2015, a nine-year-old BC kid quit his team with two games left in the season. Seems he’d had enough of sitting on the bench game after game, crying while he watched his teammates play. Why was he denied the opportunity to play?Read Post
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
I grew up with sports. And, oh yeah, of course… school! One of those things was arguably more fun than the other, and the rewards they offered differed, but for any real chance of success, both required not just attention but commitment.Read Post