Éric Houde loves hockey.
A native of Montreal, Éric has been in the game for almost his entire life. After being selected in the ninth round of the 1995 NHL draft, he played 15 years of professional hockey, including three seasons wearing the bleu-blanc-rouge of the Montreal Canadiens. He spent five years in the American Hockey League, and also suited up for Swiss, German, Italian, and French teams before closing the book on his professional playing career. From there, he jumped right into coaching, where he’s worked with young players at virtually every age and has been invoved with both elementary and high school hockey programs in Quebec.
Today, Éric manages the Canadiens’ Learn to Play program — an initiative that aims to introduce boys and girls from 4 to 8 years old to the game of hockey, serves as a hockey analyst for RDS, and hosts a weekly radio show dedicated to hockey. And somewhere in all of that, he manages to find time to coach his kids’ teams. We’re really lucky that he also found a few minutes to talk with us about coaching, kids, and the power of feedback.
What first attracted you to PowerPlayer? I’m always looking for ways to improve my coaching, and I was searching online for ways to give better feedback to my players and parents when I found PowerPlayer. My kids’ school teachers provide all kinds of digital communication to my children, my wife and me, and I was wondering how I could do that within hockey. For example, with my Peewee AAA team this season, we only practice two times a week, so there’s just not enough time for me to meet with players and parents individually in any meaningful way. PowerPlayer makes that possible digitally.
How are you integrating feedback into your program? Working with 12 year olds, I really see myself as coaching at the base of the AAA hockey pyramid. So everything I do is geared towards preparing my players to be ready to move to the next level. What’s great is that the feedback I can provide through PowerPlayer is not only good for the players and their parents, but also for their future coaches.
With this team, I tend to concentrate on Game Play ratings — I rate my players in pretty much every game. Typically on a Friday morning I’ll send them some ratings, video clips, and comments related to the previous week’s games, maybe a few system-type PDFs about a forecheck or whatever, or some YouTube links of things I want them to see — like highlights from NHL games or Team Canada — before we go into our weekend games. I give them feedback on specifics. Like how was their battle level one on one? How did they do with body position or angling or puck support? It helps them in so many ways to be able to see what I see, and to get personal instruction about ways to improve.
I believe in providing lots of positive feedback, and of course personal instruction to help them improve. I think it’s really important for kids to know what I’m seeing in their play, and for them to see it and understand it for themselves through the ratings and videos and comments I post to their profiles. With this system, kids and parents can understand immediately, and it’s also a great way for me to show future coaches how kids are improving.
What’s been the reaction to PowerPlayer feedback from your players and parents? This is my second year using the system, but my players and parents on this team had never heard about or seen anything like PowerPlayer before I introduced it at the start of this season. Everyone got excited and jumped right in. And they love it.
I know for a fact that my players absolutely want their data! They’re waiting and asking for it and they love getting it. And they all think PowerPlayer is pretty ‘pro’!
I think it’s helping them get more serious, and they’re definitely improving more quickly. Parents have told me that they sit with their kids and go over the ratings, video, and comments, so it’s a great way to get everyone on the same page.
What do you feel PowerPlayer does for you as a coach? Parents have told me how competitive PowerPlayer makes their kids, and I can see it too. They want to earn the good scores and be the best they can be, so it really helps me feed and build that competitive spirit.
I really think this type of digital feedback is the future of hockey. Players want it. Parents want it. And as a coach I want it. It really gives me a great way to connect with my kids and parents, and to extend coaching beyond the two hours of weekly practice time we get.
Parents have told me they really appreciate the time I put into this, but honestly, I just love it!
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? I know that 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. But I see it as the coach’s job to tell their players what they see, how to get better, and how to get on the same page with them so they can succeed together. With PowerPlayer, there’s no grey zone. No wondering or guessing. More information is better, and I love that there’s a smart way to provide it now.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share? Just like their teachers in school are preparing them to move forward, I know that all of my current kids will play next year, so I want to help build good futures for them. I use PowerPlayer to help boost confidence and to help players with specific skill or game play instruction. The feedback I provide offers them more clarity and understanding, and that leads to more improvement.
That makes everyone happy. Parents. Players. Their future coaches. And me.
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