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.
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
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
“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
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