I recently posted an article to a hockey coach Facebook group in which the author explores the age-old and highly divisive topic of ice time, arguing both for and sort of against (but mostly for) the idea that ‘shortening the bench’ (ie sitting some players in favor of others in an effort to win games) is a net positive for young hockey players.
As you might have guessed, the post generated a lot of comments, with opinion falling on both sides of the issue. Actually it fell all over the issue. Obviously player age and level (ie 9 year old house vs 16 year old AAA) factor in. Ditto cost (it seems parents who are paying massive fees for hockey don’t like to see their kids treated differently for unknown reasons). Ditto ‘kids these days’, ‘helicopter parents’, and ‘trust the process.’
Regardless of how you feel about it, the idea of favoring certain players over others in highly competitive situations is baked into team sports.
What’s somehow never gotten baked in are maybe the simplest things in the world when it comes to potentially contentious issues in virtually all aspects of life.
Communication: If you’re a youth coach and you plan to ‘shorten the bench’ at any time during a season, tell your parents that fact before they even sign their kid up for a tryout. And tell them the criteria by which their kids will be judged.
Rationale: If you do shorten your bench, make sure you’ve got — and have shared with everyone concerned — empirical data on which you’ve based your decisions.
If youth coaches do neither of these things, but proceed to bench certain players in favor of others, it’s just not logical to expect players and parents to ‘trust the process’ because they most likely have zero idea what ‘the process’ is.
PowerPlayer was designed to help coaches coach, and in most years of youth hockey, coaching has to include both players and parents. Because when it comes to helping people understand and trust youth hockey coaching decisions, collecting and sharing detailed player-specific performance, proficiency, and other pertinent information is a no-brainer.
Here are PowerPlayer reports for two forwards playing on the same Bantam AAA team. Both are solid players, showing strong Game Play ratings (their coaches think they both ‘get the game’ at this level), strong Intangibles ratings (their coaches think they’re both great kids), and some variability in Practice ratings (they both show inconsistency in their approach to practice), and both are above the team average (the blue dotted line) when ranked by Overall scores.
If you had to decide which forward would play on your first power play unit right now, which would you choose?
Now obviously if you’d been coaching these kids for three months (this data set spans October through December) you’d know more about them (ie How do they perform under pressure? How well do they grasp system concepts? etc.) but based on the PowerPlayer data collected and displayed here, it’s pretty easy to see that Player A demonstrates stronger Puck Skills (a combination of passing, shooting, and puck-handling metrics and ratings) than Player B. I don’t know about you, but given that the primary objective with the man advantage is puck possession and generating quality scoring opportunities inside the attacking zone, my inclination would be to put Player A on the first PP unit.
If both players (and their parents) have access to their own personal data but not team data (ie Player B knows that with scores in the low 60s, his Puck Skills are below the team average but he does not know specifically who scores higher than he does), and everyone understands that your decisions re PP time tend to be weighted heavily by Puck Skills, how can anyone argue with your decision?
Players — like students and employees — need specific feedback in order to improve.
Once players understand how they measure up relative to their anonymous peers (ie their own teammates) and they have specific instruction (ie their coach has provided instructional comments / video etc.) to guide them forward, they can decide what to do with that knowledge. For example, Player B can look at his below-average Puck Skills scores and decide they’re good enough, or he can decide to focus on improving that specific aspect of his skill set. If his coaches subsequently see his Puck Skills metrics improve relative to his peers, they’ll have a new decision to make, but it will be based on evidence.
We can’t go on together, with suspicious minds.
In any unequally weighted relationship — coach-player, teacher-student, employer-employee — secrecy and confusion around evaluation and decision-making relative to advancement or promotion lead to problems. Openness and evidence eliminates them.
If you want to shorten your bench, shorten your bench. Just don’t surprise anyone with that decision. Let your players and parents know up front what matters to you. Then measure what matters and provide your players with information that they can understand and act on.
Try evidence-based coaching. It’s a win-win-win.
I want my players to know they’ve been seen and that they’re valued. That really matters—to me and to my players.Read Post
“For me, a coach’s job—a parent or teacher’s job—comes down to just two words: transmit belief. You’ve got to transmit belief, because if someone in your care believes they can succeed, well, they’ve got a much better chance of succeeding.”Read Post
Saana Koljonen knows that success in sport begins and ends inside an athlete’s head.Read Post
Feedback: Jacob Thayer / Juneau, AlaskaRead Post
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
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
“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