Alex Villarin fell in love with hockey shortly after arriving in Canada from the Philippines as a six-year-old. It took her a few years to convince her parents to let her play, but she’s never looked back. When a knee injury ended her competitive playing career at the Junior level, she turned to coaching, and today she’s in her third year with the Toronto Leaside Wildcats, serving as a High Performance Development Coach and as head coach with both the Peewee AA and Midget A teams.
What first attracted you to coaching? Looking back, I think I was really inspired by Tom Bouchard, my head coach when I played with the Markham Stouffville Stars as a Midget. He was a smart hockey guy for sure, but it was really his overall approach that resonated with me, his delivery, his presence, just all those intangibles. I feel like he really helped me not only as a player but as a person, and I want to do that.
What’s your personal approach to coaching? Well, we teach skills and teach the game, of course, but as a group, my coaching staff and I — we’re all women under the age of thirty — focus on environment and experience. We all want to help our young players grow as people and as leaders. We don’t want them to just do whatever they’re told to do, we want to empower them to make their own decisions as individuals in the context of being part of a team. We want them to grow into great players and great teammates. Great people. We know that takes patience and caring.
What first attracted you to PowerPlayer? I’d been looking for a smart way to provide meaningful feedback and discovered PowerPlayer at a coaching conference. Communication is so important. Players all want to improve, and parents all want what’s best for their kids. PowerPlayer data provides a clear lens for them all to understand what’s happening hockey-wise, and the data can help everyone — players, parents, and coaches — focus on what each individual might need in order to improve.
What’s your initial reaction to PowerPlayer as a coaching tool? We’re really ramping up our use of the platform now and I can see where the potential to help players better understand what we’re seeing as coaches will be beneficial over the long term. Just a simple thing like rating players in practice is huge. The players have never experienced that before, but it lets them and their parents know that we expect and value effort and focus in every practice, not just games, that we’re always paying attention, and that we’re here to help them with whatever they need help with. The girls who want to improve know exactly what to do with that information.
The PowerPlayer data is also starting to provide parents with a truer understanding of what’s going on, and over time they’ll be able to see the progress their kids make in a wide range of areas. It’s not just skills that matter, there are so many facets of this game that a player can improve on if they understand their own reality, and for parents who want to be supportive of their children, this information is gold. Parents who are informed and aware are really empowered to help their kids, and that really helps us as coaches.
What do you think you’d have done if you’d had access to PowerPlayer feedback when you were a player? Ha! Looking back now I can see that this kind of information would have been incredibly valuable to me as a player. One of the things we do at Leaside is something called the Fourth Line Initiative. It’s a program in which we invite players to practice with a team at the level above them. That really gives a player a sense of where they are relative to the players at the next level. It’s a reality check for sure, but players who want to excel and move up use the experience to focus on the things they’ll need in order to get there. I think PowerPlayer data does the same thing. It’s a way for each player to understand their personal strengths and challenges relative to their peers, and a way for us as coaches to help each individual player by reminding them of their strongest attributes and by providing them with the knowledge and support to improve where they want to. As a coach, that’s pretty much what I signed up to do.
We Any advice for your fellow coaches about communication with players and parents? Well, I’m always learning, that’s for sure. But communication is the most crucial thing in coaching, and honesty and clarity are important. 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. The kids we work with are there to have fun with hockey, to compete and improve as players and to grow as people. The players — and their parents — are looking to us as coaches to help them wherever and however we can, and all I can suggest is that coaches take advantage of tools like PowerPlayer that will help them move their players forward.
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
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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
“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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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“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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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
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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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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
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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