Nick Vachon has hockey in his DNA.
Born in Montreal, Nick played two years of NCAA D1 hockey at Boston University before skating for two seasons with the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks. He then moved on to a five-year professional career in the American Hockey League, International Hockey League and ECHL, and dressed for one NHL game with the New York Islanders during the 1996-97 season, placing him only 794 games behind his father, Vezina-winning Hall of Fame goaltender Rogie Vachon.
Now, as General Manager and Hockey Director of the LA Jr. Kings Hockey Club, Nick is dedicated to creating positive hockey experiences and building love for the game among Southern California’s rapidly growing number of players and their families.
We recently connected with Nick—an early PowerPlayer adopter—to get his thoughts on how he thinks the system will help the Jr. Kings organization meet its goals.
What are your primary objectives for LA Jr. Kings players and families? First and foremost, my goal as General Manager and Hockey Director is to create the best hockey experience possible for all of our players at all levels. From mite in-house on up to AAA, we want our kids and their families to love the game and we are dedicated to helping them achieve their hockey and student-athlete goals. As an organization we want to be competitive nationally, but it’s not all about winning, it’s about helping kids to improve and grow as hockey players and as people.
How do you see PowerPlayer helping with those objective? For me as hockey director, I’m always looking for new and unique opportunities for us to get better as an organization. For coaches, a big part of the challenge is communicating in a meaningful way with kids and parents on a regular basis. It’s often hard to find time to have one-on-ones with parents and players, so 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.
Technologies like video and innovations like PowerPlayer are part of the game now. They help us teach, show kids and their parents how they’re doing and where they fit in, and really help us provide motivation and encouragement. And we see all of these things as ways for us to compete.
How are your coaches currently integrating PowerPlayer into their practices and routines? Technology can intimidate some people, but PowerPlayer is extremely straightforward and easy, and we’ve had a really great response from our coaches as they’ve picked up the system and immediately gotten comfortable with it. We’ve done lots of metrics like on-ice testing and fitness, uploading video clips and comments for players, and we’re looking to use practice and game ratings more. It’s really great for our coaches to see their kids improve and grow from the baselines they set earlier in the season.
Have you noticed any changes in your players since introducing PowerPlayer? Do they act any differently when they know they’re being rated? Haha! For sure! They’re hyper competitive. We set up a PowerPlayer combine session one day—six stations, coaches at each station with iPads—and ran a whole bunch of kids through two sets of drills. It was unbelievable how excited the kids were. I think they felt like they were in an NHL skills competition, and they were super energized. The kids had such a blast that we had a lot of parents asking exactly what was going on out there!
What are the key benefits of PowerPlayer for players, parents, coaches and the Jr. Kings organization? Kids love to know how they’re doing, where they fit. I remember as a kid when someone had a radar gun at a practice and we all found out how fast (or slow!) we could shoot the puck! We loved it. Now through PowerPlayer, California kids can see where they are relative not only to the players they play with and against, but will also know how they compare to kids in other states and countries. That’s a great motivator, and it helps our kids understand what they need to do to achieve the things they are aiming for.
For parents, obviously it’s always great to get feedback about a child’s progress. They can gain insight into what coaches are teaching that they might not otherwise get. And when they see their kids competing against themselves to achieve personal bests—and in the future share their PowerPlayer data with coaches and scouts at higher levels—I think they’ll really see the power of this stuff.
For coaches, being able to communicate like that, in a very efficient way, is awesome. Of course the data helps coaches understand where individual players might need a little more focus and instruction. And it’s really great to see data that validates the things you are doing as a coach to help players get better.
What’s the key reason you think PowerPlayer is a fit for the LA Jr. Kings? Overall, as an organization, we’re excited to be able to bring innovative technologies like PowerPlayer to our players and parents. PowerPlayer is all about communication and teaching and helping kids get better at something they love. And that’s 100% what the LA Jr. Kings are all about.
Images courtesy LA Jr. Kings
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
“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
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