When it comes to hockey, Jake Endicott believes in taking the long view.
A native of Flint, Michigan, Jake was born into a hockey family, playing at every level of the youth game, from house to travel to high school, before moving on to junior. He capped off his playing career — while majoring in biomedical science — as a member of the powerhouse Grand Valley State University ACHA D2 squad that made it to the national tournament in all four years he played, competing for the national championship twice in that timeframe.
His transition to coaching came about as a result of a college course taught by legendary West Michigan coach Ron Baum, and today he’s Director of Player Development and a Bantam AA head coach with the Grand Rapids Blades organization, and an advocate for coach to player and parent communication via PowerPlayer.
What were the club’s main reason for adopting PowerPlayer? At the Blades, we take a long range view of what we’re doing. We’re focused on designing a program that works by offering great value to our parents and providing a smart, fun learning and playing environment for our kids. It’s all about being competitive in the right ways, for the right reasons.
So part of my role as Director of Player Development was to try to find some way to track the progress our kids were making against our five-year plan. How do you know if what you are teaching is actually working? We were considering using Excel spreadsheets, but luckily we discovered PowerPlayer at a coaching conference, did our due diligence, and decided to roll the platform out program-wide.
What has been the response from parents? The more our coaches dove into PowerPlayer the more great parent feedback they got. We focused on using it as a tool to inform parents about the specifics of their kids, and it turned out to be a great way to spur more conversations between parents and their own children. I know parents really appreciated the information they got, and it reduced the need for coach-parent conversations.
Most parents don’t want to bug the coach, but at the same time they want to be in the know about their kids. PowerPlayer covers that problem. The parents especially got used to getting feedback — ratings and comments after games, for example — that gave them insight into coaching decisions like special teams assignments, etc. and helped them to talk about those things with their kids.
What about the response from your players? Early in the season, a parent told me that they just felt that their child wasn’t overly competitive. Well, when we started to do the PowerPlayer stuff, that kid — like all of them — suddenly became super competitive, not with the other kids exactly, but more with himself. The scoring system absolutely fueled that competitive nature, with lots of kids including him asking “Did I do better than I did last time? Did I beat my best time?” They wanted to beat their own numbers. That’s pretty exciting for a coach to see.
What do you feel PowerPlayer does for you as a coach? PowerPlayer reveals things coaches might not have noticed in some players. For example, because PowerPlayer asks you to look at game play stuff like ‘creativity’ or ‘compete level’, I’ve had coaches tell me they’re paying attention to and rating and commenting on a wider range of aspects of the game for all of their kids. It’s a great way to let players know there are a lot of variables and qualities and strengths that go into being a good hockey player.
What did you learn overall as a result of using PowerPlayer program-wide? It’s easy to focus on the ‘best’ players, but percentage-wise we saw huge growth and improvement over the year in players at the lower and middle skill and ability tiers. We could see kids building on the things they were struggling with, could measure and see the positive changes in them as they responded to the instruction we provided on the ice and via PowerPlayer.
Any pro tips for organizations or teams that might adopt PowerPlayer? Rolling it out to an entire organization is enlightening in so many ways. But one thing we learned is to divide and conquer by really engaging assistant coaches. It’s great to have assistants capture stuff like fitness or run the kids through skating or puck skills drills at a couple of stations. That frees up the head coach to be more of an observer, and for them to focus more on the ratings / instructional side of the feedback. That way the kids and parents get a lot more information they can work from.
Any changes you’re contemplating as a result? The PowerPlayer data we collected is helping us figure out the holes we can fill. For example, the type of skating instruction we provide to younger kids, better off-ice programs. We are big believers in the USA Hockey model and we are looking to the data to help us prove that what we are doing works within that system.
What’s the most valuable thing about providing PowerPlayer feedback to kids and parents? Two things really. First, it’s all positive. The whole platform is really about providing better communication. Back in that college coaching class, Ron Baum told us all that if you want to make your life better as a coach, just focus on becoming a better communicator. PowerPlayer definitely helps with that, and that makes the coach-parent-kid relationship so much better.
Second, PowerPlayer ignites kids. It just fires them up. And that makes everything from practices to games so much more positive and productive and enjoyable for everyone.
Grand Rapids Blades
Grand Rapids, MI
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