When my son was about eight years old, he asked me “Why is Coach _____ always mad? It’s like we never do anything right.” He was really wondering why his hockey coach was always criticizing him and his teammates. I tried to explain that his coach wasn’t really ‘mad’, but was (somewhat loudly and a little grumpily) trying to correct things he saw on the ice during practice or games. I’m pretty sure my little guy gave me that ‘sounds like adult BS’ look at that point.
Although he’s coaching highly paid professional adults, not eight year olds, it seems Gerard Gallant has a different approach. After his expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights had battled in one game of their amazing Stanley Cup playoff run, he made this pretty remarkable statement in a post-game interview.
“It’s a game of mistakes. You’re not going to be perfect every time you’re on the ice, and then when mistakes happen, you forget about them and you move on. There’s not one player on the ice who didn’t make mistakes last night. That’s part of our game. You make mistakes, you move on, you play the next shift and you hope you make some good plays. …If you worry about making mistakes, you’re not going to play a good game. I want you going out there and thinking you’re gonna make the good plays and do the right things on the ice. So don’t worry about your mistakes.”
Getting the balance right.
All coaches — but especially youth coaches — walk a fine line.
On the one hand, the job of a youth coach is to provide knowledge and guidance to help young players develop the technical capabilities they’ll need to be successful. That means teaching, demonstrating, observing, and correcting a progression of sport-specific skills, strategies, systems, and tactics. On the other hand, their job is to help kids develop lifelong can-do attitudes, growth mindsets, strong interpersonal skills, resiliency, and intrinsically-motivated work ethics. Getting the balance right is not easy.
Helping players correct mistakes? That’s what coaches do, right? But having his mistakes (and those of his teammates) constantly pointed out was what my son’s eight year old psyche rightly interpreted as criticism. And criticism is 100% rooted in the negative. What Gerard Gallant communicated in his post-game interview is 100% rooted in the positive. And my guess is he’s fully cognizant of the power of positivity to impact his players and their 26 or 30 year old psyches.
I’m sure Coach Gallant can be demanding. I’m sure he and his staff work with players individually and as a group to address areas for potential improvement. And I’m sure they’re constantly looking for ways to win more games, because after all, they’re all professionals and that’s their number one job. But what impresses me about his ‘mistakes’ statement is that he clearly understands how collectively powerful positivity can be, even among athletes who are paid millions to do what they do. Because positivity is contagious, it generates a galvanizing force that supercharges skill sets and work ethics, and that can be pretty difficult to battle against if you lack that force and only possess similar skill sets and work ethics.
That force is called confidence.
I’m guessing Coach Gallant (who’s not surprisingly referred to as ‘a player’s coach’ and is currently a nominee for the NHL’s Jack Adams trophy) knows that if he forces his players to focus on their mistakes — or rather to focus on trying not to make them — their performance might suffer. Instead he’s letting them know that he knows what they’re experiencing, and that he trusts them to work through it. I’m guessing that goes a long way with his players individually and as a group. In fact, I’m guessing they love it.
When we created PowerPlayer we envisioned a way for coaches to communicate more efficiently and effectively with young players and their parents. Yes, PowerPlayer is a tool that coaches can use to provide private, evidence-based prescriptive feedback in a way that players and parents can make sense of. But it’s also a way to deliver the kind of personal positivity and attention that kids (and apparently professional adults) so badly need in order to build and maintain confidence and self assurance.
It might be a little chicken and egg, but could it be that people have confidence in themselves because others have confidence in them? Or are they confident in themselves because others have confidence in them? Or both?
As we gain more and more users, we’re hearing first hand the positive impact that private, personalized prescriptive feedback has on kids and parents. And coaches from Alaska to Newfoundland to New York have shared some of the incredibly constructive comments they’ve delivered. From detailed instruction about zone entry with the man advantage to ‘love that sweaty head after practice,’ those comments make it clear to us that the coaches who are excited about PowerPlayer love coaching the game, and that they want the kids they’re working with to love playing it. That’s 100% positive.
And we love that.
Image: Michael Miller / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – Share Alike 4.0 International
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
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