Work ethic. Intensity. Compete level.
Every good coach hopes to help instill these attributes in the athletes they work with. Because they know that when they’re combined with strong physical capability, skill, and sport-specific IQ, they tend to generate positive athletic results. But there’s another thing that generates positive results because it enhances the attributes listed above. That thing is ‘fun’.
Fun gets a bit of a bad rap from some in the sports world, because it appears to be at odds with the ‘serious’ stuff. I mean, fun isn’t serious. How can a serious athlete have fun if they’re supposed to be intense, focused, highly competitive, and working their hardest? Sports psychologists know that question should be flipped around. How can a serious athlete be their most intense, most focused, most competitive, and work their hardest if they’re not having fun?
We like to say that feedback is fuel, because it provides athletes with evidence of progress, instruction, and encouragement they can use to build on. Well, fun is also fuel. Rocket fuel.
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. How many times have you heard the saying ‘Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’? How many times have you heard a professional athlete say something along the lines of “We’re really having fun right now” when they’re being interviewed after a win? Why? Are they having fun because they’re winning? Or are they winning because they’re having fun?
Fun is good for us physically and psychologically. It boosts endorphins, decreases stress, and improves pain tolerance. It jacks up our energy levels, and enhances relationships when shared with others. If you’re coaching athletes — especially team athletes like hockey players — that sounds like some stuff that might be useful.
We are what feedback trains us to be.
Essentially, people are information gathering and processing machines. Our senses continuously collect data that helps us make sense of and navigate the world, and we put that data into positive and negative feedback loops that train us, over time, to either repeat or avoid certain things.
The physical pain we feel when we stick a finger into a birthday cake flame the first couple of times is part of a negative feedback loop that trains us not to do that. Not fun. The warm internal glow we feel when we get a high five from our coach or team mates when we do something good is part of a positive feedback loop that tells us we should try even harder to do more of that thing.
Through feedback loops, over time, many guiding behaviors become subconscious — we just know not to stick our fingers into a flame. Likewise, we can just know that we should be focused, highly competitive, and intense when we step on the ice for a hockey practice or game.
Receiving positive feedback is fun. Receiving negative feedback is not.
Human beings are naturally drawn to the positive and repelled by the negative. When we experience positive feedback, we feel things that increase the likelihood of us wanting to repeat whatever it was we got praised for, and we also feel positively about the person giving the praise. Sure, we need negative feedback to help us figure out what not to do. But when we get too much negative feedback about something, we’re likely to want to stay away from that thing — and away from the person who delivers that feedback. As a coach, which scenario would you want your kids to most strongly associate with hockey?
We love it when we see coaches use PowerPlayer to help feed positive hockey feedback loops for their athletes by injecting a little more ‘fun’ into their coaching. Giving a young player a high rating because they had a strong Tuesday night practice triggers that player’s psychological reward center, and that promotes more of the same behavior. And sending a kid a comment and a goofy GIF or YouTube video to acknowledge their work ethic, intensity, focus, or compete level reminds them that sure, hockey requires all of those things, but those things ultimately generate fun.
Another bonus: the simple act of providing positive/fun feedback creates a stronger connection between the player and the coach, which ultimately makes the player more receptive to needed instructional/corrective feedback.
So yes, fun is positively serious stuff for athletes. Give it a whirl.
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
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