Time to talk?

03.15.18
Dave Mason

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.

A lot of coaches try really hard to provide meaningful feedback, but with limited tools like spreadsheets and checkbox papers at their disposal, it’s challenging to do well. The bigger challenge is to provide fair, honest and constructive assessments of young players based on memory. That may be relatively easy when a kid is at or near the top of the capabilities list, but a lot more difficult when they’re not. The reality is that only a handful of kids are ever at the top of that list, and every coach knows that explaining why a player may not be progressing as quickly in certain areas can be a sensitive scenario.

For parents, who are naturally protective of their children, the challenge is to try to set aside their human biases about their own kids and accept an assessment that may not match up with their own perceptions.

And oh yeah, the kids. It’s tough enough for a 10 or 12 year old to hear ‘needs improvement’ or ‘average’ (I personally heard that a lot!) after a season of hard work, but even tougher to have no real idea about what practical steps to take to actually improve.

Change the conversation.

Feedback is massively important when it comes to teaching anything. John Stevens, the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings, prides himself on being a communicator, a trait he attributes to watching his own sons—NHL prospects who have signed with the Islanders and Blues—experience the ups and downs of youth hockey. He has talked specifically about the importance of feedback for athletes.

“Just seeing what it does to them when they get feedback and when they don’t, that’s been a real reminder to me of how important it is. Today, we all expect immediate feedback and we want to know what’s going on and I’ve learned from that. I’ve had young players that maybe you don’t talk to them every single day but they need to know what they did well and what they didn’t. Then they have less anxiety, move on and get better right away, as opposed to wondering where they stood.”

Something that important shouldn’t be difficult.

Instead of asking a coach to try to sum up a player’s strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities in an onerous once-per-season event, we believe that giving them an easy way to provide random, anytime feedback is the solution. Just like player development, feedback should be a process, not a project. PowerPlayer collects and synthesizes a stream of quantitative and qualitative information over time, and from different sources. What does that mean?

  • PowerPlayer feedback can come from multiple coaches: aggregating and averaging quantitative feedback from various team or guest coaches helps mitigate and reduce any sense of personal bias that can arise when there’s a communication vacuum between a head coach and parents. And over time, the triangulation of sources (obtaining data from different people using the same basic methodology) leads to reliability. It tells the truth.
  • PowerPlayer feedback is virtually real time: players and their parents can see how things are going and, with the help of constructive comments from coaches, take action on whatever needs to be addressed.
  • PowerPlayer feedback takes multiple forms: because PowerPlayer collects quantitative (measurable) and qualitative (subjective) data, and also allows coaches to input video, images and personal comments, assessments are not reduced to oversimplified ‘needs improvement / average / above average’ buckets that provide no real opportunity for granular instruction or learning.
  • PowerPlayer feedback is ongoing: none of us are at our best—or worst—every day. We all have good days and bad, highs and lows. PowerPlayer allows coaches to accentuate and encourage the good or illuminate and address the bad, any time they see it. And because the system tracks and illustrates those events to show highs and lows, averages and trends, and personal data relative to anonymized group averages, it helps everyone see the reality of the improvement process.

Coaches who’ve adopted PowerPlayer tell us they see immediate changes in their kids when they provide sporadic feedback. More engagement on the ice. More focus. More energy. More competition. More fun. And they all report a more positive sense of connection with parents.

Parents have told us that even minimal PowerPlayer feedback provides more insight into their child’s hockey progress than they’ve ever received, and they all report how energized their kids are by that it.

We want hockey to be a more positive experience for everyone involved. For the coaches who dedicate their time and passion for the game to help kids progress, for the parents who trust them to teach their children, and most of all for the kids, whose joys, disappointments, successes, and failures at the rink build the kind of friendships, memories, and positive personal traits that last a lifetime. We know that better communication is always a step forward.

Ready to make feedback part of your coaching toolkit? Let’s talk.