Reviewing The 2019 Hockey Coaches Conference
It's been one full week since the 2019 TeamSnap Hockey Coaches Conference, in our home city of Toronto. After an exciting few days, where we were flooded with new information, I’ve gathered my thoughts and am ready to share mine and the CoachThem team’s experience on our favourite event of the year…
As with any conference you go to; you listen, learn and in the days thereafter, you reflect on what you have experienced. This is why you go… to be inspired… to be among others that want to become inspired! This is why The Coaches Site was formed!
Over the past two years, we’ve seen amazing speakers discussing topics like, how you teach the power play, teaching hockey sense through small area games and technology in youth sports! From presentations on relating to the players of today, to revisiting Game 7 - San Jose VS Las Vegas in Pete DeBoer's words… we’re learning about events and concepts from an angle that we would have never been exposed to. Hearing from some of the top minds of the game has truly opened up our eyes to player and coach development and has allowed us to identify innovation in the game, at a completely different level.
While tending our table inhibited us from capturing many of the presentations, we still learned a ton from our time at the conference. These are our three main takeaways:
1. Technology is here to stay but what is too much?
The tech world was extremely well represented by the vendors who sponsored the conference. Nearly every company was showcasing their new website or application (us included), and during the panel on Technology in Hockey, one topic was brought up numerous times - How much is too much?
Currently, I coach a 2007 AA team, 11 and 12 year old boys. My main focus is looking at what data and tools can I add to my arsenal, to help my players develop into great hockey players, and even better people. With the age and skill of my players, I want to integrate tools that will help tell the full story of their development, both the headline stats (ie. shots, goals, assists) and intangibles (ie. work ethic, teamwork and attitude). I don’t need every stat in the book to tell me how each player is performing, but I do want to use specific data to tell the story on how my team is developing throughout the year. On top of that, I want to add tools to help me be a better coach. Using a tool like CoachThem has been amazing for me and my staff because it allows us to be prepped for practice and spend more time developing our players.
If you give data a chance, it can verify strengths and point out weaknesses in your group. Data is data, but it’s how you apply it, is the real secret. Addressing this data with the athlete is your next step. Knowing how that player takes positive and negative feedback will change how they are approached. Always use data in a positive way when explaining to your players.
2. The Game is Changing
In 2017, I attended the State of Hockey High-Performance Coaching Summit and it blew me away LINK. Seeing how advanced Minnesota Hockey was using what they called "ADM" or American Development Model, was remarkable. This framework takes a different spin development, where they've integrated cross-ice practices and small area games throughout every agegroup, at different capacities. They've been using this model since 2010, so this isn’t new news, but it was new to me - and it makes total sense…
Based on stats for 8 and under (8U) using a cross-ice practice set-up:
- Puck Touches: 2x More
- Pass Attempts: 2x More
- Shot Attempts: 6x More
- Passes Received: 5x More
- Puck Battles: 2x More
- Changes of Direction: 2x More
- Goalie Shots/Minute: 4x More
The State of Hockey Coaching Summit opened up my eyes to the benefit of cross-ice practices and small area games, but this past weekend’s event made me think about a second aspect of the new wave of coaching. I owe my second hockey development “eye opener” to NCAA Analyst and USA Hockey ADM expert, Dave Starman. Chatting with Dave opened up the idea that, while coaches have been catching on to the cross-ice mindset, it's now the parent's turn to adjust. I’m sure that many (if not all) coaches at the minor hockey level can understand the challenges that come along in working with hockey parents. Whether they grew up practicing exclusively on full ice, or have seen an NHL team practice on all 200 feet and take that as the gold standard, it’s understandable that they might have a few “choice words” about practicing in a smaller space. Despite any backlash, I encourage you to stick to the process, implement what’s taught from your Association/Governing body and stay true to progressive development. The studies, don’t lie, and small area games and cross-ice practices will be here to stay.
Another big aspect of how the game is developing, is the increase in the transfer of information and experience between coaches. Sharing is caring and that doesn’t change in the hockey world. Coaches are sharing resources and actually WANT their experience to be passed around. A perfect example of this in action, was the main project that we ran at the conference. We asked the delegate coaches to submit their drills to be drawn in CoachThem and shared, not only with the entire conference, but to any coach around the world - for free. We had a submission of nearly 60 drills, which is absolutely incredible for the game, and a big growth from the old school mindset of keeping your playbook completely private.
It's these changes that help our game grow and push us to be better coaches.
3. How many coaches are still stuck in yesteryear!
We had a great L shaped table set up at the conference (which probably took up too much space…) that welcomed many new faces, and some familiar too - but when we asked these forward-thinking coaches how they drew their practice plans, most said pencil and paper. How can that be? An overwhelming majority of coaches at every level, who are open and want to evolve their game, are still using a medium where you have to draw the same thing over and over! With technology comes efficiency, and that’s what we’re all about. We asked the question, how much is your time worth? The time spent drawing up the same old practice plan, week after week can be better spent learning new aspects of the game, new ways to coach and new ways to improve the sport. It’s time to break the habit of putting a pencil to paper, organize your playbook using technology and improving how the game is taught!
The Teamsnap Hockey Coaches Conference is getting bigger and better every year. Being in the same room with amazing coaches at the top of their game feels like I’m back in my playing days. The connection with your peers that stems from working together towards the common goal of developing our youth is pretty special. We are coaches, we teach our youth to be amazing people both on and off the ice.
Thanks to the whole team at The Coaches Site for putting on an amazing event - and another big thanks to all the coaches who stopped by our table to see our platform and what we’re doing to grow the game.
Keep on Coaching Them!