This is the first post in a series in our June, 2021 update to our Women’s College Hockey Recruiting Insights infographic. For this analysis we looked at how many commitments have already taken place by academic year, including this past 2020 academic year. This way female players can get a feel for the number of spots that are still open for DI women’s college recruiting
As you can see, just about as many commits have already been made for this coming 2021 year as in 2020 (211 vs. 213), so it looks like most team are full for 2021 and it is unlikely that more than a handful of new announcements will be made over the coming months. In addition, it looks like there could be somewhere between 50-70 new commitments to start in 2022, in addition to the current 148 commitments. This assumes that the additional year of eligibility for current students does not greatly reduce the number of spots for next year. Finally, as of June 1st, 2021, only 28 commitments have been made for the 2023 academic year, so this summer should be quite busy for those players, as many schools seem to have most of their spots open for those 2023 grads.
This past weekend I attended my first USA Hockey Girls District Camp in Las Vegas for the Pacific District with my daughter (2006 birth year). As someone who is new to this whole process, I wanted to share what I learned attending my first USA Hockey Girls District Camp. There were many things I didn’t know or understand until we went through the experience and I had conversations with the organizers & coaches in attendance. Since the Pacific District Camp was one of the first ones to be held in 2021, hopefully there are other players and parents who can take some of this information to help them with their own preparation.
Which players were invited?
Like all USA Hockey girls district camps, there were two age groups. One for 15 year-olds (2006 birth year) and one for 16- and 17 year-olds (2005, 2004 birth years). The players were selected by their state affiliates (e.g. California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska) with the numbers of players from each affiliate somewhat in proportion to the # of USA Hockey registration participation level. So, if a state had twice as many female players for an age group, they would be allocated twice as many sports at the district camp.
At each level players were placed on to one of 4 teams comprising of up to 9 Forward, 6 D and 2 Goalies.
On-Ice practices were run by DIII coaches with assistance from affiliate coaches. These practices were straight out of the USA Hockey ADM practice philosophy which included a 4-station rotation, half ice small area drills & games and of course some cross-ice games with different types of variations of 3-on-3. From my observation, while there was the occasional tip from a coach here and there, there was not a lot of heavy technical feedback, instead the tone was quite positive and focused on giving the girls a lot of reps.
For games, each team played the other 3 teams once. Games consisted of three 22-minute periods of running time, with a break at the 11-minute mark for the 2 goalies on each team to switch and ensure equal playing time. For most games, the scores were not posted on the scoreboard and all penalties were enforced as penalty shots with players chasing down the shooter from behind.
The Zoom calls mainly focused on education players on the college recruiting process and the do’s & don’ts when communicating with college coaches. Many of the same topics that we have covered in the Champs App Podcast were covered in these calls.
Before arriving at the PDC, there was not a lot of information shared about the evaluation process, however I did speak in-depth with Kathy McGarrigle, the Pacific District Girls Hockey Director, who was responsible for organizing the entire weekend (she is also the Founder, Program Director and Head Coach for the Anaheim Lady Ducks). She graciously answered all my questions.
Kathy explained to me that, historically, the Pacific District joined forces with the Rocky Mountain District to have a Multi-District Camp, but with the expected growth in girl’s hockey in Nevada and Washington thanks to the Golden Knights and Kraken, the Pacific District is focusing on having their own camp for the coming years.
Kathy McGarrigle made it clear to me that all of the evaluators were from outside of the Pacific district to ensure complete objectivity and that process was not political. No one affiliated with a club or program is involved in the decision making. The evaluators consisted of DIII team coaches who were behind the bench and on the ice during games and practices, but several off-ice evaluators who stood in their own blocked-off section away from spectators. Beyond the evaluators for the Pacific District Camp, there were additional USA Hockey evaluators scouting the event for the national camps in July. They were there to see if any 15/16 year-old players were strong enough to be chosen directly for the U18 National camp as well as capture additional information on top players being considered for all the national camps.
There were no DI coaches in attendance likely due to the recruiting blackout period which does not get lifted until June 1st combined with those coaches being more focused on the national camp players (who are most likely to be DI prospects).
While no specific or official guidelines were provided as to what was being evaluated, Kathy mentioned to me all the basics in terms of hockey skills like skating and passing, team play, character and effort. In addition, she emphasized that scoring the most goals didn’t guarantee anything, they were looking at the complete player over the entirety of the weekend.
Evaluators watched all games and practices for the specific age groups they were assigned to (either 2006 or 2004/05). The third and final games were where all the evaluators were together watching the players at the same time. Kathy explained to me that at the end of each day the evaluators convened to discuss the top players and systemically put together a dynamic rank of players which does not get finalized until after the final games on Sunday.
For the players in attendance at the camp, the ultimate goal is to be selected for one of the three National Player Development Camps taking place this July in Minnesota (15s, 16s/17s and 18U). Once again, the number of spots allotted to the Pacific District is based on the percent of registrants in USA Hockey, of which the Pacific District represents ~6% of the player population. Since the 15s National camp has about 216 players in attendance, then the Pacific District should get ~13 spots (plus or minus) for that age group. For the 16s/17s, those numbers there are the same number of spots, but for both birth years since that camp is combined, thus the number of spots is allocated by birth year in proportion in registration percentage.
Kathy informed me that the final list of invites to the national camp would likely not be released until June 9th, 2021 since the Pacific Camp was one of the first in the country to be completed. As the players who will be invited to the U18 Camp are decided, there is a cascading effect on who will get invited to the 16s/17s camp and is dependent on other districts completing their camps. Thus, the delay of nearly a month until we will are informed on the Pacific selections.
Overall, the weekend was a great opportunity for the girls to compete with the top players on the west coast and see how they compare. In reality, there was a big standard deviation in talent, but this is something I expected since the Pacific teams tend not to be as strong for girls hockey as other areas of the country. So, hopefully it was a good learning opportunity to benchmark and self-reflect on which part of their game each player needs to work on.
Unfortunately, due to the Covid protocols and the short weekend, no formal feedback was provided to the girls (only ad hoc on-ice or behind-the-bench guidance). As Kathy suggested to me during the weekend, if a player wanted feedback, they should proactively query their coach. That would be my recommendation to players who have upcoming camps in other districts, to ask their coach for their advice on their specific development needs towards the end of the camp.
P.S. A memorable part of the weekend was when a parent from Alaska recognized my Champs hat and asked “Are you the Champs App Podcast guy?” and thanked me for the podcasts.
As part of Jocelyn and Monique Lamoureux’s book release, they did a ton of promotion including several podcasts. On one them they Jocelyn Lamoureux mentioned her masters thesis “Should Girls Play Hockey With Boys? Perspectives From The USA Women’s Olympic Hockey Team“. For the past several years I have heard many points of view on girls playing boys hockey with some consistent recommendations (mostly “play with the boys as long as you can”). But this was the first time I heard of actual research on the subject. By soliciting data directly from US National Team players, Lamoureux was able to codify the tradeoffs and benefits from choosing to play with boys for a significant portion of their time in youth hockey.
Lamoureux’s conclusion was pretty unanimous: “Out of 15 players, 15 of them recommended that girl’s play with boys, but one player said yes and no depending on what the goals were of the individual playing.” This doesn’t mean that playing girls-only hockey won’t get you to the national team, it just discusses how playing with the boys helped those that did play with boys. What the research doesn’t cover is if the path to the U.S. National Team is possible from only playing with girls. Thus, if a female player wants to make the national team, they would likely need to ensure that they are still developing the same sets of skills that Lamoureux’s research concluded was key to player success achieved through playing boys hockey.
Based on the research, some additional information I have collected from podcast interviews and my parental experience, here are some thoughts on the key factors for girls playing boys hockey:
By playing with boys, girls are likely to develop better key priority hockey skills via several contributing factors:
There is some research which shows that during practice boys compete harder and for a longer period of time
Playing boys hockey provides more options for a female player to find a team whose skill level is at the right level for the player
In my conversations with former female players, coaches and club directors, the consensus is that “on average” top boys club teams tend to have better coaching in minor hockey. While this is certainly changing and improving on a region-by-region basis, girls coaching is not yet at parity with the boys especially at the early age groups.
Safety of the Player:
USA Hockey recommends that girls should stop playing with boys when, due to size or speed, the player would be at risk of injury due to full-contact checking. Not all girls are big enough or have the confidence to play with boys once the boys have hit puberty. Each player must decide for themselves how long they are comfortable playing with boys from a safety perspective.
Social Development and Team Culture:
From my experience, there is no doubt that the social dynamics for a girl playing with boys is very different than on an all-girls team. However, the culture on each boy’s team is different and the experience can be both positive and negative from a social development perspective. It really depends on the leadership of the coaching staff and the personalities of the players in the locker room.
During my conversation with female college coaches who played with boys growing up, they consistently said that the boys on their team treated them pretty well. However, verbal taunts and occasionally “getting run at” by players on the other team was pretty common. So, a female player should be prepared and comfortable with those risks.
As noted in a previous post, it is rare for a female player to play college hockey while only playing on boys club or high school teams (other than at national development camps). So clearly from a recruiting perspective, there is a significant benefit to being scouted by college teams. Coaches rarely attend boys events to watch a single female player. The advice I have heard from several college coaches is a hybrid, where a female player can play on a boys team as their primary winter season team and either play girls during spring/summer tournaments or, if permitted, double roster on a girls team during the regular season (e.g. play girls AAA and boys high school).
Playing with boys helps, but it is a personal decision
In conclusion, playing on a boy’s team during key developmental minor hockey years appears to provide all the right ingredients for girls to reach their full potential as a hockey player. Depending on where you live, playing with boys could help develop their skills and knowledge of the game more than just playing on the local girl’s team. However, this does not in any way discount that girls can likely achieve the same level of development and success by finding substitute methods of achieving these same skills and knowledge by growing up playing with girls only.
I was doing some research over the holidays to understand the state of women’s hockey in North America and found a few interesting insights between the U.S. and Canadian female hockey participation and coaching at the university level. Here they are:
Overall Female Participation
1. Total hockey participation is about 8% more in Canada over the U.S., but female participation in Canada is 21% more than in the U.S.
Male to Female Participation
2. The ratio of Male to Female hockey players in the U.S. is ~6:1. In other words, female hockey players only make up 15% of all players in the U.S. While in Canada the ratio is ~5:1 while female players represent 17% of all players in Canada.
Under 18 Girls in Canada vs U.S.A.
3. While female hockey players in both the U.S. and Canada grew by a little more than 2% in 2019-20 (compared to male player which had declines in both countries), there are still about 25% more female players under 18 in Canada compared to the U.S.
Female U.S. Division I Women’s Hockey Coaches
4. Only 33% of U.S. Division I women’s hockey coaches are female, while 67% of their assistant/associate coaches are female
Female Canadian U Sports Women’s Hockey Coaches
5. 46% of U Sports Head Coaches in Canada are women while 54% of their Assistant/Associates Coaches are female.
Here is my interpretation of the data:
The U.S. still has some work to do to catch up to Canada on female participation in the sport. “Girls Give Hockey a Try” is a phenomenal start, but I think there is even more that can be done.
I suspect it will take a major change in one of the countries development programs before one will be the dominant hockey power. Due to density issues in the States with less players distributed in more metropolitan areas than Canada, it would take a significant commitment/investment to build a sizeable lead over Canada.
I was expecting to see more female head coaches in both Canada and the U.S.. However, given the male to female ratio of participation in both countries, the male coaching advantage in women’s college hockey is not a complete surprise. I would suspect that these numbers will flip to favor female head coaches over the coming years as they are given more opportunity and the recent generation of women players move into and up the coaching ranks.
I loved Darryl Belfry’s bookBelfry Hockey, but I don’t believe I was Darryl Belfry’s target audience, because I am neither a hockey coach nor a skills instructor. As I mentioned in my first post, I’m just a hockey dad. I do not profess to be a hockey expert, but I do have a deep passion for helping my two kids who currently play 14U AA youth hockey. Thus, as a parent, what did I hope to learn from Darryl Belfry’s book Belfry Hockey? And how could I help apply these lessons?
My goals when reading Belfry Hockey:
An understanding of which skills are important for my kids to develop (i.e. “Skills That Separate”)
See which skills aren’t getting developed with their current coaches
Figure out my options on how they can fill in the skills gap
One of Darryl’s key training objectives is to help a player learn a skill they can use “tomorrow”. Therefore, given Covid’s impact on our season, I took on the challenge of applying these insights immediately with my kids. Here are the takeaways from Belfry Hockey that I have recently tried to implement with my kids.
Teaching my son the concept of Platform Skills vs. Placeholder Skills
Is the skill you’re using a placeholder skill or a platform skill? There’s a big difference between the two.
Page 122 – Chapter 11: Skill Continuum
My son is both a late birthday and not an early-developer like several of his teammates. Therefore, there are times when he has seen less ice time due to his physical development. At the same time, Belfry perfectly describes some of the placeholder skills that my kids have seen from teammates in peewee and bantam hockey who would be considered the top players on their teams getting those additional minutes.
Examples of placeholder skills:
Slap shots off the rush
Using straight-line speed to rush by defensemen along the boards
Banging in rebounds in front of the net
Explaining to a 13-year old that he is building better skills so that two or three years from now he will have more translatable skills to the next level is not simple to understand. But having a framework of “platform vs. placeholder skills” is a simple concept to continually reference until his physical development catches up to his peers.
Tracking High-Frequency Events and Success Rates Using Video
When you’re working with video, you have to be very careful that every player in a game is a like a fingerprint. What we want to see is the detail inside of each fingerprint
Page 162 – Chapter 13 – Video-to-Game Transfer
I record almost every game that my kids play. I use two GoPros to video the game from behind the nets and some rinks also have LiveBarn to provide a third angle. As a result, I have a pretty good asset to begin my analysis with. I used to just look at the quality of each shift individually, but thanks to Darryl Belfry I track the game in a whole new way.
Since reading the book, I have created a spreadsheet to do the following:
Track event frequency and success rates
Edit clips together from 3-4 games by event/game situation so my player can see all the same event-types in a single video (typically 60 – 90 seconds of clips).
Here is a partial summary of an “instance list” from a recent weekend of games for my daughter (who plays defense):
Transfer Tracking: Problem Solving Frequency and Success Rates
Our standard is we want to try and get as many high-frequency elements as possible to be an 8 out of 10 success rate
Page 155 – Chapter 10: Triple Helix: Awareness
Using the metrics from the games, my daughter and I were able to watch each clip and the specific situational context for success & failure. As a result, we were able to see certain patterns emerge that could immediately be worked on, here are a couple of examples:
Trouble when playing the off wing
One pattern we identified right away was that she wasn’t recognizing the handedness of the puck carrier which caused her to attack from a poor angle. This insight was helped by remembering an article about the 88 Summit with Patrick Kane from a couple of years ago.
2. Linear entry vs. change in angle when carrying the puck in across the blue line.
We are now working on way to cross the blue line to get into the “hot zone” with time and space.
Creating Multiple Options for Specific Situations
We want to make sure as part of the Category 1 skills that once the player has established body position and encounters contact, he’s able to use the contact as an asset – an accelerant or an ability to create separation
Page 145 – Chapter 11: Skill Continuum
With my son, one area we have spent a lot of time working on is in the corner or along the wall in the offensive zone. We have been focused on adding multiple options for him to have in his toolkit for these situations, specifically:
a. The Kane Push:
b. Reverse Hits
c. Skating through the hands:
d. Using the trap door:
e. The Chuck:
We shall see if he is able to apply any of these new skills into a game situation, but at least I know he has them as potential tools in his toolkit.
As I used to write in my Grade 5 book reviews, I really liked Belfry Hockey and I recommend it to all my hockey friends and coaches. I plan to write one more post about Belfry Hockey so that a few more concepts are brought to life via visuals and video that are a little hard to digest from just reading the book.
In this final post about how to develop a great hockey player, we discuss grit. Grit is the ability for a player to demonstrate focus and determination to overcome the inevitable challenges that come with high-level hockey.
In hockey, many “early bloomers” don’t face adversity at a young age. If your player is lucky enough to be the best player on their team when they are 12, 13, 14 or even 15, their world will likely change when they start playing against the best players in their age group. This can come from peers starting to catch up via size and speed. Or it can come from playing against better players by moving from being a “big fish in a small pond” to being a “small fish in a big pond”.
I have seen firsthand how learning from failure early on in my kids’ hockey development has helped them become more resilient, focused and competitive. One of the biggest drivers of my their developing some grit was them not making the team they wanted to when one was 10 and the other was 11 years old.
While grit is about handling adversity, players also need to be able to handle feedback and being coachable. Every coach is different so being able to adapt to situations where the player-coach relationship is not ideal is another challenge that will likely need to be overcome. How is your player’s body language when hearing constructive feedback? A player’s ability to “learn how to learn” is a secret weapon that can be one the primary factors in their success. It is what Sidney Crosby considers one of his greatest assets.
Learning to Compete
For some players being competitive is in their DNA, for others it is a learned skill. How driven are you to “be the best you can be” while still being a good teammate? Specifically, how do you handle yourself both on and off the ice. Keeping in mind the ups and down of a game and a season. As mentioned in my first post in this series, hockey development is a marathon not a sprint.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
If your player is old enough (>12 years old) then I would strongly recommend having them read Angela Duckworth’s Grit. The book details why naturally talented people many times fail to succeed, but others with less obvious skill have the tenacity to persevere and overcome challenges to develop into leaders in their fields. Finding a way for your player to have a passionate persistence to get better every day is the last ingredient needed to develop a great hockey player.
In this fifth post about how to develop a great hockey player, we discus how talent, natural gifts and luck play a key role in hockey development. While it is possible to consider these attributes out of a player’s or parent’s control, they can certainly be influenced.
Let’s be candid, being blessed with size and/or speed gives a young player an advantage. Combine that with the luck of being born in the first 3 months of the year and basically they are born on first or second base (to mix our sports metaphors). They are given a lead over their peers that combined with the other factors that contribute to being a great player can be hard to catch-up to. In addition, natural talent also helps. If you just don’t have the coordination or adeptness for the game it can be hard to come. I was at a game recently, where the natural build of one of players was just not a “hockey body”, short legs big trunk, so not matter how hard this player tried, they just couldn’t keep up with the top players on the ice and likely would never will. However, having natural gifts, while necessary are not sufficient for greatness.
The one attribute which you may not be born with but can develop is talent. Hard work is essential. Getting better every day. Because even if you were born with talent you have to continue to improve, otherwise others will pass you over time. There is a long list of talented players whose NHL careers didn’t appear to achieve their full potential (names who come to mind are Rob Schremp, Josh Ho Hsiang and Nail Yakapov) despite being having tremendous natural talent. These types of players struggled to sustain lengthy careers because they were not able to fill in gaps in their game. As you make it to each new level, players can’t just continue to rely on just their natural gifts they need a work ethic and a continuous improvement mindset.
Yes, luck plays a role in hockey. And not just puck luck. For example, I know of a youth player who didn’t make a team they tried out for and then ended up playing for a fantastic coach that changed the trajectory of the player’s hockey development. In another instance, a player was able to get more power-play and penalty-kill time because a teammate broke their leg (well, not so lucky for the teammate). Even at the pros, whether it is a scout who just happens to be in the stands for a game, finding the right coach or team situation, luck can certainly play a role in which path a player follows and can accelerate their road to greatness.
In this fourth post about how to develop a great hockey player, the focus is on quality coaching. Let me be clear that I am not talking about what makes a great coach. What I am talking about is a coach who makes a great player. These are not necessarily the same thing. For example, a coach who only plays his best players at 12 years old in order to win games and championships at the expense of all the development of half the team is not necessarily a great coach, but if your kids is the one getting lots of ice time and feedback, then that coach could indeed be accelerating the development of that individual player. I hope to write another post about what makes a great coach at a later date.
Time & Effort:
First and foremost a coach who cares by putting the work to help at both the team and individual level is the table stakes for developing into great player.
Striking the balance between leaning how to play team hockey and individual skills development. Specifically, the basics like skating, shooting, puckhandling but also position-specific tools to be great at their position (both on offense and defense – unless you are a goalie). Examples would be on-ice positioning, decision making, finding time and space, creativity and using deception.
A quality coach gives feedback that is actionable to the player. They personalize the communication so the individual can understand how to change their behavior in a way that is specific to them. Darryl Belfry wrote an excellent chapter on how to give feedback in his new book Belfry Hockey.
While the old-school hockey way has been motivation by intimidation, times have changed. And each individual player is different. But finding a coach who can get the most out of a player by figuring which buttons to push to help make them a great player is obviously a critical attribute.
I will talk about this more in my next post, but teaching a player how to be resilient during the ups and down of a season. Helping teach a player the tools to handle failure and overcome obstacles is one of the key life lessons that hockey is supposed to teach youth athletes.
Encourages two-way communication:
Every hockey coach is different and each has their own philosophies on how they want their players to play the game. As your player moves from coach to coach they will bring their past experience and habits/methods from their past coaches with them. The ability for a great player to discuss and debate with a coach the “why” and the “how” a certain situation should be played is a critical problem solving skill great players should possess.
My favorite book on a great coach who developed great players is “Thank You Coach” by former CFL player Angus Reid who had a long football career despite being highly undersized to play the center position. The book is dedicated to a coach who taught him what he needed to be a successful player despite “having no business playing professional football for 13 years”.