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What I learned attending my first USA Hockey Girls District Camp

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.

What did the players do?

Over the course of the weekend there were 3 on-ice practices, 3 games and 2 off-ice zoom sessions. For goalies there was an additional goalie-specific on-ice sessions at the start of the weekend.

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.

PLAYER EVALUATION

Kathy McGarrigle

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.

Who:

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).

What: 

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.

When: 

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.

Why:

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.

My thoughts:

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.

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Girls Hockey Parents Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

What are the pros and cons of girls playing boys hockey?

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:

Skill Development:  

By playing with boys, girls are likely to develop better key priority hockey skills via several contributing factors:

  • Ice time
  • Level of competition
    • 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
  • Coaching
    • 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.
girls playing boys hockey

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.

College Recruiting:

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.

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Coaching Minor Hockey Parents Youth Hockey

How I Applied Lessons from Belfry Hockey

Darryl Belfry Hockey Book

I loved Darryl Belfry’s book Belfry 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:

  1. An understanding of which skills are important for my kids to develop (i.e. “Skills That Separate”)
  2. See which skills aren’t getting developed with their current coaches
  3. 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:

  1. Slap shots off the rush
  2. Using straight-line speed to rush by defensemen along the boards
  3. 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:

  1. Track event frequency and success rates
  2. 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:

  1. 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.

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Parents Youth Hockey

How to Develop a Great Hockey Player: Natural Gifts, Talent and Luck

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.

Natural Gifts

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. 

Talent

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.

Luck

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.

This post is the fifth in a series on How to Develop a Great Hockey Player (Intro).

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Coaching Parents Youth Hockey

How to Develop a Great Hockey Player: Quality Coaching

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.

Technical Expertise:

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.

Feedback: 

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.

Motivation:

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.

Enables Grit:

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”.

This post is the fourth in a series on How to Develop a Great Hockey Player (Intro).

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Parents Youth Hockey

How to Develop a Great Hockey Player: A Natural Love of the Game

This post is the second in a series on How to Develop a Great Hockey Player.

As a hockey parent I have always tried to figure out what the formula is on how to develop a great hockey player. By “great” I don’t mean an NHL or college player, I am just referring to playing at a very high level of hockey at the youth level. And if there is one thing I have figured out, it is that to be great at hockey, just like anything else, you to love what you are doing. and have a natural love of the game. Jerry Seinfeld best describes it here in an interview with Howard Stern.  

The conversation I have had several times with my kids is after I ask them: “Do you want to be a hockey player or someone who plays hockey?”. Just like any other interest or hobby, as kids move through each age group it becomes more and more apparent which kids just like to play hockey (which is just fine) and who really wants to become a hockey player.

How Much Love?

I have put together my own non-scientific method to dimensionalize a hockey player’s passion for the game. It is a five level scale from lowest to highest.  Which level best describes your player? Every kid is different and your mileage may vary:

Level 1 – Low Passion:

  • Lack of dedicated commitment on or off the ice
  • Consistently shows up late to practice and is last on the ice
  • During practice lines up at the back of the line for drills
  • Does not appear to have fun during games or scrimmages
  • Is not having fun
  • Behaviors show that the player probably doesn’t want to be at the rink

Level 2 – Passing interest:

  • Misses several practices or games
  • Takes some shifts off due to lack of focus
  • Occasionally attends optional practices/skill sessions
  • Picks and chooses which feedback to listen to
  • Struggles with consistency
  • Won’t train outside of team’s scheduled events

Level 3 – Likes to play:

  • Always shows up to practice and games
  • Tries hard most of the time
  • Wants to get better and learns from mistakes
  • Picks and chooses optional practices/skills sessions
  • Spending time with friends is as important as hockey
  • Once in a while trains on own

Level 4 –Passionate Player:

  • Plays hockey at almost every opportunity
  • Happily trains with coaches or friends
  • Wants to keep playing even when tired
  • Opts-in to extra training sessions
  • Will wake up extra early /stay late to go to optional practice
  • Occasionally works on skill development on their own in the garage or backyard
  • Listens to feedback
  • Will train on own if given structured guidance

Level 5 – Off the Charts:

  • Eat sleep drink hockey (e.g. sleeps with their stick)
  • Ultra-competitive at everything
  • Goes out in the driveway, backyard, garage and plays hockey consistently on their own
  • First on/last off the ice
  • Plays with intensity on every shift
  • Always looking to get better
  • Fire in the belly
  • Hates to lose

For Most Kids Their Passion Tends to Grow Over Time

Most kids I knew or coached at U8 (Mites) or U10 (Squirts/Atom) who continued on to play at a high level of hockey (AA or AAA) were Level 3 or 4 at that young age. Only a handful of kids started at Level 4.  Level 5 is pretty rare, and those are the Sidney Crosby or Ryan O’Reilly’s of the world who were just genetically programmed to want to be a hockey player from Day 1. You know these players, the ones where there are multiple childhood videos of them in diapers holding a hockey stick, skating on the ice before they can ride a bike and blowing out candles on their hockey birthday cakes each year.

In my opinion, a great player should be moving up these levels as your child ages. They do not need to start at level 1. Hopefully their love of the game will increase as they move from U8 to U10 to U12 etc.

Being a Fanatic Hockey Player is Rare

I can tell you this, those Level 5 behaviors to this day still do not resemble my kids, even at the U14 (Bantam level). My kids now love hockey, but they certainly don’t have OCD about playing it. They also didn’t start out that way. My daughter started playing hockey when she was 8 years old when she didn’t like sitting in the rink lobby while her younger brother was on the ice. My son has always liked hockey, but he has and continues to play several other sports, but prefers hockey to all the others. It is only now that they reached their teenage years, that they are starting to narrow their focus on hockey and reducing the other sports they are playing. So, over time they have been moving up the levels to Level 4 these days.

Next Up: Ice Time

While a love of hockey is necessary to become a great hockey player. It isn’t sufficient. Next, I will discuss my perspective another critical ingredient to achieve hockey greatness: TOI (Time on Ice).

This post is the second in a series on How to Develop a Great Hockey Player (Intro).

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Parents Women's Hockey Youth Hockey

How to Develop a Great Hockey Player

What does it take as a hockey parent to help your player become truly elite? So, the reality is I don’t really know from first-hand experience just yet how to develop a great hockey player. In addition, it also really depends on what your definition of “great” is. But I do feel that I have figured out a few things so far as a hockey parent who was watched not only his kids go make it halfway through U14 (aka Bantam) hockey.  This series of posts will discuss five different factors that in my opinion contribute to becoming an above average hockey player. While I haven’t gone through it just yet with my kids, from everything I can tell is that the major separation of the top 10% of players really comes at the midget age level and above. 

Hockey is a Late Development Sport

While I haven’t gone through it just yet with my kids, from everything I can tell is that the major separation of the top 10% of players really comes at the midget age level and above.  There are lots of books and podcasts which discuss hockey being a late development sport (unlike early development sports like gymnastics and figure skating).

The best current example I have seen so far is Brendan Brisson, an incoming freshman at University of Michigan, who was recently a first round draft pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2020 NHL Draft.  While it is clear he was always an elite player, playing AAA youth hockey with the Los Angeles Jr Kings, when you look at his stats from when he was 13, 14, and 15 years old, he was not even in the top 3 or 4 on most of his teams in scoring, let alone the division he played in. He averaged less than 0.5 points per game in each of those years. It was only in his second year of Shattuck St. Mary’s and then continuing on when playing for the Chicago Steel in juniors did his point totals go exponential. This shows you how much a player can develop AFTER they turn 15.

Many Kids Peak Too Early

Recently former NHLer turned parent coach, Patrick O’Sullivan wrote a couple of tweets how size and speed early in a player’s youth hockey career can actually work against them, as it is too easy for them to score goals at 10U (Squirts/Atom) and 12U (Peewee) by just leveraging these assets.

However, as other kids catch up to them in both size and speed, these early bloomers didn’t develop the other attributes needed to maintain that dominance. I have seen this myself on both my kids teams and players on other teams they play. There is almost always a very high correlation to the leading scorers and how much bigger they are than the other team.  This is especially noticeable when watching the finals of the AAA Quebec Peewee tournament. Even from just watching video, it is pretty easy to see that the best teams have the most kids that have already gone through their growth spurts. Of course these kids also have skill, but what helps separate them is their size and/or speed at 12 years old.

The Long Road of Development

To use a cliché (well, this is a hockey-related post, so I’ll allow it), hockey development is “a marathon not a sprint.”  Recognizing that most important development happens at 15 and older, you still need a solid base to build from just to get the opportunity to accelerate when you get there.

For the Love of the Game

In the next post I will discuss what the first factor, which I also believe is the ante, for becoming a great hockey player: a love for the game. I will also try to dimensionlize what that love looks like.

This post is the first in a series on How to Develop a Great Hockey Player (Intro).

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Coaching hockey Parents Podcast Women's Hockey Youth Hockey

#1 – The Hockey Think Tank Podcast

Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents)

When the The Minor Hockey podcast was cancelled by TSN Radio a couple of years ago I was very disappointed and was searching high and low for another youth hockey podcast. Almost immediately I stumbled upon The Hockey Think Tank’s fifth episode with Kendall Coyne Schofield (before she appeared in the 2019 All Star Game). Since then I have been one of their biggest fans and making sure my kids listen to their podcast in the car when we are driving to the rink. Topher Scott and Jeff Lovechio are former players who both now coach youth hockey. They are both positive, likeable, sincere & knowledgeable and their guests are spectacular. 

Girls Hockey Talk

When they do have a female hockey player on the show there is always a nugget or two I get from the episode specific to the girl’s game. Alyssa Gagliardi was a guest who provided good insight on her hockey journey starting with boys hockey all the way to the U.S. Olympic team.  This past summer, in collaboration with the PWHPA HTT had a series of shows and online programming specific go the women’s game. Interviews included Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford and University of Minnesota-Duluth women’s head coach Maura Crowell.

Must-Listen for Parents

One of the best parts of the Hockey Think Tank are the discussions about what a successful hockey journey looks like for most kids from youth all the way to the pros. It usually isn’t a straight line.  So many of the guests discuss the struggles they faced and the grit they had to have to make it.  Most parents can relate to not having an ‘early-bloomer’ player and how to navigate the bumpy road by focusing on player development versus wins.  Guests like Patrick O’Sullivan and Martin St Louis discuss being youth hockey coaches and what really matters in player development from 8-18 years of age – which is different from what most coaches practice and preach.

Recently, The Hockey Think Tank published their Parent Survival Guide. It is an excellent resource for hockey parents who want the straight goods about navigating the complex world to from youth to junior to college hockey. While it primarily focuses on the path that boys take, many of the principles apply to women’s hockey (without the extra step of junior hockey between high school and college).

If you are going to listen to only one podcast as a youth hockey player or parent, The Hockey Think Tank is the one we would recommend.

This post is part of a series of blogs on the Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents). You can read the background on this list from the start of this series.

Previous Podcasts on the Top 10 List:

#10 – Hockey Training: Become a Better Hockey Player Podcast

#9 – From the Point Women’s Hockey Podcast

#8 – The Lyndsey Fry Hockey Audio Experience

#7 – Let’s Go! Hockey Podcast

#6 – Over the Goal Line: A CUWIH Podcast

#5 – The Curious Competitor with Connor Carrick

#4 – Glass and Out Podcast by The Coaches Site

#3 – Grassroots: The Minor Hockey Show

#2 – RUSH Hockey Talk

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Coaching hockey Parents Podcast Women's Hockey

#2 – RUSH Hockey Talk podcast

Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents)

Kelly Katorji is one of, if not ‘the’ most networked and knowledgeable people in women’s hockey. He has literally watched thousands of young girls develop in to college, pro and Olympic hockey players over his many years. With his RUSH Hockey Talk podcast he speaks to coaches, players and on everything related to the women’s game and pursuing a college hockey path. Topics include navigating the NCAA recruiting rules, how coaches evaluate players and comparing Ivy League schools to scholarship schools. If Kelly would consistently release new episodes on a weekly basis, RUSH Hockey Talk would probably be number one on this list! (Hint, hint).

RUSH Hockey runs some of the biggest girls hockey showcases like the Beantown Classic and the RUSH College Showcase. You can also frequently listen to Kelly on SiriusXM’s NHL channel with Steve Kouleas as they discuss all things youth hockey.

This post is part of a series of blogs on the Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents). You can read the background on this list from the start of this series.

Previous Podcasts on the Top 10 List:

#10 – Hockey Training: Become a Better Hockey Player Podcast

#9 – From the Point Women’s Hockey Podcast

#8 – The Lyndsey Fry Hockey Audio Experience

#7 – Let’s Go! Hockey Podcast

#6 – Over the Goal Line: A CUWIH Podcast

#5 – The Curious Competitor with Connor Carrick

#4 – Glass and Out Podcast by The Coaches Site

#3 – Grassroots: The Minor Hockey Show

Categories
Coaching hockey Parents Podcast

#3 – Grassroots: The Minor Hockey Show podcast

Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents)

Richard Bercuson has been a hockey coach and teacher for decades and really knows more than just about anyone about youth hockey development. This podcast is the reboot of the TSN 1200 show mentioned in my post introducing this Top 10 Podcast list.  Unlike other hockey-related podcasts whose guests are from pro or college teams, most of the Grassroots coaches are longtime Canadian youth hockey coaches. Gregg Kennedy, Richard’s co-host from their previous radio show, re-appears in several episodes to discuss the specifics about on-ice youth hockey development. Recently the show has had a greater focus on the women’s game with guests like University of Toronto women’s coach Vicky Sunohara and longtime female hockey leader, Fran Rider.

It’s all about development

What I love about the show is the continuous reinforcement of the message that youth hockey is entirely about player development and not winning except at the very highest levels.  Nearly every episode looks at different ways to change the mindset of these game-result oriented coaches and parents. Ideas like coach mentoring, equal ice time for players, positive & productive coach-player relationships and effective practice planning are themes that are repeatedly discussed. The show has really helped me provide a framework to assess how my kids are developing and the role their coaches play in enhancing or impeding their development.  

This post is part of a series of blogs on the Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents). You can read the background on this list from the start of this series.

Previous Podcasts on the Top 10 List:

#10 – Hockey Training: Become a Better Hockey Player Podcast

#9 – From the Point Women’s Hockey Podcast

#8 – The Lyndsey Fry Hockey Audio Experience

#7 – Let’s Go! Hockey Podcast

#6 – Over the Goal Line: A CUWIH Podcast

#5 – The Curious Competitor with Connor Carrick

#4 – Glass and Out Podcast by The Coaches Site