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2024 Coaching Player Development Women's Hockey Youth Hockey

Summer Hockey Camps – Skills vs. Drills vs. Tips

Over the past decade, my children have attended at least one hockey camp each summer. From a hockey perspective, very few of these camps significantly advanced their development. However, the true value of these camps often lay beyond mere skill improvement. These camps often coincided with family vacations, provided fun experiences, helped them regain hockey shape after a break, or offered a glimpse into a college’s environment. It’s rarely worth traveling solely for a hockey camp unless there are other compelling reasons to visit the destination.

Tips: Necessary but Not Sufficient

At most camps my children have attended, coaches tend to focus on running various drills as a means to enhance players’ abilities. There is nothing inherently wrong with emphasizing skating, stickhandling, and shooting drills. Repetitions and fundamental work can be beneficial, especially for younger players (e.g., 12 and under). However, these camps typically involve large groups, with everyone undergoing the same repetitions. Individual coaching usually consists of sporadic tips and tricks as coaches move among the campers. While tips and drills are valuable, they rarely constitute comprehensive skill instruction. The USA Hockey Development Camps epitomize this approach—featuring excellent coaches who primarily offer pointers and tweaks over the course of several days.

This is why, for the past few summers, I have preferred enrolling my children in local private or semi-private lessons with experts rather than traveling for hockey camps. I would rather invest in trusted coaches who can provide individualized attention and feedback.

Belfry Summer Camp

This summer, I decided to take a chance on a camp that promised to focus on skill development. A few weeks ago, my son attended a destination hockey camp that yielded the highest return on investment (ROI) from a development perspective. The Darryl Belfry Camp distinguished itself from other camps because the coaching staff was dedicated to adding new tools to the players’ toolkits.

The camp had 22 skaters and 2 goalies, with 7 coaches on the ice, many using iPads to record segments of the sessions. Players spent 3 hours on the ice each day, accompanied by a daily 30-minute video review with Q&A and a 1-hour professional gym workout. Notably, there was not a single whistle used during on-ice sessions. Coaches explained and demonstrated drills using their voices without yelling. Each day had a specific skill theme that built on the previous day’s lessons, ensuring that by the end of the week, players had acquired a suite of new skills applicable to game situations. Examples of these skills included making area passes, various types of steals, and explosive skating with and without the puck.

One of my favorite aspects of Darryl Belfry’s coaching is his commitment to keeping the nets in their standard positions for drills. Even in small-area games, he simply shrinks the offensive zone but keeps the nets in place. This ‘ice geography’ approach teaches players to be acutely aware of their location relative to key markers like the faceoff dot and the boards.

My hope was that my son would learn 5 or 6 new skills by the end of the week. He ended up acquiring 8 or 9 new skills, ranging from hook passes to reading the position of the defense on zone entries. This represented a significant ROI for 4 days of training, with each new tool directly applicable to game situations. The personalized feedback report, complete with links to short YouTube videos of my son demonstrating the week’s skills, was particularly valuable. I have been a big advocate of providing feedback to players after attending a camp, but feedback is only as good as the effort put into it. In this case, the detailed feedback, supplemented by video, was especially appreciated.

Setting Expectations

In conclusion, it is crucial to set realistic expectations when choosing a summer hockey camp. If a coach claims, “We will be on the ice for 15 hours this week; your child will definitely improve,” take that with a grain of salt. While this might be effective for younger children, merely repeating the same bad habits does not make a player better. There are few coaches who can both manage a large camp and teach new skills simultaneously; they need to have a background in coaching and a commitment to continuous improvement. Otherwise, ensure that your other priorities are met and view the camp as an opportunity for your child to enjoy being on the ice and having fun.

Categories
2024 Girls Hockey Player Development

A Quick Post about the Selections for the USA U18 Girls Player Development Camp

Each year, USA Hockey hosts a development camp in early August for the top 76 female U18 players – this year for the 2007, 2008, and 2009 birth years (40 Forwards, 28 Defense, and 8 Goalies).

Last month, the initial 63 players were named to the camp.  With the final 13 players added at the end of the 16/17s girls camp which takes place a couple of weeks earlier in mid-July.  It is my understanding that players from the late-July 15’s girls camp are still not eligible for the U18 camp, regardless of how they performed at the 15’s camp (much to the chagrin of many players and parents). This year, 9 15’s (2009 birth year) players were invited directly to the U18 camp (there were 5 15’s in 2023 and 6 in 2022). So, players not invited as part of the initial U18 list do not have the opportunity to prove themselves worthy at the 15’s camp.

The one key insight from the players invited to the U18 Girls Camp for 2024 is that there were a total of  6 2007 & 2008 birth year players (out of 29 total players from those age groups) who attended the U18 Camp last year, but were not part of the 54 players (from 2007 and 2008) invited directly this year.  Instead, those 6 players will need to prove themselves at the 16/17s Camp and earn their invite to the U18s Camp.  One way to look at it is, (according to USA Hockey evaluators) there were at least 48 other players from their birth year who showed they were better this year than the 6 players from last year. Another way to look at it is that players should understand that they cannot take anything for granted. No spot is guaranteed.

Note: This is not the first time players have had to start at the 16/17s Camp after participating in the U18 Camp the year before.  Last year, at least 2 “downgraded” players did indeed get selected to move on from 16/17s to attend the U18s camp.

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2024 Girls Hockey Hockey Tryouts Minor Hockey Player Development Youth Hockey

10 Tips for Youth Hockey Tryouts

Tryout season has begun in both the United States and Canada. Having now gone through the process from 10U all the way up to 19U now, I have seen many of the different situations that occur at this time of year. The entire process was non-linear with lots of bumps along the way. Things didn’t always work out perfectly in the short term, but it all worked out in the long term. Based on our family’s experience, here are some tips for this year’s tryout season:

1. Player development is more important than winning games

Regardless of what age or level of youth hockey you play, it is 100% more important for your player to improve as much as possible rather than winning games.  Now, losing sucks and winning championships can certainly help with exposure.  But unless you are old enough to be recruited to the next level, given a choice between playing on a winning team, but not getting better or losing but taking major steps in your development – it should be a no-brainer which one to take. 

2. The best coach should be the highest priority in deciding where to play

There are many many factors in deciding where to try out and play, including distance from home, cost, practice and game schedule etc. But the most important should be to find the best coach that will develop your player the most. 

3. Try not to be the best or worst player on the team

All things being equal, you want to be in the middle of the pack player on a team  – not the top or the bottom. Although or one season it is okay to be at the top or the bottom. Being the best means you may not be challenged as much as you are capable of. And being the worst can cause lots of frustrations. If you are in the middle, that is a great opportunity to work your way up the lineup if you can.  Of course all players want to be on the power play and penalty kill.  A good coach will cycle through all the lines on a team. 

4. Politics is a fact of life

Like it or not, there is politics in tryouts.  Just accept it for what it is and recognize that it may or may not work in your favor. Wasting energy on why a player was put ahead of yours is not going to be productive. The reality is that there is politics at every level of hockey especially at the district/provincial and national level. Just try to be the best player you can be and let the chips fall where they may. If you are that close to making or not making a team, then that is something that is within your control for next time by just getting better.

5. The most important training has already taken place

The last week of training before tryouts won’t likely be the difference between making a team and not. While there are small things that can help a player succeed at tryouts – the things that will most impact their level of play and success at tryouts will have taken place during the months leading up to tryouts. There shouldn’t be a need to spend 3 hours each night at the rink the week before tryouts.

6. Coaches are also evaluating the parents

Many coaches are judging parents as much as the kids. Nothing wrong with getting to know the coaching staff and how they plan to run the team. Also, it is important to make sure that you share the same philosophies on how the coach plans to run the team. But be aware that the coach is also evaluating if you will be a “high maintenance” parent.

7. Tryouts may not actually be tryouts

As kids get older (i.e. U14 and above), it’s okay that the coach already decided on many if not all of the players who will make the team. Tryouts are just a point in time.  Depending on the club, many coaches run “development camps” leading up to tryouts. This way they can review players over an extended period of time.  In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with them using that evaluation period to already decide if they want a player on their team or not.

8. Many clubs make money on tryouts – don’t waste yours

Be wary of some clubs who use tryouts as a way to make money.   There are many clubs who charge several hundred dollars for players to tryouts and will accepts 3-4 times as many players to try out as they have spots.  While occasionally trying out for the “experience” or “getting more ice time” might make sense, you should know if your player has a real chance of making the team before you show up.  Don’t waste your money on attending a tryout when that money would be better spent on a lesson or two with a skills coach.

9. Coaches aren’t perfect

Don’t expect perfection from coaches.  Your player isn’t perfect and neither are coaches.  Each club has a different way of evaluating players – some as a group with  “objective” observers and some with just the coaching staff for a team.  No method is perfect, however some are more sophisticated than others.  Know before you show up what to expect and realize just like players and referees, coaches don’t always get everything exactly right. If you don’t what to expect before you show up to a tryout and know the pros and cons of how a club conducts tryouts, then you share some of the blame too.

10. Feedback is a gift

Ask for feedback in a professional manner after tryouts if you didn’t make the team.  If an organization really cares about youth hockey development they would be happy to provide additional insights as to why a specific player didn’t make the cut.  Take the feedback as a gift even if you disagree with the feedback.  Do not argue or make your case as to why you saw things differently. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you at least know why and could potentially take action on the feedback. Get better for your next tryout and try out for a team where your player would not be so close to making or not making the team.

Bonus: Hockey makes players better people

Not making a team can be very emotional and challenging.  But I guarantee, if you have a resilient player, it will all work out fine.  Both my kids did not make teams in youth hockey, but they still ended up playing at the highest level of hockey for their age group when they got older.  Take is as an good life lesson.

ICYMI: Watch this Episode on Girls Tryouts with Alyssa Gagliardi


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College Hockey Recruiting Girls Hockey Hockey Tryouts Parents Player Development Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey Youth Hockey

Top 5 Life Skills Developed  from the Hockey Recruiting Process

As a parent, I have now gone through multiple “hockey recruiting” processes.  Beyond just club team tryouts, we have been through hockey academy recruiting, college hockey recruiting and even the beginnings of junior hockey tryouts.  No matter how things worked out with each team/school being considered, I have repeatedly been pleased with the life skills my kids have learned from the experience.  When I look back when I was their age, it would be several years into my college days before I would get exposure to many of these important life events.

I thought I would codify my Top 5 life skills kids can learn from the recruiting process.

1. Sales & Marketing

Even if you are a top talent player, you still need to let teams and coaches know you are interested in their program.  Sending “cold emails” is a great skill to learn at any age – but getting this experience as a teenager is a pretty amazing opportunity.  Learning how to introduce and promote yourself is not easy, especially in writing.  Then to also persuade the audience/coach with a “call-to-action”  (e.g. set-up a call, come watch me play, look at my video) is about as real-life as it gets in the sales and marketing world.

Furthermore, taking some swings when you know you will likely strike out is another great lesson.  I know of a few players who reached out to coaches when they thought the teams wouldn’t be interested, only to find out they were interested and there were other reasons for them not contacting the player.  You never know if you don’t ask!

2. The recruiting process is imperfect

The last company I worked at focused on the corporate recruiting process.  Very few companies are great at delivering a great candidate experience.  Most organizations have flaws because of the complexity and coordination challenges in organizations that are considering dozens of potential employees.   The same holds true for hockey recruiting.  It is unfortunate the number of times I have heard from parents and seen first-hand a bad candidate experience.  Everything from never getting a response from a team, a coach ghosting a player after having a call and agreeing to next steps or just not being transparent/candid  happens all the time. The college recruiting process isn’t perfect because coaches aren’t perfect.  Many have not had regular company experience, so they may not be well-trained in hiring best practices unless someone taught them how. Not all of them care about closing the loop with players they won’t be making offers to.  Good thing to learn for a teenager to learn at this age, because it reflects the real world.

3. Rejection 

Every player gets rejected at some point. Whether it is not making a team or not getting an offer from a school.  All the best companies (Google, Apple, Amazon etc.) attract the best people and reject the significant majority of folks who want to work at these companies.  So even if your dream was to play at Wisconsin, or if you set very realistic goals as your top choice school, sometime there isn’t a match.  However, things almost always work out in the end. You end up where you were supposed to be.  Dealing with a major “hockey career” rejection in your teen years is not only something you will recover from, it will also make you stronger.

4. The importance of references and a good reputation

In the real world corporate recruiting process, hiring teams do reference checks.  This is even more important in a team sport like hockey. Coaches will find folks they trust who really know the players they are considering.  Once again, I can think of multiple examples where a connection to the coach (former coach or teammate, parent etc.) helped  create opportunities or finalize an offer.  As a player, having a good character and ensuring people of influence at every level can vouch for you, is a big deal.

5. Decision making – Having lots of good options

Finally, if things go well on both the hockey development and recruiting side, you will have options. Sometimes it will be easy to pick where you want to go.  But sometimes, you will be in the fortunate position to have many great options.  Figuring out all the different factors and prioritizing them across multiple opportunities can be both difficult and stressful.  You may be afraid to make a life-impacting mistake. Learning how to make these types of decisions is probably the most important skill to develop.  These types of situations come up all the time and figuring out which one-way door to choose is a phenomenal experience to learn at such a young age.

Categories
College Hockey Recruiting Girl's Showcase Player Development Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

How to Navigate a Path to Playing Women’s College Hockey

This summer, a podcast listener emailed me a simple question. If I was to do it all over again, what path would I recommend a young girl follow if she wanted to play college hockey?  Obviously, there is no simple answer or a single path for someone to follow to play high level female hockey.  But I thought I would articulate three simple principles I’d recommend and include references to more detailed topics I have covered in the past.

Note: This post focuses primarily on the DI college recruiting process. If a player’s goal is to play other levels of college / university hockey like DIII, CIS or ACHA (club) hockey, you can probably slightly dial down the timing and frequency of the some of the recommendations below.

1. Just Get Good

This is by far the most important principle in this list. At whatever age a player shows a passion for hockey, this is the area to focus on most.  I have written several posts on what it takes to become a really good hockey player and this should be the highest priority. In my opinion, this probably should not change until a player stops playing competitive hockey.  There are over 2000 girls in each birth year playing a high level of hockey in the U.S. and Canada, but only ~250 spots open on DI rosters every year, the math gets quite easy. A player needs to be in the top 10-15% in order to get an offer from one of those 44 teams.

2. Make Sure You Are Seen

Assuming you are a “good” hockey player.  I would recommend that starting at about 14 or 15 years old you play for a team that attends the major girls hockey events  that DI college coaches scout. By playing on such a team, there is the obvious benefit of playing with other good players, receiving good coaching and being pushed by your peers.  But more importantly, in my experience, knowing that college coaches will be watching you play against top teams and players will help them calibrate you to your peers.

Not everyone agrees with this. Many coaches will say, if you are good enough, schools will find you. This is great in theory, but it is not always true. I know of several really good female hockey players who either played boys hockey, lived in non-traditional markets or played on weak AAA teams who were not regularly seen. The reality is, if you don’t play at high profile tournaments (e.g. USA or Canadian national playoffs & other top in-season tournaments ) or are not selected to attend the U18 national camps you won’t get noticed as easily.  So if you aren’t one of the top 30 players in the country, put yourself in the best position to be seen as much as possible.

There is also definitely a bias to regional players for almost all schools. And it is self-reinforcing. This is why you see so many Minnesota players play for Minnesota colleges. And why so many prep players play on the east coast.  While there are exceptions, being able to watch local players, having existing relationships with their coaches, players wanting to stay close to home etc. are all factors in their recruiting process.  Each of these things make it “easier” for college coaches to find talent that is probably just as good as the harder to find alternatives – and why coaches tend to find fish where they’ve fished in the past. So if you aren’t on a team that is regularly seen by DI schools, the mountain is a little steeper to climb, but not impossible. 

Which is why I would recommend for players who aren’t slam-dunk going to play in a Top 10 school, make sure you get seen in the year or two prior to your junior year of high school.

3. Strategically Pick 3-5 Spring/Summer Hockey Events to Attend

Ideally, the older you get, the more you would know how good a player your are relative to your peers.  This should then factor into which events to pick after the winter season ends.  With a little research you can figure out which ones might fit you level of play. Almost all the showcase organizers are very responsive to answering questions and can give you a feel if your daughter would be a good fit for a specific event. 

I would recommend only attending a handful of off-season events (e.g. one per month from April-August).   Such as:

  • USA Hockey or Hockey Canada national camps  (if you are good/lucky enough to be selected)
  • Showcases (Premier Ice Prospects, RUSH, NGHL etc.)
  • College Camps ( Colgate,  and any other school-specific camp that you might be interested in)
  • Popular tournaments (e.g. Beantown Classic, Showcase Hockey, Rose Series etc.)

Check out our full year list of girls hockey events.

 I think it is hard to justify going to more than 5 events unless they are almost all local (e.g. in the Boston area).  The “spray and pray” strategy usually ends up wasting a lot of money.  We have talked ad nauseum on the podcast that you don’t need to go to every event. It is both expensive and unnecessary.  But having a plan based on a players interest and level of play can deliver a reasonable return on your time and financial investment.

If you are 12 and under, in my opinion, you should be picking events for fun (e.g. a hockey trip to Europe) and maybe a little development. But not for recruiting purposes. You will have plenty of time when you are older to attend events that really matter to college coaches.

Summary

I have intentionally tried to simplify my recommendations on how to navigate the world of girl’s hockey and women’s college recruiting.  Player development is most critical. After that, just make sure they are playing at a high level while getting enough visibility.  If you follow these principles, everything else should take care of itself.

Categories
2023 Development Camp Girls Hockey Player Development Women's Hockey

The USA Hockey 2023 Girls 16/17 Camp Feedback Process – Part II

My Recommendations

Read Part I Here

Feedback is a gift.
Giving feedback is hard.

Having led performance feedback to dozens (if not hundreds) of people I’ve managed in business, I recognize it is one of the most challenging interactions to conduct in my career.  At the same time, I was taught how to take it seriously and learned many of the best practices to ensure a positive outcome from the process for both parties.  

It is pretty clear from the parent meeting at the 16/17 Girls camp (and the letter that accompanied the feedback/rating letter) that USA Hockey  wants to make no doubt that they are providing a variety of different levels of feedback for each player at the national camps. The details of this feedback were clearly explained in Part I on this topic.

And it is important to recognize that they really do care about giving feedback – because they have dedicated time and resources to the process.  I also wanted to also acknowledge that is takes a non-trivial amount of effort to provide detailed feedback to about 400 players across 4 major camps each summer.

At the same time, I’ve spent a ton of time thinking about this topic trying to figure out why almost everyone I have spoken with is disappointed with the USA Hockey Girls National Camp selection and feedback process. And here is what I came up with…

At the end of the day, the current process does not solve the unmet need of the players – which is to have actionable direction on their highest priority development areas. This is because the robustness of the feedback is not commensurate with the level of commitment and investment the players put into making, preparing and attending the camp.

And my reason for this is the following:

The feedback is too generic. For almost all the players, it’s just too simplistic/superficial without personalized examples and not actionable enough.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Standardize a More Robust Process – The coaches should go through a training session on how the process works and what the expectations are from the coach on the process, content & delivery. All players should receive player-specific information using a common format, but with player-specific examples in the review. While the coaches should have flexibility to adapt the process to their style, each performance review (in addition to the attribute ratings mentioned in Part I) would require the feedback to include each of the following….
  2. Include Player-Specific Key Statistics (e.g. pass completion rates or turnover rates). Nothing is more powerful than data. Being able to show a player how they compared on key attributes compared to their peers makes things much clearer. This became quite evident to me in my analysis of the 16/17 Camp forwards and defenders.
  3. Support with Player-Specific Video Clips  –  showing a player exactly what they do well and how/when they make mistakes provides “hard-to-argue” credibility to the stats and the coach’s feedback. This would likely use a video analytics system like Instat/Hudl so each player’s shifts could be coded.
  4. Prioritize Key Areas to Focus OnDarryl Belfry consistently talks about High Frequency – Low Success Rate Situations.  Video and statistical analysis will surface these situations. Then a coach should be using them to focus on a limited number of these game patterns to prioritize (3-5) situations/skills for a player to work on.

These four recommendations would require a significantly greater amount of time and resources than the current effort being done at the USA Hockey girls camps. There may not be time to aggregate everything during that week.  But the feedback session does not need to occur at the camp. It can be done a week or two after the camp via a video-call.  What matters most is that the players are getting their needs met as to where to focus and improve as a player.  Ideally, there would be someone in leadership who was solely responsible for player development and not directly associated with the selections for the U18 camp or team. I know it can be done, because I have seen first-hand more robust feedback processes on the boys side at both the USA Hockey and junior hockey levels.

Final Thoughts

The best organizations focus relentlessly on their customers. One of the biggest ways to ensure these organizations are meeting the needs of their customers is to ask them for feedback. Specifically their overall satisfaction with a question like “Would you recommend [product/service] to a friend or colleague?” followed by “Why?”. In my few years interacting with USA Hockey both as a coach and a parent, I have never been asked for my feedback on the programs I’ve been been engaged with. In essence, USA Hockey has a monopoly on the national team programs so it is understandable that they may not need to be as customer-centric as an Amazon or an Apple. But, if leadership for USA Hockey female national camps wants to continuously improve their program, just like their players do, it would be great if they solicited their own feedback on areas they can improve as an organization. Who knows…maybe getting the gift of feedback on themselves may translate to improved performance on the ice?

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2023 Coaching Girls Hockey Player Development Women's Hockey

The USA Hockey 2023 Girls 16/17 Camp Feedback Process – Part I

I have a lot of passion about feedback when it comes to hockey player development, because I think it is probably the most important factor to improve player performance.  Darryl Belfry, who is regarded as one of the best player development coaches in the world, uses actual game analysis as the primary way to provide feedback on improvement areas for players.

As the governing body of hockey in the U.S., USA Hockey understands the importance of player feedback. At the USA Hockey 16/17 Girls Camp which took place in Oxford, OH this past June, feedback was highlighted in the parent meeting as a key component of the camp.  In Part I of this post about the USA Hockey Girls Camp feedback, I wanted to focus on understanding the three levels of feedback  utilized during and after the camp.  Part II of this topic will discuss my thoughts on how effective the feedback process has been.

1. On-Ice Feedback  – During Practice and Games

Just like with their regular teams, coaches were quite consistent in talking to players individually and in groups during practices to share their thoughts on specific, tactical ways to improve a drill or situation.  Same for a player coming to the bench during one of the games after a shift – coaches would lean over to players and give advice on what adjustments could be made to improve a player effectives.  These situations are quite comfortable for all the coaches at an event like this since most were DI coaches or previous DI players.  As I mentioned in my previous post about player feedback, in-game comments are the easiest for a coach to communicate.

2. One-on-One Feedback with one of the Team Coaches

All teams had two head coaches.  On about the fourth day of week-long camp, each player had a 10-15 minute conversation with one of their coaches.  It is my understanding that most players were asked to do a self-review in anticipation of the meeting.  From talking to several parents, the coach-player conversation was then highly dependent on the coach. Some coaches were well-prepared and had video clips to show players as a way to communicate their feedback, some coaches had simple basic priorities for players to focus on while others relied on the player’s self-evaluation as the primary source of the feedback conversation.  Given the variance in feedback methods, I suspect the feedback meeting process was not highly structured by the camp organizers.

3. Letter Grade and Player Development Performance Criteria

About four weeks after the end of the 16/17 Girls Camp, my daughter received by snail mail a form letter which included an evaluation which is supposed to serve as a benchmark for a player’s performance at the camp.  This entails a letter grade and a rubric on the “Player Development Performance Criteria”.  Here are the details.

At the top of the player evaluation sheet, the players was provided a rating of A, B or C with the following explanation

“A” grade = Excellent – ranks in the top 1/3 of players at camp

“B” grade = Good – ranks in the middle 1/3 of players at camp

“C” grade = Below average – ranks in the bottom 1/3 of players at camp.

The Player Development Performance Criteria had 5 possible selections (from best to worst):

  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor

Each skater then had attributes selected within two categories.  General and position-specific attributes with a selection in one of those five boxes (“X” for each attribute).  Here are those attributes:

General:

  • Makes Possession Plays (i.e. keep team on offense; limited turnovers)
  • Angling: pressure to take away time/space; dictate play with body/stick
  • Stick Positioning
  • Deception
  • Quick Transitions
  • Off-Puck Habits & Puck Support
  • Scoring Ability
  • Physicality
  • Athleticism
  • 200-Ft Player
  • Skating Ability (north/south; agility; speed)

Defenders:

  • DZone Execution First
  • Puck Retrievals
  • Good First Pass or Exit
  • Win Race Back to D-Side of Play/Net
  • Wine Board Battles
  • Deter Offensive Opportunities
  • Scan to Make Exit Play; Fast Transition to Breakout
  • Work Well with D-Partner
  • Gap Control: (North/South & East/West)

Forwards:

  • Puck Retrievals & Ability to Stay Off the Wall
  • Ability to Leave Perimeter and Gain Inside Ice
  • Owning Space with Puck
  • Scanning/Awareness of Teammates & Opponents
  • Use Teammates to Make Plays
  • Zone Entry: Ability to create depth/layers/lanes
  • Create & Maintain Offense

I don’t know the process that was used to aggregate the evaluators feedback, but am assuming they collected a populated rubric from all the evaluators for a position and then aggregated the data to take an average of the selections.  (I hope they used some online tool to aggregate this all, because there are lots of ways to simplify collecting this information).  Then I suppose this compiled data was used as the rating for each player’s Development Performance Criteria. I would then assume the average across all Development Performance Criteria was calculated and the each player was force ranked into one of the three tiers to give the letter rating of A,B or B based on which third they ranked.

Other than the rating and the rubric box selection – no other personalized information was included in the feedback. No short paragraph summary (like you would see in a student report card) from the coach or evaluators to provide additional context was provided.  

It is important to note that the ratings are based on the criteria described above.  If different criteria were used (which will be discussed in the next post), then a player’s rating might be different if those criteria were closer or further away from the capabilities of a player.

In Part II on this topic I will share my perspective on the good, the bad and the ugly of this feedback process.

Read Part II Here

Categories
2023 Development Camp Girls Hockey Player Development Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Analyzing the USA Hockey Girls 16/17 Camp Forward Selections for the U18 Camp

USA-Hockey

The is the second analysis I have done about the selections for the USA Hockey Girls U18 Camp which took place last week. The first was about the defenders picked to go to the U18 Camp. Now that the selections of the forwards from U18 Camp to go to the Women’s Festival were announced a few days ago, it makes this analysis even more interesting because none of the top 3 point-getters from either the Girls 16/17 Camp nor the U18 Camp were selected to advance to the next stage in the process.

WHAT?

Similar to the previous post, rather than engage in a subjective discussion on who was selected, I thought it might be helpful to collect some analytical data and metrics to understand how top players performed at the 16/17 camp and compare them to a couple of the players who weren’t selected.

WHY?

When you don’t select the top 3 point-getters from either Girls 16/17 Camp or the U18 Camp, there are bound to be a lot of folks who wonder what the selection criteria is for making it to the next stage of USA Hockey. I don’t know the answer to that question. But I can analyze the video of each shift for several of the top players picked and not picked to see if there is an obvious difference between the two segments. The purpose of this post is not to say who did or did not deserve to be selected to the U18 Camp. Instead, it is to help provide perspective and context to other players and parents the types of metrics that demonstrate the level of play needed to be selected.  And ideally, individual players do their own self-analysis to see how they compare.

HOW?

I watched and coded specific attributes for every shift in all 4 games for every player in this analysis using the USA Hockey TV footage. I collected more metrics than are listed below, but I feel that the attributes shown, provide the right amount and level of data to gain an understanding of the level of play for this position. Note: Sometimes the live stream footage didn’t always focus on the area of the ice where the play was taking place, so it is very likely the odd play may have not been accounted for.

WHO?

Here is the list of the 13 players selected to go to the 18’s camp

Since I only had the time to watch 5 players – I watched 3 selected forwards plus 2 top players who weren’t selected. Those 3 forwards represented a mix of the forward selections.  I am not identifying the names of any players because singling out any individual player is not my objective.  For full transparency, in this analysis I do know the parents of one of the players.

SO WHAT?

Do I think the 5 selected were in the Top 10 forwards at the camp, almost certainly. Do I think there are 3-5 other players that could easily have been selected instead – also, almost certainly. There is no algorithm to calculate and rank the top players. I don’t know the selection criteria, so whatever they may be (whether well-structured or not) at the end of the day what matters is results. As stated in the parents meeting, the results of the last two U18 World Championships was not the result USA Hockey wanted – so we will see if the current process yields better results.

THE ANALYSIS

2023 USA Hockey Girls 16-17 Camp Analytics for Forwards Selected to Advance to the U18 Girls Camp

Note: Players 1-3 were selected to go to the U18 Girls Camp – Players 4 & 5 were not selected

Some notes on the tracked attributes:

  • Takeaways = a one-on-one situation where the player gains control of the puck from directly challenging the other player
  • Giveaways = full change of possession to the other team (e.g. a missed pass, dump in/out, rim or redirected puck)
  • OZone entries = skating across the blue line with full possession of the puck
  • Team Shots For/Against do not include shot attempts that did not reach the net. Only SOGs were included.
  • I am not including the point stats or PIMs for any player since they can already be found on the USA Hockey website
  • There were additional attributes I tracked like “faceoffs won” but they indirectly show up in other higher-order key metrics. Since not all the forwards played center, I didn’t include the faceoff attribute.  But I did want to note, that one player was very good at faceoffs while another was not.  The one that won most of their faceoffs did see that reflected in other measurement areas since many faceoff wins led to greater possession time.

OTHER THOUGHTS

  • From all the players and games I’ve watched, it seems (and it’s only natural) that really good plays are rewarded disproportionately more than their equivalent poor plays are punished (e.g. creating a “wow” scoring chance vs. causing a “wow” scoring chance for the other team). Forwards tend not to surrender many negative scoring chances unless they are somewhat negligent defensively.  So, it seems likely that creating offense is highly disproportionately weighted in player evaluation.
  • Not all players gave the same defensive effort throughout a game, whether it is being tired or laziness.  But over the course of four games, it was pretty clear who consistently tried to play a 200-foot game (vs. cheating a little defensively or taking some shortcuts).
  • Scouting and evaluating is not an exact science.  In my humble opinion, most of the scouts/coaches don’t watch any player enough to really get the full picture.  It is sampling data – and while it is directionally correct, when there are many players within a close band it is hard to discern who is absolutely the “best” player. And who you pick may vary when you are building a team for a short tournament and need different types of players. 
  • After watching over 20 hours of individual game footage, this process is somewhat exhausting. It takes a lot of work to watch and tag each type of play. I can’t imagine being a scout and trying to watch 10 skaters live on the ice throughout an entire game.  At the same time, the insights are quite valuable.  I hope that college scouts leverage Instat to watch players individual shifts (if a club/prep team uses Instat) to evaluate the full body of their work rather than just sampling one or two periods of a game during a tournament or showcase weekend. To me, it is hard to watch multiple players in a game rather than on just one player at a time.
  • Note: We are still waiting to on the written feedback and letter rating that we were told all players would receive.  If you are a player or parent from 16/17 Camp who has a received this feedback, please reach out and let me know. Update: We did receive the USA Hockey Feedback on July 27th – I will be writing up my thoughts on the feedback process in a upcoming post.
Categories
2023 Development Camp Girls Hockey Player Development

Analyzing the USA Hockey Girls 16/17 Camp Defense Selections for the U18 Camp

As I mentioned in my previous post about USA Hockey Girls 16/17 Camp, there was a a mix of perspectives on the selections for 18’s camp.

WHAT?

Rather than engage in a subjective discussion on who was selected, I thought it might be helpful to collect some analytical data and metrics to understand how top players performed at the camp.

WHY?

The purpose of this post is not to say who did or did not deserve to be selected to the U18 Camp. Instead, it is to help provide perspective and context to other players and parents the types of metrics that demonstrate the level of play needed to be selected.  And ideally, individual players do their own self-analysis to see how they compare.

HOW?

I watched and coded specific attributes for every shift in all 4 games for every player in this analysis using the USA Hockey TV footage. I collected more metrics than are listed below, but I feel that the attributes shown, provide the right amount and level of data to gain an understanding of the level of play for this position. Note: Sometimes the live stream footage didn’t always focus on the area of the ice where the play was taking place, so it is very likely the odd play may have not been accounted for.

WHO?

Here is the list of the 13 players selected to go to the 18’s camp

For D analysis, I included the 3 players selected plus another ‘top D’ player who was not selected. I am not identifying the names of any players because singling out any individual player is not my objective.  However, I can say, that I personally do not know any of the players or their parents that were included in this analysis.

SO WHAT?

Based on my analysis, I don’t have any issues with the D selections since measuring defense is not an exact science.  I am sure there were other players for whom there is an argument they could have been selected instead – but the differences are hard to discern in just 4 games and I don’t expect the selection committee to be perfect in only picking players based on their game performance.

All selected players made several really good plays (both offensively and defensively) in their four games – many of which were ‘highlight worthy’.  At the same time, these same players made multiple, significant turnovers/mistakes which resulted in high scoring chances for the other team. This goes to show you that none of the D were anywhere close to being perfect. But overall their consistency over 4 games is what you can see in the metrics.

THE ANALYSIS

Note: Players 1-3 were selected to go to the U18 Girls Camp – Player 4 was not selected

Some notes on the tracked attributes:

  • Offensive Shot Attempts does not mean the shot made it to the net – as mentioned in my previous post, I estimate almost 80% of all point shots were blocked or missed the net.
  • Turnover = full change of possession to the other team (e.g. a missed pass, dump in/out, rim or redirected puck)
  • I am not including the point stats or PIMs for any player since they can already be found on the USA Hockey website
  • Note: With only 4.1 goals per game combined between both teams, all the top players played strong defensively and were not on the ice for many goals.  This can be seen in their “On-ice goals for/goals against ratio” (this is different from the traditional +/- stat). 
  • There were additional attributes I tracked like offensive zone entries and good defensive plays. In addition metrics like pass attempts or turnovers could be segmented further by situation – however, given the outcome based of the measurements presented here, I feel they are a good representation of how each player played.

Finally, yes, I did a similar analysis for my daughter’s games (for her eyes only). And we are using the results to prioritize her summer development plan.

NEXT ANALYSIS

I have already started working analyzing the Forwards who were picked for the U18 Camp. This is a little more complicated since there were 5 forwards selected. I will not be doing goalies, because I don’t feel qualified to do so – and as mentioned previously, from what I’ve been told by goalie experts, there is a huge weight given to one-on-one time spent with an evaluator to judge goalies.

Categories
2023 Girls Hockey Player Development Women's College Hockey

More Thoughts on the 2023 USA Hockey 16/17 Girls Development Camp

This is the second post about the 2023 USA Hockey Girls 16/17 Development Camp

You can read the first post here

I wanted to get this our right after the camp, but didn’t have time before taking a week-long vacation.  But here are some additional thoughts that I compiled during my time in Oxford:

  • The operational excellence of the camp was consistent the entire week – kudos to the organizers for such a well-run event. Especially when compared to many other camps, showcases and tryouts I have seen on both the girls and boys side of hockey
  • Unlike the previous camp I attended, I now appreciate all the different paths to hockey excellence there are in the U.S. I could now see where all players came from that I learned about over  the last couple of years – hockey academy, top clubs, prep and Minnesota
  • The last two days of games brought a whole slew of additional DI and DIII coaches to Oxford. I personally saw coaches from just about every school  (over 30 DI teams) – however there were some top programs where I didn’t see a representative (e.g. Wisconsin, UMD, Colgate, Northeastern) and several NEWHA schools (note:  they may have been there, but I just didn’t see them).
  • One DI coach did tell me that some of the players looked tired for the fourth game – while another thought there was better team play the last two games compared to the first two games.
  • 7 players who were at 16/17 camp this year were at 18s camp last year.  1G , 2D  &  4Fs.  Two of them were players who were selected from the 2022 16/17’s Camp to go the 2022 18’s Camp – the other 5 went direct to 18s last year.
  • Here is the list of the 13 players selected to go to the 18’s camp
  • 5 of those 7 2022 18’s Camp players were selected to return to the 18’s camp this year from the 16/17s Camp
  • In  general,  I noticed a big difference between the average 2006 and average 2007 player. seemed to be weaker. That one extra year of development is noticeable not just size, but hockey IQ
  • Interesting stat – the Girls 16/17 Camp averaged 4.1 goals per game (combined both teams) while the Boys 17 Camp averaged 10.0 goals/gm and the Boys 16 Camp averaged 8.6 goals per game. Significantly less scoring on the girls side.
  • Unofficially, I estimated that about 80% of point shots were blocked/never reached the net – surprisingly low for this level of play
  • It seems that just watching games isn’t sufficient to judge players – while important – there really are a lot of nuances you can get from practices that you can’t see from a live stream that likely factored into players selected for the 18s camp
  • Depending on position and length of shifts, most players only had between 40 and 50 shifts to demonstrate their abilities over the course of 4 games. Which isn’t a lot, all things considered.
  • Based on talking with multiple parents and players there was certainly a mix of perspectives on the selections for 18’s camp.  I will hold off judgment on skaters until I spend more time reviewing video of the players selected in comparison to other top players who were not selected.  I do not feel qualified to analyze goalies, especially based on past conversations with expert goalie coaches – but I do know that you can’t just rely on game performance in goalie evaluations.
  • I can’t include everything I want to discuss in this post, so I am going to publish additional posts sourced from the camp including:
    • A candid conversation with a DI coach on their detailed recruiting process for their 2025 recruiting class
    • Applying some analytics to the players selected from the 16/17 camp for the 18’s Girls Camp
    • My thoughts on the 16/17 Camp feedback process – which is dependent on receiving the official player feedback report via snail mail expected sometime this week.

Next:

Analyzing the USA Hockey Girls 16/17 Camp Defense Selections for the U18 Camp