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Champs Coach of the day Girls Hockey Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Today’s Coach of The Day: Alyssa Gagliardi

Alyssa Gagliardi

Our first Coach of the Day is Alyssa Gagliardi. Alyssa is the Director of Women’s Student-Athlete Advancement with the Carolina Junior Hurricanes Girls program. Previously, Alyssa was a USA National team player, a co-captain at Cornell University and she won the Isobel Cup with the Boston Pride. Check out Alyssa’s Champs App profile.

Create a player profile and connect with Alyssa on Champs App.

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College Hockey Recruiting Girl's Showcase Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Which Girls Showcases Should I Attend in 2022?

I’ve been asked a few times recently about which showcases to attend in 2022. While I am not the expert on all showcases and which ones to attend, here are a variety of thoughts I have on the subject:

Showcases are just one type of event to be included in your college recruiting strategy.  Other events such as spring/summer tournaments (e.g. Beantown Classic) , USA Hockey selects process (districts & nationals) and college-sponsored camps are some others. Here is the current list we’ve compiled on our 2022 Girls Hockey Event Calendar.

2022 Girls Hockey Showcases

What’s your why?

Therefore, the first question I would ask is “What are your goals for attending the showcase?”. If you are just going to an event for fun, to get ice time or play with friends – then it really shouldn’t matter which showcase you attend. If you are using these events for development purposes, then as long as the player is receiving reasonable time of on ice-development with college-level coaches, then the specific event is less important. However, if you are going specifically to be seen by college coaches, how does it fit in with the women’s college hockey recruiting process that schools follow when engaging with prospective recruits?

Womens College Hockey Recruiting Process

As with many recruiting questions, the answer to which showcases to attend is…“it depends”. Specifically, as was told to me very early in this process, each player’s journey is a unique one, so it all relates to their specific situation.

Here are the three key questions I would use to develop a point-of-view…

1. Where are you in the recruiting process?

Are you before or after the rising junior (i.e. just finished sophomore year of high school) June 15th deadline when you can talk to coaches directly? If before, then your goal is really just to get on the radar of college coaches – basically get your name added to their tracking list. If after, would coaches at the event help your relationship or improve your visibility with them?

Girls Hockey Showcase

2. How good is your player?

Based on what you know and the feedback you’ve received from you player’s coaches, how does the player compare to their peers?  Are they one of the best for their age in the country (e.g. attended one of the USA Hockey National Camps or play on a highly rated team)?  Have they been the best player on most of the teams they’ve played on? Are they likely to have to decide between a lower ranked DI team vs a highly ranked DIII school? Or are they just an average player on an average team? Being realistic on where the player might fit into the DI/DIII range of teams would be helpful.

3. Which schools does the player have the most interested in?

Assuming those schools are a real possibility of tracking the player, then those events would be at the top of the list.  If you haven’t narrowed down any schools and don’t have a preference yet, then do some research into which hockey programs and academic majors/departments overlap for the player’s interests. Also, location, school size and financial means are additional factors to consider.

Focus, focus, focus

If you are eligible (or close enough) to talk directly with coaches, then being very focused on your shortlist of targeted schools is key. I would recommend 3-5 schools on that list. The better the player, the more targeted you can be with the schools you believe you have a realistic chance of the college reciprocating the interest. 

Most coaches state that they use showcases to help put players on their radar and to start tracking them. The typical evaluation by coaches takes place during the regular season with their fall/winter teams.  Thus, many college coaches have told me they don’t need to see a player more than once or twice at showcases. Watching them 5 or 6 times over the spring/summer becomes redundant since the player rarely shows significant development in such a short period of time. However, not all coaches/schools attend every event – so it is tempting to go to at least 3 or 4 showcases/tournaments to cover all your bases.

Which coaches will be attending?

Given the above, which tournaments have the schools attending their events which best line-up with target teams? For example, the OHD Camp in Nashville has very different coaches from the PIP Boston Showcase. Finding the right match of events and coaches can be a little tricky.

Smaller can be better

From my experience last summer, for a player who is not allowed to officially talk to schools yet, the best showcases were the smaller ones (with 6 or less teams of players – ~100 attendees or so). This way  the player can have meaningful on-ice and on-the-bench conversations with coaches and to create direct relationships with them.  Some showcases have dozens of teams other just a handful.

Finally, this summer, for my daughter, we are prioritizing school-specific camps and the USA Hockey selects camp process over showcases and tournaments. Her unique journey has her focusing on her development this summer as she prepares to attend a hockey academy this fall.  Since she will be “seen” quite a bit next year during the “regular season”, she can narrow her target this spring/summer on a small number of schools.

DIII Recruiting

One last thought…you will almost always see DIII coaches at most of these events. Usually from schools that are a reasonable distance from the event site (due to travel costs). Once again, depending on your situation, location matters for DIII recruiting at showcases.

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College Hockey Recruiting Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Q1 2022 DI Women’s College Hockey Commitment Rate Update

This is an update to a previous post from December, 2021 on “Q4 2021 Women’s College Hockey Commitment Rate Update”.

2022 Commits

For 2022 commits, they have now surpassed the equivalent rate as 2021 commits.  There are now 206 2022 commits as of March 31, 2002 compared to 202 commits the same period last year. Based on previous years, there will probably only be 10-15 more commits for 2022.

2023 Commits

As of March 31st, 2022, only 97 commits have been made for DI programs compared to 163 (2021) and 139 (2022) at the equivalent time before starting for those grade years. With USA Nationals now complete, I would expect the commitment rate to increase in April and May. However, given the absolute numbers it seems that there will also surely be less 2023 commits than previous years (typically about 214 commits). My back-of-the-envelope math says that overall there will likely be between 30 and 40 less 2023 commits compared to 2021 and 2022. From talking to DI coaches, it seems the reasons extra year of eligibility and the transfer students from DI, DIII and Canadian universities.  On the positive side, Stonehill College starting in 2002 and Robert Morris University beginning their recruiting for 2023, I would suspect the gap closes slowly over the next 9 months with an additional 10-20 spots being available for those schools (otherwise my estimates would look even worse).

Goalies

Four goalies committed between January and March, 2022; one for 2022, one for 2023 and one for 2024.  This is consistent with what DI coaches have been saying on the Champs App Podcast, that the goalie process is later than for skaters. There are still only six 2023 goalie commits with an overall target of about 20 goalies per year.

Top 10 Schools

There were only four Top 10 commits in Q1 2022 and three of them were for Minnesota.

Data assumptions:

  1. Data commitment dates – source: collegecommitments.com
  2. Transfers between DI programs are not included in the number of commits
  3. Total number of commits for 2021 was 215
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College Hockey Recruiting Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Q4 2021 Women’s College Hockey Commitment Rate Update

This is an update to a previous post from October, 2021 on “How Does the Number of 2023 Women’s College Hockey Commits Compare to Previous Years?”.

2022 Commits

For 2022 commits, they are all caught up to the same rate as 2021 commits. There are 193 2022 commits as of Dec 31 for compared to 191 commits the same period last year. Based on previous years, there will probably be on ~20 more commits for 2022.

2023 Commits

As of December 31st, 2021, only 83 commits have been made for DI programs compared to 152 (2021) and 134 (2022) at the equivalent time before starting for those grade years. So the big questions that remains is: Will there be less 2023 commits than previous years (typically about 214 commits) or is the recruiting process just slower this year given everything that is going on with Covid and the extra year of eligibility?

Goalies

Three goalies committed between Oct and Dec, 2021, but what is interesting is that they were all for 2022. This is consistent with what DI coaches have been saying on the Champs App Podcast, that the goalie process is later than for skaters. There continues to only be four 2023 goalie commits with an overall target of about 20 goalies per year.

Top 10 Schools

There were quite a few commits (and transfers) from the Top 10 Schools in Q3 2021.

Data assumptions:

  1. Data commitment dates – source: collegecommitments.com
  2. Transfers between DI programs are not included in the number of commits
  3. Total number of commits for 2021 was 215
  4. Please keep in mind there were no adjustments in the number of schools each year (e.g. RMU, St Michaels, Stonehill)
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Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Why stop at 11?

Note: I wrote the first draft of this post before the NCAA announced they would expand the number of teams for the Women’s Ice hockey tournament from eight to eleven in either 2022 or 2023.  While I applaud the NCAA for the decision and understand why they would increase the % of teams that qualify to match the men’s side at 27% of teams qualify, my thoughts below still stand. I also want to emphasize that I realize it is operationally complicated and expensive to have more teams qualify, but that should not stop the initiative to find creative ways to make this a win-win for the NCAA and women’s ice hockey.

Last weekend I was asked by one of the DI women’s college hockey teams to share the Close the Gap graphic on our social media accounts.  However, when it comes to this kind of stuff, I like to be educated on the topic. I had just skimmed through the Kaplan Hecker & Fink report the night before and rather than just re-post what everyone else has done, I thought I would share my 2 cents on the topic. These opinions are based on what I’ve learned over the last year about women’s college hockey, but also my 20+ years working with startups and high growth products.

Let me explain, one of things I have seen firsthand over the last year in-person and via USA Hockey and Hockey Canada data is that Women’s Hockey is a fast growing sport and is very similar to a startup. And startups should not be treated the same way from a business perspective as a highly profitable large corporation.  With this as background, let me share 5 opinions on the matter. I put the simple hockey recommendation first and the business ones later, since they are a little more complicated to explain.

1. Why not 14 or 16 teams?

Let’s start with the fact that I don’t really understand how teams are selected for the women’s NCAA ice hockey playoffs. However, what I do know is that last year it didn’t seem like the actual Top 8 pairwise teams in the country were the ones who were selected for the tournament. Specifically, definitely Minnesota and probably Clarkson should have been there.

As much as 11 or 12 sounds like a good number, why couldn’t it be 14 or 16 teams tha.t qualify for the NCAA playoffs?  From my analysis, there is only a small standard deviation between teams that are ranked from about 7-16. Specifically, the expected goal differential between any of those teams would likely be about 1.2. In other words, about 80% of the games between these teams would on-average be determine by only 1-goal – which should make for some pretty exciting games.

I don’t want to go through all the possible ways to make it work, but having 2-4 regional play-in games would seem to promote excitement and engagement. This would be in addition to 6-8 teams getting ‘byes’ straight to the “quarter finals”.  These extra play-in games would not dilute the process and give teams a chance to feel what it’s like to be in the NCAA tournament. I don’t think Women’s College Ice Hockey should just look for parity with the Men’s programs – instead. they should do what’s right for their own sport – and 14 or 16 seems like the right number to me. (By the way, I think the same logic could easily apply to the men’s side of things as well).

2. Women’s College Hockey could be a Star

In business there is a famous slide called the BCG Matrix which describes where a business stands relative to other businesses on two dimensions:  growth and relative market share. In the case of the NCAA, market share would be total college sports revenue. In business terms, football and men’s basketball are Cash Cows – generate tons of $, but are low growth sports.  However, Women’s Ice Hockey while not yet a big money-maker, is high growth.  They would be in the top right quadrant and currently be considered a ‘?’ as a business. In many large corporations, small businesses that are Question Marks can be underfunded and de-prioritized as the Cash Cows get all the resources and attention to keep shareholders happy (sound familiar?). However, this can be short-term thinking because the future may actually be in one of the small ideas that grow to dwarfing the incumbent businesses. All you need to do is to think of how the iPod started out as a teeny business for Apple relative to their Mac business, but then it became the dominant product leading to the iPhone and iPad.  For the NCAA, the future might be in one of these women’s sports – especially women’s ice hockey. This leads into my next point…

3. Dollar Spent Per Student Athlete should be higher for Women’s Ice Hockey than Men’s Ice Hockey

This seems counter-intuitive but hear me out.  Women’s College Ice Hockey should be treated like a startup.  And startups over-invest during their early years to grow their products and brands until they hit scale.  All you have to do is look at how Amazon lost money for years until they achieved scale in their core business.  Keep reading below for the business rationale for investing in startups.

Now, this does not mean just throwing money at the sport. I think one of the best recommendations in the KHF Report is to find ways to combine both the Mens and Women’s National Championship events together. This way you can spread the fixed costs over a larger base, and even better, you can use bundling to promote both sports (e.g. sell ticket packs for both sports).  Many companies and events (like the Olympics) use bundling as a way to help underfunded offerings get more distribution and customers.

4. Show me the incentive and I’ll show you the outcome

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that the NCAA designed a perfect system to achieve the results they produced – which was significantly under-funding certain women’s sports relative to the higher revenue generating male equivalent sports.  When you read the Phase II report, many of their recommendations focus on changing the mindset, processes and people who make the key decisions about these sports. It was quite evident that there has been no incentive for the NCAA to prioritize gender-equity allocation of resources, investments and  media attention. Since there was no incentive, their only goal appears to have been “profit maximization” and that what was rewarded.  However, NCAA is not just about making money, they are about promoting sports and student-athletes across all their sports – not just the ones that currently make the most money. In this case, introduce the sport to fans who already have an interest in men’s hockey.

5. Women’s Ice Hockey should have its own vision for where it wants to go by developing a “Grow the Game” Playbook

Women’s Ice Hockey shouldn’t depend on the NCAA to figure out the secret sauce for building a large, loyal fanbase. They need to take ownership for the success of their own sport themselves.

I have learned over the past year is that there is a wide range of marketing and social media savviness across the DI women’s college hockey programs.  I am also assuming this translates into local marketing for their teams and building their fanbase – as seen by a wide range in attendance at regular season and playoff games (and obviously Covid has had a big impact in this stuff recently).  But there should be some type of committee created (if there isn’t one already) that brings together some of the best practices from the most successful programs for selling the sport and putting on big women’s hockey events.  These programs know their customers better than anyone else and should be leading the charge on what works and what doesn’t with this customer segment. With additional funding and proven, creative ideas the sport can really be taken to a new level.

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Coaching College Hockey Recruiting Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

How Does the Number of 2023 Women’s College Hockey Commits Compare to Previous Years?

One of the questions I’ve been discussing with some hockey parents has been how have the new recruiting rules and Covid impacted the timing of college commitments for female hockey players. So I decided to analyze the commitment dates by DI college start year for those student-athletes starting in 2021 vs. 2022 and 2023.  As you can see, the rate of 2023 Women’s College Hockey commits is significantly behind previous years.

As of September 30, 2021, what the data shows is that for 2023 grads, the % of commitments expected for 2023 grads is significantly below where 2021 and 2022 grads were. To be clear, 23 months before a player would start at a DI program, only ~26% (57) of the expected available spots have been filled compared to the equivalent time period for 2021 (64% / 132) and 2022 (49% / 105) players.

Goalies

The number is even more dramatic for goalies which have only seen a single 2023 commit (Holy Cross) occur since coaches were allowed to talk to potential recruits this summer. Only 4 goalies in total have committed for 2023 compared to 16 for 2022 and 22 netminders for 2021.

Top 10 Schools are Moving Slowly

For the Top 10 Schools, more than half of the 2023 commits were made before the recruiting rules changed in 2019, and only half have had a 2023 commit announced this year.

Interpreting the Data

My hypotheses for the significantly lower 2023 commitment rate are:

  1. Many girls still haven’t had an on-campus visit yet. Many have likely been waiting until after the summer to visit DI teams when teams are back practicing and playing.
  2. There is still some ambiguity for 2023 recruiting needs due to the extra year of eligibility for all NCAA players. This can be from transfers or 5th year players.
  3. Covid has restricted or impeded on-campus visits for many prospective student-athletes     

Data assumptions:

  • Data commitment dates – source: collegecommitments.com
  • Transfers between DI programs are not included in the number of commits
  • Total number of commits for 2021 was 215
  • Please keep in mind there were no adjustments in the number of schools each year (e.g. RMU, St Michaels, Stonehill)
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College Hockey Recruiting Girls Hockey Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

Defining the College Athlete Recruiting Process

In previous posts I have discussed attending showcases and camps which are scouted by college coaches.  One of the key aspects of participating in these events is to recognize how they fit in to the end-to-end college recruiting process. Except for the rare exceptional player, attending any single event likely contributes only a fraction of the information involved in getting an offer from a school. As discussed many times before, each student-athletes recruiting journey is unique. However, this post serves as a general framework on defining the college athlete recruiting process. In addition, it attempts to provide context on tracking the process. Hopefully this information helps players and parents set reasonable expectations for what should happen depending on which stage of their journey they are in.

Awareness

How do coaches find and track potential student-athlete recruits? Here is a non-exhaustive list of sources for schools to add names to their recruiting database.

  • Top program rosters (e.g. hockey academy, prep school, top AAA club)
  • USA Nationals
  • USA Hockey national camp
  • In-season tournaments
  • Spring/summer showcases
  • College summer camps
  • Inbound email from player
  • Team website interest form
  • Coach referral

Research

How do teams scout and collect player information?  How are players evaluated and rated?

Once a player is on a team’s radar, then they are researching the player to see if they might be a fit for their program. Here are the some of their primary sources of data gathering.

  • Watch livestream games (e.g. LiveBarn, HockeyTV)
  • Watch games in-person
  • Coach references (current, past, opposing team)
  • College summer camps
  • Public available data (social media, Elite Prospects, team/league websites, MyHockeyRankings)

Consideration

How do teams rank players and narrow their list for potential offers?

Assuming a players skill level meets a certain standard to be considered for a potential offer from the research phase, then additional information is also collected to be used in the decision-making process.

  • Past interactions (camps, showcases etc.)
  • Phone/Zoom/In-person conversations (interviews)
  • Virtual visits
  • Unofficial visits
  • Official visits

Prior to starting Champs App, my last company focused on the employee recruiting process. In particular, the interviewing stage for large companies.  What is remarkably similar between job recruiting and college athlete recruiting is that that “hiring” organization wants to have as many “qualified” potential candidates in their recruiting pipeline before they make an offer. This gives them the school/company best opportunity to make an offer to the “best fit” candidate while realizing that the candidate, or student-athlete in this case, also has options and may choose to go somewhere else. Striking the balance between keeping potential recruits interested without any promise of an offer is a challenge that depends on creating a trusting relationship between both parties.

Offer

How do prospective student-athletes and school align their respective needs/interests with positional openings?

  • Number of openings;  openings by position
  • Offer creation/discussion/negotiation:
    • Start year
    • Financial aid / scholarships (if available)
    • Expectations (role, depth chart)
  • Academic considerations

When it comes to the Offer stage of the college recruiting process, there are still many questions I have about how a final decision is made. In upcoming podcasts with college coaches, I will be asking the following questions.

  • Do you make offers to players, with an assumption that not all of them will accepts (i.e. expect a yield rate)? Or do you only make offers with a specific opening in mind, then go down the list when a player does not accept an offer?
  • What attributes are negotiable in an offer from a school?
  • Are conditional offers made which are dependent on academic requirements?

When I get the answers to these questions I will write up my findings in a follow-up post.

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College Hockey Recruiting Development Camp Girls Hockey Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

What I learned attending the USA Hockey 15s Girls Development Camp

Part III – College Recruiting

This is the third and final post focusing on the college recruiting process based my experience as a parent at the USA Hockey Girls Camp that took place in St Cloud Minnesota from July 10-15, 2021.

You can read the previous posts about the Schedule & Operational Details and USA Hockey Player Development

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what to write for this post.  I wanted to specifically discuss what happened at the USA Hockey 15’s camp in St. Cloud.  However, I have come to realize that it would be incomplete without providing additional context about the entire women’s college recruiting process.  As a result, for this post I am mostly just going to stick to the facts and data I collected.  Separately, I will soon publish a detailed post about what I have figured out so far about the end-to-end recruiting process to give the perspective needed for any individual event.

What became obvious quite quickly, is that coaches from all over the country were flocking to St Cloud to see the top 216 15-year old female players.  Kristin Wright stated at the opening parents meeting that 90% of schools would be at the Development Camp at some point during the week.  Based on all the logos I saw that number must have been pretty close.

Here are the schools I saw first-hand, but I am sure this is not a complete list:

• Bemidji State
Boston College
• Boston University
• Brown
• Clarkson
• Cornell
• Franklin Pierce
• Harvard
Holy Cross
Lindenwood
• Mercyhurst
• Minnesota
• Minnesota State
Northeastern
• Ohio State
Princeton
• Providence
Quinnipiac
• Rice
RPI
• Sacred heart
St Cloud
St Lawrence
• St Thomas
• Vermont
• Union
Wisconsin

At a basic level coaches had two objectives for attending the event:

  • Watching players already on their list and track their performance/development
  • Identify new players to add to their follow list

Since I was sitting in the stands with most of the coaches I had a few observations. Some coaches were very social and others kept to themselves.  Some showed up just the first couple of days, others just for the last 2 or 3 days. Unlike 16/17s camp which took place a couple of weeks earlier, coaches can’t talk to the 15’s parents – so there was almost engagement between coaches and parents. Schools that I did not see their logos seemed to have on-ice coaches represented at either the 16/17s camp or the U18 camp. Many coaches had printed rosters or iPads to identify players and take notes. But quite a few did not appear to have a method to take notes or remember players.  Each school seem to have a different scouting strategy/plan. Some schools had multiple coaches, while other only had one representative. As well, some scouts only watched games, while other watched all the public practices and scrimmages.

A couple of schools really stood out to me during the week

Brian Durocher Boston University

The first was Boston University head coach Brian Durocher who spent the first three days watching almost every practice and game. He would just stand on his own down along the glass quietly taking notes on a little piece of paper. And when there was a break on one rink he go watch players on the other rink.  He was very unassuming, but clearly using his many years of experience to evaluate players and take copious notes.

The other school that impressed, was the team of Ohio State coaches (at least four in total both on-ice and off-ice) who were making sure they watched all the girls on both rinks throughout the week. They typically sat in a group around head coach Nadine Muzerall and watched a lot of hockey together. As a Michigan grad it isn’t easy for me to say nice things about OSU, but clearly they have prioritized scouting and their recruiting process as a key to their success.

In my next post I will discuss what I have learned about different stages of the women’s college recruiting process. This will help answer many of the questions I have received about how much should a player be seen in the spring and summer at showcases and events compared to their regular season team.

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Coaching Development Camp Girl's Showcase Girls Hockey Women's Hockey

What I learned attending the USA Hockey 15s Girls Development Camp

Part II

USA Hockey Player Development

This post is the second in a series about the USA Hockey Girls 15’s Camp I attended from July 10-15, 2021.

At the start of camp, Kristen Wright helped provide perspective on how to think about the bigger picture for what the week was about. The 15’s Camp is really just the first step in a USA Hockey player’s journey at the national level. For many it can be a multi-year process including their college years as the they try to be included in the conversation to make the National Women’s Team.

Realistically, in the short term, for most girls, the ultimate goal of attending any of the girls camps (15,16/18 or U18), is to be invited to the Women’s National Festival which includes players from all age groups (National Team, U23 and U18) being considered for a national roster.

However, for the week of camp, unless something truly exceptional occurred, this Covid year, there would be no decision on advancing or further outcome beyond the camp for any of the players in attendance. Everyone would just head back home richer from the experience and will go though a similar process next year to make the 2022 16/17s camp or if they we one of the top players, potentially go directly to the U18’s camp.

USA-Hockey

Given the above, what did I think were the objectives for the camp from a USA Hockey perspective?

  1. Learn about the USA Hockey national program for girls/women and understand what it takes to compete and potentially make a national team (U18, U23, Women’s National Team)
  2. Get seen & scouted by USA Hockey Coaches (to help get on the radar for the U18 Camp for 2022)
  3. Get feedback on strengths and development opportunities
  4. Get a benchmark of how good a player is relative to their peer group

1. Learn about the USA Hockey National Program

During the parent meeting, Kristen Wright shared the three core values of the USA Hockey program:

  • Relentless
  • Pride
  • Together

And from what I could sense as an outside observer, all the activities for the week centered around these principles. In addition, the theme of the week focused more on helping players be the best they can be rather than solely focus on what it would take to make any of the different age-specific national teams.  Given the size of the camp, on balance, that seemed like a more realistic focus. Better to focus on the values that players would need to consistently demonstrate to make a team rather than hockey-specific attributes that may not resonate at this time for most of the girls.

2. Get seen & scouted by USA Hockey Coaches

As mentioned in my previous post, the on-ice coach to player ratio was about 1:3 with somewhere in the range of 70-100 USA Hockey representatives participating in the camp.  I am assuming that USA Hockey leadership had some type of scouting information collection capability from both on-ice and off-ice observers at both games and practices. In addition, team coaches, team leaders and interns all got to observe their players both at the rink and outside of the rink during the week of camp.  Given all these points of data, I would expect that there is some type of player tracking tool with a summary of the information that was collected on each player. There must be some type of report card (beyond the testing results) that was being kept on each player. Ideally, this database would be used to benchmark players if they return to another USA Hockey camp.

As Kristen Wright alluded to the parents on the first afternoon, roughly speaking players are group into A’s (Top 25 or Top 50), B’s (the next ~100) and C’s (the lowest ~75 players). However, the messaging was clear, it really shouldn’t matter right now for players to hear what level they were evaluated. The girls were there to learn about what it took to make it to the next level in USA Hockey and they need to take those learnings and go back and work hard and get better for next year. This year’s evaluations would primarily be used as a way to track development and improvement in a year from now.

3. Get feedback on strengths and development opportunities

Each player received some type of feedback from one of their coaches during the week. Depending on the team and coach, the feedback session occurred during the second half of camp and was a 1-on-1 meeting with one of the two team coaches. Since I was not a player, I could only gather information indirect accounts from players or parents, so my sample size may not be big enough. Evaluation was almost entirely qualitative than quantitative. However, the one consistent theme I heard was that the feedback session wasn’t that great. Comments ranged from advice being too generic (e.g. “go back home work hard, get better and come back and show us what you can do next year”) to not offering any real thoughtful insights to putting the onus on the player to self-evaluate and then mostly agreeing with the player’s evaluation. The consistent theme that I heard was that not enough effort was put into preparing for the feedback session.

In my opinion, this was an area that is an area that the camp could have had a bigger impact.

My personal thoughts are there should be some type of formal feedback process. Ideally with a standardize report card by position (goalie, defense, winger, center). Each player should have received written, detailed feedback on their strengths and key development opportunities (e.g. 3 for each) to help take their game to the next level (which would be personalized to the appropriate for that individual player). I realize this is a tremendous amount of work, requires a lot of coordination between all the coaches and has some pretty significant risks if not properly implemented. And I agree 100% with Kristen Wright the goal is build and maintain player confidence is key. However, given how much players and parents are invested (in every sense of the word) in their hockey development, having some type of tangible, standardized evaluation would be invaluable for these players. To be clear, I thought the week was exceptionally well-run and a great experience for all involved, but this was my one disappointment as a parent.

Since we didn’t get that feedback, I ended up doing it myself using footage from the games available via HockeyTV.  I’ve started break down the video and comparing them to the top players from the U18 camp who made the National Festival. Most parents probably won’t do this level of video analysis, so there will be a gap in direction for many of the players. It’s disappointing that not all the girls will get a deep dive on their performance.

4. Get a benchmark of how good a player is relative to their peer group

My impression was that while the standard deviation at the 15’s Camp was much smaller than at Pacific District camp (where the gap from top to bottom was pretty significant) you could still see big differences from the elite players to some of the marginal players. Depending on the cohesiveness of the team, it was apparent where some players focused more on showcasing their individual talents rather than trusting their teammates and playing as a team.  It was great to see multiple passes between teammates being well-executed to create scoring chances.  However, in many games missed passes and turnover-after-turnover was occurring on a frequent basis, especially for the first couple of games.

One thing that really stood out to me quite frequently after I saw a player make a great play and I would then look-up where they were from, was how often they were a Minnesota High School player from a school I had never heard of. It was the first time I saw first-hand the high level of players produced by Minnesota hockey on the girls side of things.

In terms of benchmarking, if a player was observant of their teammates, they could pretty easily see which ones were more effective than others (and why). And they could also see the ones who either struggled on the skills side of things (e.g. skating, passing, positional play) or playing a team game.  This was on the skater side of things. Since I am no expert on goalies, I am not sure how puck-stoppers would self-evaluate relative to their peers, but hopefully they could see the wide range of styles and abilities that different goalies demonstrated during the goalie-specific sessions.

These were my observations from the USA Hockey U15s girls camp and how I thought it met the objectives for the week from a USA Hockey perspective.  While I wished there was a little more direction on the path to USA Hockey success, I fully understand why this is still the top of player funnel from a national team point-of-view.

In the final post about the 15s Girls camp, I will discuss the camp from a college recruiting perspective.

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College Hockey Recruiting Development Camp Girl's Showcase Parents Women's College Hockey Women's Hockey

What I learned attending my first DI Girls College Hockey Showcase

This past weekend my 2006 daughter and I attended our first showcase with Division I coaches participating and scouting at the event.  The 585 PIP Showcase – Roc City Style took place in Rochester, New York at the Bill Gray Iceplex from June 18-20, 2021. Here is what I learned…

Who participated in the 585 PIP College Hockey Showcase?

In attendance were 180 players with birth years 2004, 2005 and 2006. Their break down by birth year and high school graduation year were as follows:

Included in these players, were many girls invited to the different 2021 USA Hockey Camps next month in Minnesota. Of particular interest to us, were the three players at the 585 Showcase who were the only 2006’s invited directly to the U18 Camp – thus, at least by USA Hockey’s assessment, considered the top three 15’s in the country.

From the recruiting side, there were 28 DI and 6 DIII schools represented (note: 13 schools were previous guests on the Champs App Podcast):

Boston CollegeMercyhurstQuinnipiacYale
BrownMerrimackRITConnecticut College
Boston UniversityMinnesotaRPIElmira College
ClarksonMinnesota DuluthSt. LawrenceNazareth
ColgateNortheasternSyracusePlattsburgh
CornellOhio StateUConnSUNY Oswego
HarvardPenn StateUnionUniversity of Buffalo
Holy CrossPrincetonVermont 
LindenwoodProvidenceWisconsin 

20 of the DI coaches participated in on-ice events which for each player included a skills sessions, a practice and 4 games.

Starting the women’s college hockey recruiting process

Unlike the first showcase in Rochester that we attended last October, 2020 during Covid, our goals for this past weekend were very different. Back then, since my daughter hadn’t played with girls before, we were just trying to calibrate how good a hockey player she was compared to other female players.

This 585 event was the first step in the long journey of my daughter’s recruiting process with the intent of being seen by some of the schools she currently has an interest in. Something which makes her situation unique, is that she has only played on boys tier hockey teams and will once again play boys tier 1 hockey next season. While this is great from a hockey development perspective, this puts her at a disadvantage because she does not get seen at in-season girls tournaments or the USA Hockey Girls National playoffs. This is why spring/summer girls showcases are so important for her specific college recruiting journey.

What were our goals for attending a girls college hockey showcase?

One of the challenges I struggled with leading up to the weekend, was defining the objectives for the showcase and how would we measure success?  Unlike the USA Hockey district camp we attended last month, where it was clear that the goal for my daughter was to be invited to the 15’s national camp and thus easily measurable (even though it took almost a month to learn the results). For Rochester, this is what we came up with:

  • Initiate scouting coverage by a handful of schools that my daughter has an interest in
  • Ideally, create the beginnings of a relationship with those schools via the on-ice coaching opportunities
  • Get on the radar of other schools. This is a long process and who knows where the best fit(s) may be for my daughter when she gets closer to being able to talk directly with colleges.
  • See what makes the Top 3 2006’s special

Being Proactive – Planning for a Girls College Showcase Weekend

To help with the first goal for the showcase, during the week prior to the event, my daughter sent a handful of emails to coaches who would be in attendance. She let them know why she was interested in their school and invited them to watch her during the weekend. Per NCAA recruiting rules, since my daughter cannot be contacted prior to June 15th, 2022 (at the end of her sophomore year), coaches could not email her back.

As a parent, it is unclear to me how college coaches scout at these events

My first takeaway from the showcase is that I really don’t understand how coaches scout at large showcases and tournaments – from my uninitiated perspective, there are just too many players and games to watch. During my podcast interviews, coaches have told me that while showcases are good to get to know players, they really prefer watching them play real games with their regular season teams. I did see most coaches carrying around the color-coded player lists for each team, many taking notes while coaching from behind the bench and when scouting games.  However, given there were 180 players, I have many questions on how they decide which games to watch, which players to focus on and what they are evaluating. In my upcoming podcasts, I will be sure to dive deep on how coaches collect their information at these types of events with so much going on.

Showcase teams with more “top-program” players had more coaches watching them

Another takeaway from the weekend, is that luck played a role in which team you were on – which then translated into how likely you were to be seen by as many coaches as possible. It is unclear how teams were formed for the event, but it was obvious that some teams had many more players from well-known teams (e.g. Shattuck-St Mary’s, Little Caesars, BK Selects, East Coast Wizards, Chicago Mission) than others. The more “brand-name-team” players on a team’s roster, the more coaches were likely to watch that team play and how often. Some games had what appeared to be a couple of dozen coaches watching from above or along the glass, while for other games I could count the number of non-bench coaches scouting the action on one hand.

For example, there was a game with 20+ players on the ice from those “top programs” playing each other with a full-house of DI coaches, while simultaneously, on a separate rink, there weren’t many coaches watching a game with only 3 “top-program” players.

It’s hard to immediately measure the success for a summer showcase weekend

One of the challenges of the weekend was quantifying some key metrics. Based on discussions with my daughter and from what I was able to observe from the stands, at least half of the six coaches she emailed had watched her play in a game – plus she was able to talk with another targeted coach during one of the skills sessions. In addition, she had direct interactions/conversations with about 8 additional DI coaches during the on-ice practices and games. Of course, it is impossible to know which coaches and how many actually scouted her from off-ice positions, this is something we may only discover sometime in the future. So in the end, measuring success of the weekend is a little opaque and one can only hope that sometime after June 15, 2022 we can see the benefits.

USA Hockey’s Top 2006 Players for 2021

It was great to watch the three 2006’s who were invited directly to the USA Hockey U18 Girls Camp play.  All three were big, strong players and very noticeable when they were on the ice. One of them scored a wonderful goal by powering their way to the net and popping the puck top-shelf over the goalie’s shoulder. It was the prettiest play I saw all weekend.

First Steps in a Long Journey

Overall, for a first DI showcase event, it seemed to be a pretty good start. Clearly, several schools now know who my daughter is and the process has begun. We have three more opportunities for her to be scouted this summer (2021 USA National Development Camp, 2021 NAHA College Showcase and the PIP 702 Vegas) before she returns to her boys team in the fall.