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.
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 Hockey national camp
College summer camps
Inbound email from player
Team website interest form
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)
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)
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.
How do prospective student-athletes and school align their respective needs/interests with positional openings?
Number of openings; openings by position
Financial aid / scholarships (if available)
Expectations (role, depth chart)
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.
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.
Given the above, what did I think were the objectives for the camp from a USA Hockey perspective?
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)
Get seen & scouted by USA Hockey Coaches (to help get on the radar for the U18 Camp for 2022)
Get feedback on strengths and development opportunities
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:
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.
Five prominent schools (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Dartmouth, Princeton, Clarkson) have not had any publicly announced commitments since the new NCAA rules were implemented in May, 2019
The days-before-starting-school commitment days have been halved since the new NCAA recruiting rules were implements (1113 before, 553 after). Which essentially means the average player’s commitment has moved from mid-February of their Junior Year, to Mid-August of Sophomore Year
Before the new rules were implemented, Wisconsin women’s hockey players committed on average 4 years prior to starting at U of W
Currently, only 5 school average less than a year for their commits – 294 days (St. Lawrence University, RIT, Sacred Heart University, Post University Lindenwood University)
Now: Here are the Top 10 schools that are the most aggressive to sign recruits (since the new rules were implemented):
Before: Top 10 School who used to sign the earliest commits prior to the rule changes:
If you want to know which girl’s hockey clubs or schools produce the most DI women’s college hockey commits, here is your answer:
We looked at 526 college hockey commits that are posted on the College Hockey Inc’s women’s college hockey commits web page starting with the 2020 academic year and beyond. There were 94 programs that produced at least 2 DI commits, but the Top 25 represented about 50% of all the commits. And the Top 50 represented about 75% of all the committed players. So, while there is a long tail of places a player can come from, the significant majority are recruited from some of the most well-known girls hockey organizations.
As a parent of a 14-year old girl hockey player who has only played with boys, we are trying to figure out her best path to playing Division I college hockey. However, there is no playbook that is given to parents or players on how follow the process. In fact, from talking to several coaches, each player’s journey is unique. However, if you live in a non-traditional girl’s hockey market like we do, the route can be even more complex.
As we look to decide when and where she play girls hockey for both development and recruiting purposes, I thought I would see what data already exists to help guide our decisions.
Insight #1 – Less than 0.3% of Women’s College Hockey Commits only played boys hockey
In my research, I have only found two female players who only played on boys teams for their club or school teams prior to college. And this is after looking into about 1000 Division I college players or commits. Those two players were Dominique Petrie, who only played AAA Boys hockey in California before attending Harvard. And a goalie from Alaska, Hannah Hogenson prior to attending Bemidji State.
Additional Questions to be Answered
In my upcoming posts I will answering the following questions:
Secondary information is from Elite Prospects which was used to supplement missing club/school information for some players.
The period covers 8/20/16 until 10/21/20 for players who are committed for the 2020 season and later.
The data on Women’s College Commits website may not be complete and likely does not include all D1 commits
If a team/club was not listed, I referenced eliteprospects.com for additional information. Thank you to Beau Marchwick who populates most of the girls hockey data and stats.
A player’s designated club/school is chosen based on the commitment date. If a player played on both a school and a club team, then the club or school with which the player was playing on longer was selected (because they were responsible for developing the player for a longer period of time).
For time period calculations, we assumed Sept. 1st as the start of the college academic year to calculate the number of days from the date of commitment.
The analysis does not include any U.S. Division III or Canadian University Sports commits.
Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players (and their Parents)
Kudos to multi-sport athlete Finley Frechette for creating this show about the Cornell Women’s Ice Hockey team. Starting a podcast is no simple task, especially when you have school and hockey to deal with already. What I love about this podcast is that Finley explores what life is like as a current women’s college hockey player both on and off the ice and around campus. By listening to the shows, you get a good insight into living in Ithaca as a student-athlete.
My favorite episode was when Finley interviewed one of the team’s super-fans, Casandra Moisanu, who is also a member of the band. Cassandra talks about her dedication to the Big Red team both at home and at away games. The first episode of the new hockey season just released this week, with the new players being introduced and sharing a little about themselves. Best of luck to Finley and her teammates for the upcoming season (hopefully it will start soon).
Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players and their Parents
As someone who has a daughter playing hockey in a non-traditional hockey market, it is great to hear about Lyndsey Fry’s journey from Arizona to Harvard to the U.S. Olympic team. In addition, she is now committed to developing the next generation of girl hockey players on the west coast by leading the Arizona Kachina’s hockey program as well as her travelling hockey camps to underserved girl hockey markets. Her conversations with former teammates and other coaches dedicated to developing women’s hockey in non-traditional markets is really great to listen for someone like me.
The episodes of Lyndsey’s experience in travelling at a young age to Colorado to play youth hockey and then process of making the 2014 Olympic team are great listens. I don’t usually listen to the podcasts more than once, but there are a couple of her shows that are on that short list of repeat plays. Candidly, Lindsey’s podcast would be higher on this list if she just published more of them :).
Top 10 Podcasts for Girl Hockey Players and their Parents
From The Point is a relatively new podcast focused on all things women’s hockey. Hockey coach Bob Deraney and Hank Morse started the show in late 2019 and have continued new shows into the 2020-21 season. Bob’s previous experience as head coach of the Providence Friars women’s ice hockey team and parent of two daughters brings a unique combination of insights to the shows. What I have particularly enjoyed are the episodes dedicated to youth hockey and what it takes to make it to college hockey. They also talk to prep hockey coaches and former players. Specifically, the Alyssa Gagliardi episodes provides some excellent insight on her path from North Carolina to prep school to Cornell University. Both hosts are based in the Boston area, so their discussion and guests have a strong New England theme (prep, college & NWHL).
Hi! I’m Ray and I’m a hockey dad. In addition, I am a below average hockey player with an above average love of the game. Both my kids play youth hockey here in northern California. This hockey season, if there is one, my kids will be playing U14, with my daughter being a 2006 birth year and my son is a 2007. I have no expectations for where hockey will take my kids other than I know that hockey will help them develop life skills they can take anywhere.
Crazy Hockey Parent?
At the same time, like any somewhat-crazy hockey parent, over the past few years I have tried to give my kids every opportunity to be the best they can be when it comes to hockey. This includes waking up at well-before the break of dawn multiple times a week to take them to practices and private lessons at our local rink (which is almost 20 miles away) plus travelling 300+ miles each way for regular season games in SoCal.
My daughter has only played on boys teams so far during her hockey experiences, last season playing on a slightly above-average Bantam AA team. So, we think she is probably an above average 2006 girl player, but we don’t really know how she compares. This spring we had planned for her to attend several girls recruiting showcases and go through the USA Hockey Selects process. The expectation was we could really get a good feel for where she was in her development and hopefully receive feedback from college recruiters/coaches on how she compares to her peer group.
From Quarantine to Champs App
Well, we all know what happened in March 2020 as hockey and the world shut down due to the Corona virus. With all the showcases, tournaments and USA hockey camps cancelled, that’s when I took it upon myself to help kickstart the recruiting process for my daughter. I assumed building an online profile page for my daughter which included key information plus highlight videos would be a start. So I decided to try to build my own website using a popular website builder.
After several days of manipulating a web template that was created for a completely different audience, I was able to get it to look pretty good. However, I couldn’t imagine other hockey parents trying to do this on their own. I then looked at other sites that are in the “college athlete recruiting” business and while they did offer the ability to create basic profiles, they seemed more concerned with upselling you on advisory services. I asked myself why isn’t there a simple “LinkedIn”-like app for the women’s hockey community? In addition, there must be thousands of parents out there just like me trying to figure out how they can help their kids on their athletic journey.
Time to Build
Having done several startups I wanted to see if someone else thought this was a viable idea. I contacted my friend John Lorance who is a technical genius and someone I have partnered with off-and-on for almost 15 years. Turns out he had been thinking about a similar type of platform for a completely different audience, but with many of the same characteristics. He liked the idea of building such an engine and using youth athletics as the perfect use case.
This is how the idea for Champs was born. The Champs mission is to help youth athletes be the best they can be. Specifically, assisting them to meet their goals in both academics and athletics.
We are planning to take a slightly different approach on how to navigate these challenges and get to the next level, whether it is their next team, next level, prep school, juniors, college or pros. By focusing on creating a lifelong sports network and community, athletes can both promote themselves and find resources/opportunities via the Champs App.
Drop the Puck!
Given my personal passion, Champs will focus first on hockey and specifically Women’s Ice Hockey. The cliché I’ve heard frequently is how hockey is a small community and everyone knows everyone, so Champs will be a good test. As we grow, we hope our community pulls us into adjacent sports, especially since we know many hockey players are multi-sport athletes.
So welcome to Champs! I am sure there will be ups and downs along the way as we figure this out. Hopefully you can be part of the journey as we all try to enable youth athletes to strive to achieve our mission.
P.S. Here is a screenshot of the web page I designed back in February that spawned the creation of Champs. When the app launches, I will update this post with a link to her profile on Champs