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Coaching Minor Hockey Parents Youth Hockey

How I Applied Lessons from Belfry Hockey

Darryl Belfry Hockey Book

I loved Darryl Belfry’s book Belfry Hockey, but I don’t believe I was Darryl Belfry’s target audience, because I am neither a hockey coach nor a skills instructor.  As I mentioned in my first post, I’m just a hockey dad. I do not profess to be a hockey expert, but I do have a deep passion for helping my two kids who currently play 14U AA youth hockey. Thus, as a parent, what did I hope to learn from Darryl Belfry’s book Belfry Hockey? And how could I help apply these lessons?

My goals when reading Belfry Hockey:

  1. An understanding of which skills are important for my kids to develop (i.e. “Skills That Separate”)
  2. See which skills aren’t getting developed with their current coaches
  3. Figure out my options on how they can fill in the skills gap

One of Darryl’s key training objectives is to help a player learn a skill they can use “tomorrow”. Therefore, given Covid’s impact on our season, I took on the challenge of applying these insights immediately with my kids. Here are the takeaways from Belfry Hockey that I have recently tried to implement with my kids.

Teaching my son the concept of Platform Skills vs. Placeholder Skills

Is the skill you’re using a placeholder skill or a platform skill? There’s a big difference between the two.

Page 122 – Chapter 11: Skill Continuum

My son is both a late birthday and not an early-developer like several of his teammates. Therefore, there are times when he has seen less ice time due to his physical development. At the same time, Belfry perfectly describes some of the placeholder skills that my kids have seen from teammates in peewee and bantam hockey who would be considered the top players on their teams getting those additional minutes.  

Examples of placeholder skills:

  1. Slap shots off the rush
  2. Using straight-line speed to rush by defensemen along the boards
  3. Banging in rebounds in front of the net

Explaining to a 13-year old that he is building better skills so that two or three years from now he will have more translatable skills to the next level is not simple to understand. But having a framework of “platform vs. placeholder skills” is a simple concept to continually reference until his physical development catches up to his peers.

Tracking High-Frequency Events and Success Rates Using Video

When you’re working with video, you have to be very careful that every player in a game is a like a fingerprint. What we want to see is the detail inside of each fingerprint

Page 162 – Chapter 13 – Video-to-Game Transfer

I record almost every game that my kids play. I use two GoPros to video the game from behind the nets and some rinks also have LiveBarn to provide a third angle. As a result, I have a pretty good asset to begin my analysis with. I used to just look at the quality of each shift individually, but thanks to Darryl Belfry I track the game in a whole new way.

Since reading the book, I have created a spreadsheet to do the following:

  1. Track event frequency and success rates
  2. Edit clips together from 3-4 games by event/game situation so my player can see all the same event-types in a single video (typically 60 – 90 seconds of clips).

Here is a partial summary of an “instance list” from a recent weekend of games for my daughter (who plays defense):

Transfer Tracking: Problem Solving Frequency and Success Rates

Our standard is we want to try and get as many high-frequency elements as possible to be an 8 out of 10 success rate

Page 155 – Chapter 10: Triple Helix: Awareness

Using the metrics from the games, my daughter and I were able to watch each clip and the specific situational context for success & failure. As a result, we were able to see certain patterns emerge that could immediately be worked on, here are a couple of examples:

  1. Trouble when playing the off wing

One pattern we identified right away was that she wasn’t recognizing the handedness of the puck carrier which caused her to attack from a poor angle.  This insight was helped by remembering an article about the 88 Summit with Patrick Kane from a couple of years ago.

2. Linear entry vs. change in angle when carrying the puck in across the blue line.

We are now working on way to cross the blue line to get into the “hot zone” with time and space.

Creating Multiple Options for Specific Situations

We want to make sure as part of the Category 1 skills that once the player has established body position and encounters contact, he’s able to use the contact as an asset – an accelerant or an ability to create separation

Page 145 – Chapter 11: Skill Continuum

With my son, one area we have spent a lot of time working on is in the corner or along the wall in the offensive zone.  We have been focused on adding multiple options for him to have in his toolkit for these situations, specifically:

a. The Kane Push:

b. Reverse Hits

c. Skating through the hands:

d. Using the trap door:

e. The Chuck:

We shall see if he is able to apply any of these new skills into a game situation, but at least I know he has them as potential tools in his toolkit.

As I used to write in my Grade 5 book reviews, I really liked Belfry Hockey and I recommend it to all my hockey friends and coaches. I plan to write one more post about Belfry Hockey so that a few more concepts are brought to life via visuals and video that are a little hard to digest from just reading the book.

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Minor Hockey Youth Hockey

How to Develop a Great Hockey Player: Grit

In this final post about how to develop a great hockey player, we discuss grit. Grit is the ability for a player to demonstrate focus and determination to overcome the inevitable challenges that come with high-level hockey.

Overcoming Adversity

In hockey, many “early bloomers” don’t face adversity at a young age. If your player is lucky enough to be the best player on their team when they are 12, 13, 14 or even 15, their world will likely change when they start playing against the best players in their age group. This can come from peers starting to catch up via size and speed. Or it can come from playing against better players by moving from being a “big fish in a small pond” to being a “small fish in a big pond”.

I have seen firsthand how learning from failure early on in my kids’ hockey development has helped them become more resilient, focused and competitive. One of the biggest drivers of my their developing some grit was them not making the team they wanted to when one was 10 and the other was 11 years old.

Being Coachable

While grit is about handling adversity, players also need to be able to handle feedback and being coachable. Every coach is different so being able to adapt to situations where the player-coach relationship is not ideal is another challenge that will likely need to be overcome. How is your player’s body language when hearing constructive feedback?  A player’s ability to “learn how to learn” is a secret weapon that can be one the primary factors in their success. It is what Sidney Crosby considers one of his greatest assets.

Learning to Compete

For some players being competitive is in their DNA, for others it is a learned skill. How driven are you to “be the best you can be” while still being a good teammate?  Specifically, how do you handle yourself both on and off the ice.  Keeping in mind the ups and down of a game and a season. As mentioned in my first post in this series, hockey development is a marathon not a sprint.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

If your player is old enough (>12 years old) then I would strongly recommend having them read Angela Duckworth’s Grit. The book details why naturally talented people many times fail to succeed, but others with less obvious skill have the tenacity to persevere and overcome challenges to develop into leaders in their fields. Finding a way for your player to have a passionate persistence to get better every day is the last ingredient needed to develop a great hockey player.

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

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Parents Youth Hockey

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

In this fifth post about how to develop a great hockey player, we discus how talent, natural gifts and luck play a key role in hockey development. While it is possible to consider these attributes out of a player’s or parent’s control, they can certainly be influenced.

Natural Gifts

Let’s be candid, being blessed with size and/or speed gives a young player an advantage. Combine that with the luck of being born in the first 3 months of the year and basically they are born on first or second base (to mix our sports metaphors). They are given a lead over their peers that combined with the other factors that contribute to being a great player can be hard to catch-up to. In addition, natural talent also helps. If you just don’t have the coordination or adeptness for the game it can be hard to come. I was at a game recently, where the natural build of one of players was just not a “hockey body”, short legs big trunk, so not matter how hard this player tried, they just couldn’t keep up with the top players on the ice and likely would never will.  However, having natural gifts, while necessary are not sufficient for greatness. 

Talent

The one attribute which you may not be born with but can develop is talent. Hard work is essential.  Getting better every day. Because even if you were born with talent you have to continue to improve, otherwise others will pass you over time. There is a long list of talented players whose NHL careers didn’t appear to achieve their full potential (names who come to mind are Rob Schremp, Josh Ho Hsiang and Nail Yakapov) despite being having tremendous natural talent. These types of players struggled to sustain lengthy careers because they were not able to fill in gaps in their game.  As you make it to each new level, players can’t just continue to rely on just their natural gifts they need a work ethic and a continuous improvement mindset.

Luck

Yes, luck plays a role in hockey. And not just puck luck. For example, I know of a youth player who didn’t make a team they tried out for and then ended up playing for a fantastic coach that changed the trajectory of the player’s hockey development.  In another instance, a player was able to get more power-play and penalty-kill time because a teammate broke their leg (well, not so lucky for the teammate). Even at the pros, whether it is a scout who just happens to be in the stands for a game, finding the right coach or team situation, luck can certainly play a role in which path a player follows and can accelerate their road to greatness.

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

Categories
Coaching Parents Youth Hockey

How to Develop a Great Hockey Player: Quality Coaching

In this fourth post about how to develop a great hockey player, the focus is on quality coaching.  Let me be clear that I am not talking about what makes a great coach. What I am talking about is a coach who makes a great player. These are not necessarily the same thing. For example, a coach who only plays his best players at 12 years old in order to win games and championships at the expense of all the development of half the team is not necessarily a great coach, but if your kids is the one getting lots of ice time and feedback, then that coach could indeed be accelerating the development of that individual player.  I hope to write another post about what makes a great coach at a later date.

Time & Effort: 

First and foremost a coach who cares by putting the work to help at both the team and individual level is the table stakes for developing into great player.

Technical Expertise:

Striking the balance between leaning how to play team hockey and individual skills development. Specifically, the basics like skating, shooting, puckhandling but also position-specific tools to be great at their position (both on offense and defense – unless you are a goalie). Examples would be on-ice positioning, decision making, finding time and space, creativity and using deception.

Feedback: 

A quality coach gives feedback that is actionable to the player. They personalize the communication so the individual can understand how to change their behavior in a way that is specific to them. Darryl Belfry wrote an excellent chapter on how to give feedback in his new book Belfry Hockey.

Motivation:

While the old-school hockey way has been motivation by intimidation, times have changed. And each individual player is different. But finding a coach who can get the most out of a player by figuring which buttons to push to help make them a great player is obviously a critical attribute.

Enables Grit:

I will talk about this more in my next post, but teaching a player how to be resilient during the ups and down of a season.  Helping teach a player the tools to handle failure and overcome obstacles is one of the key life lessons that hockey is supposed to teach youth athletes.

Encourages two-way communication:

Every hockey coach is different and each has their own philosophies on how they want their players to play the game. As your player moves from coach to coach they will bring their past experience and habits/methods from their past coaches with them. The ability for a great player to discuss and debate with a coach the “why” and the “how” a certain situation should be played is a critical problem solving skill great players should possess.

My favorite book on a great coach who developed great players is “Thank You Coach” by former CFL player Angus Reid who had a long football career despite being highly undersized to play the center position. The book is dedicated to a coach who taught him what he needed to be a successful player despite “having no business playing professional football for 13 years”.

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

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Coaching hockey Parents Podcast Women's Hockey Youth Hockey

#1 – The Hockey Think Tank Podcast

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

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

Girls Hockey Talk

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

Must-Listen for Parents

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

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

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

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

Previous Podcasts on the Top 10 List:

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

#9 – From the Point Women’s Hockey Podcast

#8 – The Lyndsey Fry Hockey Audio Experience

#7 – Let’s Go! Hockey Podcast

#6 – Over the Goal Line: A CUWIH Podcast

#5 – The Curious Competitor with Connor Carrick

#4 – Glass and Out Podcast by The Coaches Site

#3 – Grassroots: The Minor Hockey Show

#2 – RUSH Hockey Talk