Expectations: The Four-Way Intersection in Youth Sports

By Michael Rand - Special to USA Hockey
 

Communication, the expression goes, is a two-way street. In youth hockey associations, though, communication

 is the key to navigating a complicated four-way intersection between individual players, parents, coaches and the team as a whole.

Each entity has a set of ideal expectations for the others

– best illustrated by a matrix showing the flow of expectations from group to group (see image at the end of this story). While some might seem like common sense, associations are diverse groups filled with kids and adults of varying backgrounds.

The way to make sure everyone is on the same page – and the right page as the season begins anew – is clear, says Brian Copeland, Junior Tigers hockey director and coaching education coordinator for the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association (CSAHA).

“For us, it all starts with communication,”

Copeland says. “We probably over-communicate. We don’t want there to be any questions about why we run our program a certain way.”

Learning Curve

The CSAHA has earned USA Hockey Model Association status. All Model Associations have fully committed to the age-appropriate skill development best practices within the American Development Model (ADM). Copeland is a firm believer in the ADM and is looking for long-term gains.

“The consistent message from us is that it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” Copeland says. “We might be doing things at the 10-year-old level that might not win us the most games. One of our bantam teams went undefeated, and if you trace back to when they were squirts, maybe that team only won 30 percent of their games. Yes we’re going to lose some games because we don’t focus on dumping the puck in on our power play.”

Communicating that message to parents, however, has required what Copeland terms a “learning curve.” Still, creating that clear expectation through communication is essential and is part of what a parent should expect from a coach and association.

“It’s a development model, and we’re pretty up-front about the fact that this is our program,” Copeland says. “Anyone who wants to be trained here, we will welcome you with open arms. But if you think there’s another model you want to be associated with, we’re not going to stand in your way. What we find is that almost anyone who does leave for a year tends to come back pretty quickly.”

Working with Parents

The communication between coaches and parents in the CSAHA has a trickle-down effect, too, to the relationship between parents and kids. Parents who aren’t on board with a team’s direction are more likely to create havoc.

“It’s really association and coach to parent,” Copeland says when asked what area of communication often needs the most attention. “What we’ve learned is kids want to play. It doesn’t matter what structure we put on the ice. They’re having fun. It’s usually the car ride home where things start to get slanted in a certain direction.”

This comes from two opposite extremes: parents new to the sport whose “sole focus is on their kid and not the entire association,” Copeland says, and parents who played hockey and might question approaches that are different than the ones they grew up with.

“We try and inform them on why we do it,” Copeland says. “We have some high level (former players) who were a little hesitant to the way we were doing it, but once they see it in action, they’re completely sold.”

Structured but Fun

When it comes to expectations a 10-year-old player should have for a coach, Copeland is clear: coaches should be actively keeping players engaged, but players should be ready for structure as well.

“As soon as a kid that age stops having fun, they’re done with hockey. So we have to find a way to make it fun, but there’s also nothing wrong with running a disciplined practice,” Copeland says. “It’s the same as a third- or fourth-grade teacher would do in a classroom. You have to keep them engaged to learn, but you can’t have an unruly classroom at the same time.”

Repeating the Message

Even when messages are conveyed clearly and expectations are laid out properly, it can take more than one try for everything to fall into place.

Copeland says the CSAHA often has follow-up meetings with parents throughout the year – often reinforced with USA Hockey training videos and other educational materials – to remind them of the association goals and to keep them supportive without interfering.

Young players, too, often need a patient approach from coaches when understanding expectations.

“There are going to be times where three or four coaches are trying to get a message across to a player, and it’s the fifth coach who says it in a way that particular kid gets it,” Copeland says. “Sometimes it can be the tone, sometimes it can be the actual message. We try and give them multiple messages under the same direction, hoping that one of them connects.”

Copeland once again used the term “over-communicate.” But when setting expectations in a youth hockey association, maybe there really isn’t such a thing?

Hockey News

Expectations: The Four-Way Intersection in Youth Sports

By Michael Rand - Special to USA Hockey
 

Communication, the expression goes, is a two-way street. In youth hockey associations, though, communication

 is the key to navigating a complicated four-way intersection between individual players, parents, coaches and the team as a whole.

Each entity has a set of ideal expectations for the others

Read more ...

7 Americans Selected in the NHL Draft First Round

2015 NHL Draft Central

06/26/2015, 8:15pm MDT
By USAHockey.com
 

SUNRISE, Fla. — Seven Americans were chosen tonight in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. Not since 2010 (11) have more U.S.-born players been selected in the first round.

Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass./Boston University) was the first American selected when the Buffalo Sabres took him second overall, while Noah Hanifin (Norwood, Mass./Boston College) was taken fifth overall by the Carolina Hurricanes. This marks the first time since 2007 that two Americans were among the first five selected.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made Zach Werenski (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich./University of Michigan) the eighth overall pick, marking the first time in NHL Draft history that three NCAA players have been selected in the top-10 picks.

Kyle Connor (Shelby Township, Mich./Youngstown Phantoms) was the next American chosen when the Winnipeg Jets selected him with the 21st pick. Colin White (Hanover, Mass./U.S. National Under-18 Team) was selected 21st by the Ottawa Senators, Brock Boeser (Burnsville, Minn./Waterloo Black Hawks) was chosen with the 23rd pick by the Vancouver Canucks, and Jack Roslovic (Columbus, Ohio/U.S. National Under-18 Team) was taken 25th overall by the Winnipeg Jets to round out American choices in the first round.

All seven U.S.-born players selected tonight are current or future college hockey players, marking the most NCAA first-round picks since 2010 (7). In addition to all seven players having ties to the United States Hockey League, the only Tier I junior league in the United States, five players (Eichel, Hanifin, Roslovic, Werenski, and White) spent time with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.

The 2015 NHL Draft will resume tomorrow (June 27) when rounds two through seven take place. Coverage will take place on The NHL Network and begin at 10 a.m. ET.

Ron DeGregorio has announced that he is retiring from the presidency at USAH. Through his leadership, USA Hockey has evolved into arguably the leading hockey federation in the world today.

From championing the USA Hockey SafeSport Program in 2012 to helping fuel national support for passage of the organization’s Progressive Checking Skill Development Program in 2011,

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