Dave LaBuda - National Referee-in-Chief
USA Hockey officials are about to be introduced to their first RODEO. Project RODEO is a new program being developed by USA Hockey to enhance officiating education and ultimately improve the overall quality of amateur officiating in the country. Through new technology integration, Project RODEO (Rebuilding Officiating Development Education Opportunities) will become a significant focus of USA Hockey next season. But how will it affect members?
Dave LaBuda, USA Hockey’s national referee-in-chief, recently sat down with us to learn more about Project RODEO and what the program means for officials across the country.
USA Hockey: What is Project RODEO all about?
Dave LaBuda: Project RODEO is a multi-stage project that USA Hockey authorized during the 2013 winter meetings. It initially tasked the officiating program to do a top-to-bottom review of our education programs and materials, update those materials, and integrate the latest technologies and delivery systems available. This is all to provide a more meaningful educational experience, one that will improve the overall quality of amateur officiating.
USA Hockey: When you requested this project, did you feel you were lacking in these areas in providing education and information to your members?
Dave LaBuda: Much like our coaching education program at USA Hockey recently completed, we felt it was time that on the officiating education side to take a step forward in using technology to deliver education to our officials. It has also been beneficial to review our overall education material and make modifications as necessary.
USA Hockey: Technology might scare some people off. Do you foresee this being a difficult resource to access or use or understand?
Dave LaBuda: Just look at how technology has integrated itself into our daily lives over the last 10 years. The pace of development and the sophistication of the technology expands exponentially each year. We’re adapting a number of the formats and the way we approach teaching subject matter into Project RODEO and making it a part of our seminar education program.
USA Hockey: Are there different components to the project, and is it available now? Or when/where can officials access it?
Dave LaBuda: Project RODEO has three phases. Phase One is the development of an online rulebook application. It will utilize smartphone technology and provide our officials access to the rulebook electronically. Let’s say an official looks up a particular rule. When that official finds that rule, right away there will be links available to casebook situations, which are situations that have come up that involve that rule but may not specifically be addressed by that rule. They can use these as reference points. Then there will be another set of links that will take them to video clips of those situations so they can visually see and hopefully bring a fuller meaning to what they’ve just read. Phase One is currently under development. The release date for that is January 2014.
We’re also developing Phase Two, which are the online education modules. Up to this point, all of our officials have to attend a preseason seminar in order to complete their registration with USA Hockey. The seminars basically cover mechanics, procedures and rules. We’ll still require a certain amount of group classroom time where everyone is together and talking and discussing issues, but we’re also going to integrate a certain amount of online education that’s associated with each level of registration. The online modules are going to give us the opportunity to integrate recorded presentations that include game footage to highlight and emphasize material that’s being covered in that particular module. There will also be elective modules available that officials can take based on what they feel they need more work on.
Phase Three is the development of a continuing education library. This will be a place where all of our educational modules will be stored, along with additional videos that officials can view at their leisure to broaden their knowledge and understanding of the game and help improve their skills on the ice.
USA Hockey: What changes should the officials expect for next season's registration process?
Dave LaBuda: Starting with next year’s registration season – which starts August 1, 2014 – officials will be required to attend a reduced amount of group classroom time. They will also have to complete a specific amount of time going through the online modules. That’s really the only difference.
USA Hockey: How do you think officials will react to these changes?
Dave LaBuda: We expect there will be a lot of excitement among officials with the use of technology as a more central part of the education process. Ultimately we’re trying to provide the best tools for our officials to help them advance to the level they seek to achieve.
USA Hockey: Does this mean more work for officials?
Dave LaBuda: It doesn’t. What we’re doing is improving the overall educational process by utilizing technology. Our officials will enjoy the changes to the program and we’re confident they’ll find them to be very valuable.
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