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Offseason Reflection Unlocks Your Coaching Potential

04/30/2014, 5:00pm MDT
By Jessi Pierce

After months of hard work and team bonding, the hockey season is complete. By now, you’ve collected the team jerseys and parked your skates behind the golf clubs, or maybe the lawnmower.

So now what?

It’s the perfect time for reflection and self-examination.

Most coaches send their players into the offseason with an evaluation, ideally one that suggests how they can improve for next year. But what about the coach who is looking to improve? How can he or she use the offseason to elevate their own performance?

“It’s important that each coach looks back and evaluates his or her season,” said Mark Tabrum, USA Hockey’s director of the coaching education program. “That includes everything from the pre-planning stages in the beginning of the year to the end-of-year activities.”

Coaches should look back at the accomplishments, but not necessarily at the trophy case. Player development is paramount – particularly in youth hockey – and the most important question coaches should ask themselves is, “did my players improve?” After that, coaches should think in broad strokes. “Did I improve as a coach?” “Was my overall management of the season and the schedule as good as I wanted it to be?” “Were there specific situations that I handled particularly well? How about situations I wish I would have handled differently?”

Taking the time to evaluate questions like these will help coaches bring out their own full potential in addition to their players’ potential.

Evaluate Your Players

What a player learned throughout the season can be the biggest measure of a coach’s success.

“You have to look at it from skill development standpoints,” said Tabrum. “Are the players better in the areas they need to be in order to play at that next level? You want them to be prepared. By doing that, you’ve accomplished your goal as a coach for the season.”

If a player struggled skating backwards at the beginning of the year, they should be more confident in doing it at the end. If it’s their first year of playing, they should have learned the fundamentals and improved on their execution of those fundamentals by that last game or practice.

Meeting with players to discuss what they learned will also help. While end-of-the-year player evaluations are meant to help players improve, Michigan State University men’s hockey coach Tom Anastos uses them to improve himself and his coaching staff.

“As a part of our end-of-the-year player meetings, I gather feedback from them,” said Anastos. “It not only helps me see how invested they are in the team and how they feel they progressed this season, but it helps us as coaches get better, too.

“Sometimes through their input we learn things that maybe we didn’t think about and gives us the idea to work on that for next season.”

Evaluate Your Team

Whether your team skated to the conference championship or experienced a year with only one win, the final score isn’t necessarily the best measure of long-term player development.

“At the beginning of each season, we set goals,” Anastos said. “Once we lay out the team objectives and the expectations, I want to make sure those goals are met to the best of our ability.

“That doesn’t always mean we have to win the NCAA championship or the conference. But what goals should be met are the ones where we grow as a unit.”

Both Tabrum and Anastos agree that a primary goal of any team and coach should be to learn, improve and have fun. If you reach those marks, it makes the experience enjoyable for all players – the biggest goal of all.

“When all is said and done, you want to know if all of them want to come back and play next year,” said Tabrum. “As a coach, you want to make sure you created that environment where the players had fun and enjoyed their experience. Those are the players that are going to keep coming back to play. And those are the players that are going to love the game.”

Make It a Habit

Evaluating yourself and the team should be an ongoing process, not just an end-of-the-season exercise.

“It’s my tendency to constantly be in evaluation and re-evaluation,” said Anastos. “I believe that’s the only way you’re going to get better. That doesn’t always mean you are changing things, but I think gathering lots of input and educating yourself throughout the course of the year can be incredibly beneficial.”

The more time you take to step back and evaluate yourself, the more opportunities you have to improve upon your successes and learn from your mistakes.

Preparing for Next Season – and the Next Level

The season’s end can also mean the end of coaching at that level. If you want to follow your team up from peewees to bantams or 8U to 10U, it’s important to make sure you’re ready for the changes.

Utilize coaching clinics, the USA Hockey coaching website and the USA Hockey Mobile Coach App to educate and ready yourself for that next step.

There’s always room for improvement. Take the time to strive for it. It will help you be the best coach you can be – at any level.

“Just like you want the kids to be prepared for that next level, you need to be prepared for that, too,” Tabrum said. “Know what goes with each level of play. Know what rules change at each level and know your progression.”

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Update on 2015-16 USA Hockey Officiating Registration

07/08/2015, 5:15pm MDT
By David LaBuda, USA Hockey National Referee-in-Chief

District Referees-in-Chief implement changes to registration procedures

As we enter the 2015-16 registration season for officials, I want to give an update of what changes to expect this season.

The Officials Section has been busy since the 2015 Winter Meeting, working on implementing the registration changes that were discussed and voted on by the district referees-in-chief, along with refining the testing and online seminar programs.

For 2015-16, there will be an informational video available before an official registers with USA Hockey outlining the requirements and commitment that an individual will need to fulfill in order to complete their registration.


Next, and a very important change, starting with this season, in order to register for a seminar, an official will have to first register as an official (online) with USA Hockey in order to gain access to the online program to register for a seminar.

This change was due to a number of individuals who would never register as an official with USA Hockey and then ‘no show’ to the seminar that they registered for, which frequently led to other registered officials being denied attendance at that seminar because the seating capacity had already been reached.

This change will provide more incentive for every individual who registers as an official -- and registers for a seminar -- to attend that seminar and complete the registration requirements.

The open-book testing process has also been modified for the coming season. What hasn’t changed is that a Level 1 official will still have to answer the first 50 questions, while Level 2, 3 & 4 officials will have to answer 100 questions. However, the passing score for a Level 2 official has been modified to 80 from 85. All other passing scores remain the same as last year. Those minimum passing scores are 35 for a Level 1 official and 90 for Levels 3 and 4.

While an official is taking the open-book exam, there will be immediate feedback provided after each answer is submitted. If the question was answered incorrectly, the rule reference for that missed question will be given with the appropriate rule book language.

After completing all of the required questions, a summary will be sent of all incorrect responses with their rule references. If a passing score is obtained, then the open-book exam requirement will be complete.

If the result is a failing score, after the seven-day waiting period has passed, the official will only have to retake those questions that were incorrectly answered on their first open-book exam. The retake questions will be based on the same rule reference as the originally missed questions, but will cover a different aspect of the rule.

Once all of the retake questions are answered, the number of correctly answered retake questions will be added to the original test score to hopefully obtain a passing grade. As a reminder, there is no third attempt to pass the open-book exam.

During the winter meeting, the Officials Section spent considerable time discussing seminar program feedback, and in particular, the online modules. All feedback was taken seriously and an action plan was discussed and adopted.

Two work groups were established to address the new classroom curriculums and to improve the online video modules. Both were comprised of grassroots members who could bring a grassroots perspective to their work. Both groups have completed their work and their recommendations have been adopted. The new shortened classroom curriculums have been distributed for application to this coming seminar season and the online modules are being re-engineered with improved formatting, better sequencing, animation replacing some video clips and reduction of music and voice-overs to allow the viewer to better focus on the presented material.

We’ve also evaluated the number of required modules for each level, and based on the user analytics that the first years’ experience produced, we have reduced the number of required modules in some cases.

Lastly, as a reminder, once an official begins their first online module, they will need to complete all of their online module training within a specified time period. The online module completion time periods are 60 days for Level 1 registered officials and 45 days for Levels 2, 3 and 4. If all of the required and elective modules are not completed within the specified time frame, the official will have to restart all of the module training from the beginning. This requirement was waived during last year’s registration season due to the delayed rollout of the online module program, but it’s back in place this year.

This completion requirement was put in place by the District RICs to encourage all officials to complete their registration as early as possible and to provide continuity in the overall seminar education process.

As a reminder, to complete an official’s registration an applicant must:

  • Register online with USA Hockey
  • Register and attend a classroom seminar (reduced attendance times depending on registration level)
  • Complete the required and elective online training modules within the required time frame
  • Pass the open-book exam at their registration level
  • Pass the closed-book exam (no closed-book exam at Level 1) for their registration level
  • Complete their online USA Hockey SafeSport training at the end of every two-year cycle


Work will continue on improving our educational programs, and as always, we will continue actively listening to your constructive feedback. Without your involvement and support as a community, we cannot continue moving forward.  Acknowledging that improvements were needed was only one step in the process.  Implementing those changes in a way that meets the needs of our officiating community is the next step and we’re excited to be taking that step.

Have a great 2015-16 season and as always, skate hard and have fun when you’re on the ice.

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Tag(s): Coaches