“Am I doing it right?”
It’s a question coaches, from the beginners to the most experienced, often ask themselves. With the latest update to the USA Hockey Mobile Coach app (version 4.0), coaches now have a tool that instantaneously tells them if their practice plans have the optimal mix of development components.
The new Practice Plan Analyzer allows coaches to assess practice plans and make sure they are lining up with American Development Model-recommended guidelines.
“You can check where you are on the spectrum,” said Cameron Eickmeyer, USA Hockey's director of internet content and development. “You can compare it with USA Hockey’s age-specific guidelines, get real-time feedback, and then, if you see an area that might be lacking, change your practice plan accordingly.”
Build the practice
Coaches who have previously used the app will notice it’s undergone a facelift and is now easier to navigate. For newcomers, the Practice Plan Analyzer is a part of the Plan Builder section of the app.
After going into the Plan Builder section, click on the plus (+) sign in the upper right-hand corner of your device and create a New Practice Group. After creating a group, click on the plus (+) sign again to create a New Practice Plan.
Once you’re in a new plan, hit the plus (+) sign to choose from the library of 1,500, small-area games and videos.
The app provides prompts on how to build a plan when you first get into the Practice Plan section. For a visual guide, follow this video through the steps to build a plan: https://youtu.be/Wj79kugLRzA.
Analyze the practice
Once you’ve built a practice plan, hit the Analyze Practice button in the tool. You will then be asked what age group the plan is for.
“If you’re a 10U coach, you load in all the drills because you really liked them and they were fun to watch when you saw the NHL team doing them. Now the app gives feedback that says you’re working 90 percent systems at 10U – you’re really not doing what’s right for your kids,” Eickmeyer said. “You immediately can go back into the app and change the drills. Get rid of that power-play drill and put in a small-area game.
“It’s a game-changer for the product.”
USA Hockey has gone through every piece of app content – more than 1,500 drills and videos – and has flagged each drill for what it develops and touches upon hockey-wise.
“So, we look at a drill and say it’s a hockey sense drill and it also works individual skills. Or this drill is goaltending. Or this drill is everything – goaltending, systems, etc.,” Eickmeyer said. “Once we went through and flagged every item in the database, you add that item to your practice plan and get credit for those attributes.”
For example, if you’re supposed to have individual skills and hockey sense at 8U and you add a drill that incorporates systems, the Practice Plan Analyzer will know that you’ve added systems and you shouldn’t have.
The new tool is so smart, it breaks down your practice plan into percentages and lets you know what areas of the game needs to be added.
“Conversely, if you get the right blend of individual skills and hockey sense and hit the mark, the app says, ‘Good job coach, you’ve done it,’” Eickmeyer said. “So, it’s a math equation. It’s the logical end to your plan building. You build the product, the plan, and then you analyze it.”
Just like this version, USA Hockey is always working to improve the tool. This summer, USA Hockey is working on a desktop version of the app and more drilled-down content for the Practice Plan Analyzer for more defined analysis.
For now, no matter what level you are at as a coach, the Practice Plan Analyzer has your back.
“If you have a lot of training and want to get creative with the types of drills you’re putting in, you still want to make sure it’s right for your age group – the app is there for you,” Eickmeyer said. “If you’re brand new, you’ve never coached before, and you don’t know if this plan is good at all, that’s also part of what this tool is here for.
“This is the tip of the iceberg for what we’ll be able to send back to coaches.”