For quite a while now, there has been constant, ongoing demand for virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program has been proactive in the online space to keep their coaching community engaged during this time.
Most recently, USA Hockey’s CEP hosted a two-day, disabled hockey coaching clinic, in advance of the Disabled Hockey Workshop, which is set to take place virtually on Saturday, November 14.
Chuck Gridley, who serves as the New York District Coach-In-Chief, was in charge of leading the disabled hockey coaching clinic and is no stranger to the virtual format as he is responsible for hosting all coaching clinics for the state of New York.
“It’s certainly not new for me,” Gridley said. “The guy who produces the New York clinics for me also produced this clinic so I felt that it ran really smoothly, which always makes for a good experience.”
The clinic, which took place virtually November 9-10, featured a variety of presenters and incorporated a combination of general coaching curriculum, along with disabled hockey discipline-specific breakout sessions.
“We take some of the general curriculum from our coaching clinics and we add additional content that would be beneficial to coaches in the disabled hockey community.” Gridley said. “I think it’s important that people hear from multiple people in order to maximize their experience.”
In addition to Gridley, attendees heard from U.S. National Sled Hockey Team head coach David Hoff as well as general manager Dan Brennan, who both shared their experiences working with the National Team with a particular focus on planning practices.
Toni Gillen, the Minnesota District Rep for USA Hockey’s Disabled Hockey section, led the discussion around Special Hockey, including some of the challenges coaches may face coaching Special Hockey.
USA Hockey’s blind hockey discipline representative, Doris Donley, was joined by Kathy Beaver, who serves as Vice President of Rehabilitation at the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI), to lead the breakout conversation on blind hockey.
Along with the discipline-specific breakouts, Gridley devoted parts of the clinic to fundamental coaching skills, including the five elements of practice and creating practice plans.
“There is so much that is bigger than hockey when it comes to working with these athletes,” Gridley said. “But it is still really important to know how to demonstrate, how to observe and how to provide feedback when working with any athlete.”
While the disabled hockey coaching clinic has the added perspective of coaching disabled athletes, Gridley said the main takeaway is generally always the same.
“Hockey is hockey,” said Gridley. “While disabled hockey coaches may face different challenges, hockey is hockey at the end of the day and we’re here to help our coaches grow and develop into the best coaches so we can in turn grow our players into not only great players, but also good people.”
Gridley praised the online format for various reasons, but cited that most importantly virtual clinics have allowed for more coaches to gather together from all over compared to when they are held in-person at the local level.
With roughly 20 coaches participating, it was beneficial for attendees to hear from coaches across the country and to share in their experiences and successes.
“It’s always nice to see attendees learn from each other’s experiences,” Gridley said. “It makes my job easy at times, because I can guide these different discussions, but a lot of the learning is coming from each other.
“They’re dealing with things that other coaches are not and they come away knowing that other people are doing the same thing for the same reasons and they end up learning a lot from each other.”
After the success of this clinic, Gridley says he anticipates having another disabled hockey coaching clinic at some point this season.
The Disabled Hockey Workshop, which will take place Saturday, November 14, will feature 10 different presenters across four different sessions. For more information including the schedule of events, presenters and how to register, click here.