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New Season, New Curriculum

By USA Hockey, 09/23/21, 12:30PM MDT


Q&A with Mass. Hockey Referee-In-Chief Kevin Donovan

The USA Hockey Officiating Department has taken great strides in the past decade to update and revitalize our curriculum to not only keep up with the times (i.e. written to digital tests etc.) but to also keep up retention.

This offseason, Massachusetts Hockey Referee-In-Chief Kevin Donovan, along with a team of folks, took a look at our seminar programming and tackled updates to make it more time conducive and appealing to new and veteran officials alike.

Here’s what he had to say about the changes and what led to them.


Stripes: What led to the update, and what are some of the key changes?

Kevin Donovan: The first reason we did it, was we were looking at the online modules that are requirements. As we started to look at that, we started to look at the seminar’s intent and sort of piecing them together so they work together harmoniously, not scattered apart.

But when we started to look at the Level 1, particularly new officials, we see that nationally about 35 percent of Level 1s never complete their online modules, part of the requirement to become an official. So, as we looked at that we were discussing as an Referee In Chief (RIC) group, what can we do to really change that; how can we control things.

One of the things we looked at was, if we put the modules into the seminar, so we increase the amount of time we have in each seminar to fulfill all the requirements, that gives us a better opportunity to get the officials complete. They would do their open book or Safesport or background check, if those are required by age, but getting those officials complete gets us the ability to get them on the ice, get them into a mentor program, and get them to see if they like it. If they like it, we’re going to have a great chance of retaining them, so that’s the reason we really changed the Level 1 curriculum. Putting the modules and seminar together so we can control it better and have a better opportunity to get officials on the ice and see if they like it and train them properly and help retention. That is our goal with the Level 1.

Next, there was a subcommittee of RICs that pulled in seminar coordinators and asked them: OK, you teach the seminars, how do we put this all together? What are you finding are some things that block seminar coordinators? And then we start to look at all the different levels now, not just Level 1. We start to revamp this and what turned out was, everybody was doing things differently. We truly didn’t have a seminar across the board.

Seminars in Chicago would be different than Massachusetts and we wanted to sort of try the same seminar. Again, you’re going to have little nuances on local protocols and things like that but as far as education, we wanted to make sure we had education the same throughout the country. So, we created a program, and every seminar was revamped.

What we did do was that we embedded all slides of power point into one area and then we held a training session with 96 seminar coordinators and we ran a training session with them and rolled out the new material. It was great to see how easy it was and how simple it was from the download from USA Hockey to get the deck. The nice thing now is that if we decided we want to make a change, we can simply make that change and push out the new curriculum to them and everyone is teaching the same thing. It made seminar coordinators and leads around the country their job easier with regards to, I’m now getting a national curriculum and everybody’s going to be teaching the same thing.

Stripes: What’s been the reaction so far?

Donovan: They’re all loving it. It’s been great feedback from people we’ve rolled it out to. The simpleness of it. Before, you would have to open up a power point deck or positioning and then open up a deck or offsides and another one for penalties. So now, we have the one slide, and everything is hyperlinked into the download, and everything is hyperlinked right there for them. So, it makes it very simple for them to use.

Stripes: What’s the main goal(s) of the changes?

Donovan: We were really looking at how do we drive materials and retention. The level 1s, we lose 50 percent of new officials every single year. So now we start looking at 35 percent on top of that we never even get them on the ice. So, if we can get 15 percent even of that 35, I’d love to get 20 percent of that 35, and drive them and get them into games and drive retention, I think that’s a very possible thing for us.

The key importance, especially with Level 1, is that we have the right amount of material. Before we threw the kitchen sink at them, we asked, what do you need to get on the ice? You need to understand positioning, the blue line, goal line, how to conduct a face off and how to call some penalties. Do we need to go deep into penalties? Probably not, because they’re starting at the lower-level games which could be cross ice games and not really calling penalties and really tying that development into the mental program. That will work with them.

Stripes: Is this the first major change or update done to seminars?

Donovan: For the seminar and material, yes. This is the first big relaunch of material the way we’ve done it. The last time things changed was when they cut the seminar material down and pushed more things online.

I think the online education is great for the veteran officials where you could have a shorter seminar and get across the points to them and then they can continue to do their education.

This really looked at what is the best way to educate and get all the different learning aspects and mods involved and really catering to that. We’re loving it and the feedback has been great from everyone. We’ve rolled it out and everyone seems to be enjoying it.