It’s been more than a year since USA Hockey’s officiating department welcomed new technology with Project RODEO (Rebuilding Officiating Development, Education, & Opportunities). National leadership gathered in Florida for the 2015 Winter Meetings to reflect on the online training and education system’s first year.
“The officials section sat down and listened to all the feedback we received from the field and through our technology sources,” said USA Hockey’s National Referee-In-Chief Dave LaBuda. “It was important that we saw what went well and what needs to be looked at closer and what we can improve for next season.”
So what changes can officials expect next season? LaBuda tells us.
USA Hockey: How was Year 1 of Project RODEO and the online modules?
Dave LaBuda: The feedback we’ve received from our membership has been mixed. Level 1 and Level 2 officials, the majority of them, feel that the move toward the online seminar program and what we’re trying to do there is very good. The officials at the Level 3 and Level 4 areas have had a little bit of a difficult time transitioning to online. I think that’s kind of reflective of the age groups at those registration levels. At Levels 1 and 2, they’re creatures of the technology ages.
Still we’ve received a fair amount of positive feedback and we’ve listened very carefully to not only the positives, but to the suggestions for improvement. We have done our best to act on those criticisms and suggestions for this coming season.
USAH: What steps have been taken to address the issues?
LaBuda: We have two three-person workgroups that have been tasked with helping us in our improvements. The first group was tasked with going through all of our current online modules and reviewing them for improvements that can be made. That was the first big thing that was decided needed to be done. The second group helped us create a new national platform of curriculum for our classroom sessions for each of our four registration levels.
USAH: How were the workgroups formed?
LaBuda: The workgroups consist of members that come from the grassroots population. They are not the district referee-in-chiefs or a part of the national leadership. We made a conscious decision that our modules need to take into account what the grassroots levels are currently dealing with. People who had experience at that level are the best people to put into these workgroups.
These two workgroups made a big difference in our online seminar program. We’ve also asked our district referee-in-chiefs to have each of their districts develop two new module topics for next year’s sessions, so we’ll always have new modules available to our membership.
USAH: What are the new requirements for classroom sessions?
LaBuda: Before the online program kicked in, all of our classroom sessions were at least eight hours long. But now with the online modules being available, those classroom times have been reduced. The workgroup will put together a curriculum online that will allow our certified seminar instructors to cover the materials in a reduced amount of time in the classroom.
Unfortunately, when we rolled this program out at the beginning of this season, due to some unfortunate production delays, we were unable to establish those new classroom curriculums, so a lot of areas around the country just stayed with their old eight-hour classroom curriculums. The end result was officials were actually putting in more time from an educational standpoint than they needed to in regards to the new minimum standard.
USAH: Is that a bad thing?
LaBuda: Some might say, ‘What’s the problem with more education?’ but we appreciate that time is a very valuable asset. We have every intention of correcting that particular aspect of the seminar program for this coming season, so there will be reduced classroom times.
USAH: The online seminar program was Phase II of Project RODEO. Phase I focused on the Mobile Rulebook. Is that achieving what you had hoped?
LaBuda: Since January 2014 we’ve had more than 98,000 visits to the rulebook application with 58,000 unique visitors. We’re going to continue to update and improve that application with more video clips and things like that, but overall, it has seen some major success. We’re very happy with it.
USAH: Are there any major changes officials need to be aware of for the actual registration this year?
LaBuda: No changes as far as registering online this year.