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High-Performance Coaching Symposiums a Highlight in Philadelphia, Saint Paul

By Jayson Hron - USA Hockey, 09/28/16, 8:00AM MDT

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Philadelphia was a confluence of player development last week with USA Hockey’s All-American Prospects Game, Flyers training camp and an impressive high-performance coaching symposium undercard at the Wells Fargo Center.

More than 300 coaches from USA Hockey’s Atlantic District attended the symposium, which provided Level 1, 2 or 3 Coaching Education Program certification. Symposium presenters included Flyers assistant coaches Ian Laperriere and Joe Mullen, along with Penn State men’s hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky, and Atlantic District Coach-in-Chief Mike Lichtenberger.

“It was great to see so many coaches and to see how invested they are in learning,” said USA Hockey’s Joe Bonnett, who along with Roger Grillo and Phil Osaer, added presentations and conversations about USA Hockey’s American Development Model. Bonnett also helped lead a high-performance practice for Atlantic District 16- and 17-year-olds on the Flyers’ home ice, narrated for the observing coaches by Grillo.

“The ADM practice plan we used was a practice plan built for the National Team Development Program, so it was created specifically for high-performance training at that specific age level,” said Bonnett. “It built off Roger’s presentation on age-specific training concepts for the top end of the ADM age group, so that’s what the coaches were able to see in use with the players.”

The Wednesday practice also included goalie-specific training led by Osaer, USA Hockey’s ADM manager for goaltending, who continued his nationwide nurturing of netminders.

“They have a great group of young hockey players in that area,” said Osaer. “The time spent on the ice working with some of the Atlantic District’s best goaltenders was fun, and another highlight for me was the commentary from Guy, Joe and Ian – elite coaches – talking about the importance of developing good habits and skills in youth players, rather than systems, and also keeping game results in the proper perspective.”

After a night of rest, the invitee players reconvened at the Wells Fargo Center for an Atlantic District Futures Game prior to the All-American Prospects Game.

“That’s the first time Atlantic District has done a Futures Game, maybe in forever, and it was well-played,” said Lichtenberger. “It showed everybody what those players could do.

Lichtenberger was delighted with the post-symposium feedback, citing several “best-ever clinic” responses and plaudits to the presenters and the on-ice practice portion of the event.

“It was fantastic,” said Lichtenberger, who saluted Atlantic District Director of Player Development John Riley, a Flyers scout, for helping make it all possible.

“We touched almost every segment of the youth hockey coaching community and it went very well. Looking to the future, we’d like to add a girls and women’s hockey component to it as well.”

Boudreau Busy in Minnesota

Philadelphia’s high-performance symposium was one of two cooperative CEP events sponsored by USA Hockey affiliates and their local NHL teams last week. The other was in Minnesota, where the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association (MHCA), Minnesota Hockey, USA Hockey, State of Hockey, SportsEngine and the Wild led a two-day coaching summit that included a star-studded presentation group led by Minnesota’s new head coach Bruce Boudreau, fresh from his opening days of Wild training camp.

New among that leadership group is State of Hockey, a venture backed by the Minnesota Wild, which aims to bottle the passion Minnesotans have for the sport of hockey to celebrate and promote the game at all levels. Jamie Spencer, who heads State of Hockey, partnered with the aforementioned groups to encourage coaches to convene in Saint Paul.

“We had over 300 coaches here from all levels receiving on-ice instruction, tips from the pros and the opportunity to learn from one another,” said Spencer. “We hope this event continues to grow and we will proudly continue to serve as the catalyst for opportunities to develop and grow the game.”

Several top college coaches were also on the Minnesota presentation docket, including Brad Berry (North Dakota), Chris Brown (Augsburg), Joe Doyle (Air Force), Tony Granato (Wisconsin), Mike Hastings (Minnesota State), Don Lucia (Minnesota), Bob Motzko (St. Cloud State), Scott Sandelin (Minnesota Duluth) and Tom Serratore (Bemidji State). USA Hockey’s trio of Grillo, Osaer and Guy “Goose” Gosselin also attended, providing age-appropriate player development insights. USA Hockey National Coach-in-Chief Mike MacMillan, who serves as executive director of the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association, led the proceedings with MHCA president and USA Hockey CEP instructor Mark Manney.

The State of Hockey High-Performance Summit (previously known as the MHCA High School Fall Clinic) is in its 17th season of working with the Wild, and it offered a new twist for 2016. Attendee coaches could earn their Level 1, 2, 3 or 4 USA Hockey CEP certification, expanding the event’s scope to include youth hockey coaches in addition to its traditional roots of high school coaches, who use the event to gain USA Hockey certification and interaction with player development colleagues from outside the Minnesota State High School League.

"We have been fortunate in Minnesota to have a long-term working relationship with the Minnesota Wild, who have continued to support hockey in our state from 8U through the professional ranks,” said MacMillan. “They’ve gone above and beyond to support youth, high school and college hockey in our state and treat our relationships as a hockey family. It’s exciting to see the NHL teams around our country team up with USA Hockey to support coach education, which is the backbone of player development. The events in Minnesota and Philadelphia are great examples of the power of working together to support our coaches.”

From the Wild perspective, that grassroots involvement is integral in growing and improving the game.

“It’s our mission to create a greater State of Hockey,” said Minnesota Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka. “It’s critically important to us and to the health of our sport that we continue to foster opportunities for growth in all areas of the game. It was a privilege to offer our support and partnership to USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey for this important grassroots coaching education here in Saint Paul.”


St. Cloud State men's hockey head coach Bob Motzko talks during a college hockey coaches panel at last week's State of Hockey High-Performance Summit.

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The Referee Section of USA Hockey recently met during Annual Congress and discussed a variety of issues that will have an impact in the success of the officiating program. Many of those issues relate back to the successful completion of the registration requirements and the retention of officials.

Streamlining the registration process and maximizing the efficiency of our educational platforms are always a priority and the following Q-and-A will highlight those changes that every official should be aware of heading into the new season.

USA Hockey: What is the biggest change made to the registration requirements for this season?

Matt Leaf: With more and more seminars transitioning to a virtual format, the Referees-in-Chief (RIC) have determined that there really is no need for the closed book exams. So, level 2, 3 and 4 officials this season will no longer be required to submit a closed book (or modified online closed book exam) upon completion of the seminar requirement. Instead, the open book exams have been expanded to 75 questions for level 2 and 100 questions each for level 3 and level 4.

The RICs acknowledged that the purpose of the exams has always been as a means to encourage rule knowledge, so more effort was made to put together open book exam questions that will encourage the officials to open the Rules/Casebook in an effort to not only learn the rule, but more importantly, understand the spirit and intent of the rule.

USAH: Are there any other changes to the exam process

ML: The only other change to the exams deal with those who do not pass the original exam. Level 2, 3 and 4 officials will now be able to complete their retake exam 24 hours after failing their original exam. Level 1 officials will still need to wait seven days as we want them to slow down and take some time reviewing the rules so they can gain a better understanding and improve their chances for success on the ice.

USAH: What changes, if any, have been made to the seminars? Are all officials still required to attend a seminar each season?

ML: Yes, except for Tenured Officials, all officials are required to attend a seminar for the level that they apply for each season. So, a Level 1 official must attend a Level 1 seminar, Level 2 attends a Level 2 and then Level 3 and 4 seminars will be combined as one seminar in many cases.

Level 1 officials are strongly encouraged to attend a seminar in their own area and most areas will mainly conduct in-person Level 1 seminars. Although there will be some hybrid Level 1 seminars with both a virtual and in-person component, the key here is that every Level 1 official is required to attend a Level 1 seminar ice session. This may require some additional coordination of scheduling for these new officials, but the reality is this on-ice practice is so critical to any future success they may have on the ice that the RICs feel it is critical that the ice session is part of their educational experience.

Level 2 seminars will also include an on-ice component that Level 2 officials need to be aware of when they plan their seminar attendance. The vast majority of Level 3 and Level 4 seminars will be virtual and officials are encouraged to attend a seminar at a date and time that is convenient for them.

USAH: Have there been any changes to the curriculum for the various levels?

ML: The curriculum for each level was standardized prior to last season and is something that will continue to be updated on an annual basis. The specific presentations, along with the video examples, have all been developed in a manner that provides valuable information specific to each level with new presentations and updated video examples being used to keep things fresh and relevant. In addition, the seminar curriculum has been coordinated with the online modules to minimize duplication and to diversify the required education for each level.

USAH: How about SafeSport and Screening – any changes to those requirements?

ML: The background screening process will remain the same as USA Hockey is required to conduct a national screen every two years on any official who is 18 years of age as of June 1 of the registration year (in this case 2022). Both the background screen and the SafeSport training are mandated by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) per the Amateur Sports Act initiated by Congress.

For SafeSport, any official who was born in 2005, or earlier, is required to complete SafeSport training on a yearly basis. This may include the full training or refresher training that is managed by the US Center for SafeSport. Although it will not have an impact on registration for this season, there was a change in SafeSport that has been made where the training will only be valid for a 12-month period of time and it not consistent with an overlapping season. This will be addressed during the summer of 2023.

USAH: Are there any other changes or areas of emphasis that you want officials to be aware of?

ML: A significant part of the discussions that took place with the RICs focused on the importance mentoring plays in the success and, ultimately, the retention of brand-new officials. USA Hockey loses 50% of our new officials every season and improving that retention rate by just 15% will result in 1,000 additional experienced officials joining our ranks each year. We need to do a better job of bringing new officials into the fold and then supporting them in ways that sets them up for a successful and rewarding experience. The RICs feel strongly the best way to positively impact this issue is through mentoring.

Experienced officials should expect to receive information later this summer that outlines expectations of a formal Mentor Program and asking them to volunteer their time and expertise to become involved as a mentor. Once we have established a pool of officials that are willing to contribute in this way to the next generation of officials, they will be assigned a group of new officials they can reach out to and guide them through the registration process, seminar attendance, assistance in completing the open book exam and reaching out to prospective assignors when the time has come they are ready to work games. Once they have stepped on the ice, that mentor can continue to be a valuable resource for the new official and provide the necessary support needed to be successful. We will also be encouraging local clubs, assignors and officials’ groups to implement Shadow Programs that will complement the Mentor Program and positively enhance the officials’ experience even more.

With everyone working together towards a common goal, USA Hockey can become a leader in addressing the officiating crisis while providing a positive experience to our next generation of officials.

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