We are in the Information Age and USA Hockey has put a wealth of hockey knowledge into your pocket.
With the USA Hockey Mobile Coach App, coaches, parents and players have nearly 3,000 pieces of hockey content, including drills, coaching manuals, practice plans, video tutorials and more.
The app has been downloaded more than 130,000 times, with more than 15,000 coaches opening accounts with the service. Its popularity has spread beyond the U.S., with more than 11,000 sessions opened in Canada and nearly 5,000 in Morocco (yes, Morocco).
“This has the potential to be a global tool. The No. 4 city [for usage] is Casablanca,” said Mark Tabrum, director of the USA Hockey Coaching Education Program. “What we believe happened is that they hosted a tournament, and someone there must’ve had the app, told people about it and it just blew up.
“This is a product we made for USA Hockey members to help hockey in America. However, helping hockey internationally is a bonus and it’s fun to see coaches around the globe using USA Hockey tools to grow the game.”
Maybe the best feature: it’s free to anyone with a smartphone or tablet.
“Used at the highest level, it’s a free tool for hockey coaches that puts all of USA Hockey’s coaching resources into the palm of their hand,” said Tabrum.
Here are 10 great features of the app that will help you get more out of your hockey experience, whether you’re a coach, parent or player.
At the youth level, coaches are often volunteers or have primary jobs outside the hockey world. So, as much as they might like to be full-time coaches, they just don’t have the time to constantly plan practices.
The app has entire age-specific practice plans available for busy coaches.
“You get off work late, you get to the rink and think, ‘What am I going to do for practice?’” Tabrum said. “A coach can go to their age-specific plan, find about where they are in the season, and print that plan and run it for practice.”
Once you become comfortable with the app, you can dive into customizing your own practice plans. The first step for this function is to sign up for a free app account. Once you’re registered, you can use all the resources in the app to create custom practice plans.
Coaches can outline entire practices, and use the app to assign drills and stations to their coaching staff. This feature will log an entire season of practices and help coaches ensure that there is a proper balance of skills, drills and small-area games.
“Even with multiple teams on the ice, you have the ability to, in the app, break the entire ice up into sections and stations, and those into drills accordingly,” Tabrum said.
Previously parents or coaches wanting to track an individual’s activity on the ice had to log what the player was doing – whether it was skating, puckhandling, shooting or passing – on a piece of paper. With Mobile Coach’s activity tracker, you can log a player’s entire season of activity and monitor the amount of reps their getting with each practice.
“Now it’s all tracked with the touch of a button,” Tabrum said. “If a kid is skating, you hit the button and it tracks, timewise, his or her skating. So, you can actually see what the player is doing throughout the practice or game.”
The thought behind the tracker was to compare the old-style approach against an American Development Model, station-based practice. Comparatively speaking, players are much more active in the ADM, station-based practices. But now parents and coaches can see the proof with data.
“It gives player analytics,” Tabrum said. “If you track 25 practices, you’re able to see the growth over time. When you have and see the data points of a properly run ADM practice, as far as puck touches, passes and shots, the benefits are clear.”
“The small-area games book used to be a manual that was printed – it was a big document,” Tabrum said. “It used to be this big manual that you had bring to the rink and flag and highlight and make photocopies.
“Now it’s all in your hand.”
Every small-area game from the entire manual is now in the Drills section. Even better, small-area games are categorized to be age-specific.
“The small-area games section is probably worth the download alone,” Tabrum said.
Oftentimes at the youth level, coaches don’t know a lot about teaching goaltending specifics. Sometimes lining up pucks at the top of the circle and firing wristers is the only goaltender-specific drill a team will do in a day.
The fear of not knowing what to do for your netminder is no longer a hindrance with Mobile Coach. It has five sections of goalie-centric drills and a video section specifically teaching goaltending technique. For those coaches who might not know much about the position, the app can be like another assistant coach specifically for netminders.
There’s always something to learn and USA Hockey is a great source for the latest developments in coaching. Mobile Coach aggregates all the latest news from USA Hockey like an RSS feed.
“This pulls the latest articles from USAHockey.com,” Tabrum said. “The second we publish an article and tag it for coaching, it goes to the app. You always have the latest coaching news from USA Hockey.”
Just like when receiving a text message, the app sends out push notifications whenever there’s added content, so you never miss out on the latest news and developments.
Youngsters learn by watching and there is an ever-expanding library of nearly 300 free videos for anyone with the app.
“Years ago, we came out with our Skills and Drills DVDs, which was 400 on- and off-ice drills,” Tabrum said. “Those are all on the app.”
The collection of Skills and Drills DVDs cost $80. Now, you can get the entire collection of 800-plus videos with a one-time purchase of $8.99.
Found under the Manuals heading, the app includes the digital version of the entire USA Hockey Rulebook. The rulebook also has a search function with which users can find a vast library of resources, including rules, descriptions, videos or examples.
“It has everything you need to know the rules of the game,” Tabrum said.
Sometimes you know what you want, but just don’t know where to go. Just like Googling has provided internet users with endless information, the smart search function makes it easy to find anything in the app.
“As you start typing, it pulls content for you,” Tabrum said. “If I pull up the search and start typing ‘checking,’ by the time I get to ‘C-H-E-C,’ I have three Skills and Drills, the Checking the Right Way manual and probably 100 videos.”
Development isn’t limited to on-ice sessions. Mobile Coach also hosts off-ice training resources, including age-specific dryland and stickhandling drills kids can do in their basement or driveway.
Whether it’s dynamic warmups, agility training, stickhandling, etc., coaches can now quickly and easily dial up off-ice programs to help develop athleticism.
USA Hockey is always looking to improve its tools and the Mobile Coach App is no different. One of the best things about the app might be its potential. Currently on Version 3.0, Tabrum expects the next update will bring even more innovation.
“We’re always trying to make it better,” said Tabrum. “If you look at where it was, we didn’t even know what we had when we started it. It was just a library. We’re constantly listening to our coaches and trying to deliver a better product.”
Tabrum said there will be significant upgrades in the next version, especially to the activity tracker, whiteboard, navigation and expanded app tutorials.
“Version 4 will be a product that every youth hockey coach is going to want to have,” Tabrum said.
With another registration season upon us and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation, this 2020-21 season is likely to be like no other. The challenges we all face to make a safe environment requires everyone involved in hockey to be creative, flexible, respectful and patient. Although we would love to have all of the answers for you right now, the reality is the unknown still exists; so, we are doing our best to bring everyone up to speed on what to expect over the summer months for registration.
USA Hockey continues to post updates regarding COVID-19 on our main website. This information is to keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for the most recent news and for other hockey information.
First, a quick update on the Advanced Officiating Symposium scheduled for Providence, R.I., in late July. The current landscape has made it impossible to conduct a program of the scope and nature that we strive to achieve through the Advanced Symposium. As of now, the 2020 event has been postponed until August 6-8, 2021, and will still take place in Providence. We appreciate the interest and commitment of those who had already registered. We will simply roll over those registrations to the 2021 event. For those still interested in signing up, more information will be available soon. Registration for the 2021 Advanced Officiating Symposium will open in September.
Officials can register for the 2020-21 season on May 26. The open book exams and the online seminar curriculum is scheduled for May 27. Check out the links to the registration rules and tips that are included in this edition of STRIPES so you are up-to-date with the current process and requirements.
SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (for those who have reached 18 years of age by June 1) are also available to complete at this time. Since COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, this is an ideal time to fulfill these requirements.
The biggest unknown is the timing and formats in which we will be able to conduct seminars. This is where creativity, flexibility and patience will be most prevalent as our volunteer District Referees-in-Chief navigate the landscape in their respective areas. The uncertainty of availability of facilities and potential restrictions on gatherings means that in-person seminars may not be posted or scheduled as quickly as it has in the past. The use of virtual seminars is being explored and will undoubtedly become part of the solution in some areas of the country. All of the necessary information will be posted on the seminar registration page as it becomes available over the summer months. Please check there regularly.
Retention of officials continues to be a significant issue within USA Hockey. Three initiatives will be emphasized prior to the start of the next season.
The first initiative is an update to the Zero Tolerance Policy. It strongly recommends for local youth hockey associations to take a more active role in spectator behavior issues and hold those of unsportsmanlike behaviors accountable for their actions. They are also mandated to support officials by strictly enforcing Rule 601: Abuse of Officials and Other Misconduct.
The second initiative asks our experienced officials (those with five or more years of experience) to take an active role in mentoring new officials. The goal is to provide new officials with support and guidance through the registration process as well as working games. This is in an effort to create a positive experience so they will get hooked on officiating and return to our ranks year after year. Look for more information on the Mentor Project in the coming months.
USA Hockey also recognizes the critical role assignors play in the environment that is created for local grassroots officials. Therefore, additional resources for assignors and local youth hockey associations are being created. This initiative will encourage the parties to work together and hold each other accountable in following best practices in the operation of an officiating development program. It will also help create a positive atmosphere in which the game can be played.
Finally, the Officiating Program is launching a new weekly Officiating Webinar series in June. These webinars are open to all officiating members free of charge and will focus on topics that are pertinent to today’s game. USA Hockey’s top instructors from professional, international and grassroots hockey will lead the sessions and a Q & A opportunity will be included after each presentation. Stay tuned to USAHockey.com, social media and your inbox for a complete listing of June webinar topics and registration information.
Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey. Don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.
Even with almost 50 years of involvement in hockey, you can’t plan for the current state of the world and the impact coronavirus has had on our game. I think it is safe to say that nothing prepares you for the changes that have taken place in our daily lives and the uncertainty of when things might return to normal. Or in this case, what will become the new “normal.”
Our expertise is hockey, so what we’ll address in this piece: the impact of the global pandemic on our game and how likely it will affect our game in the immediate future.
USA Hockey continues to post information on COVID-19 on the main website. These updates keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for updates and other hockey information.
On the officiating front, much of what we are able to do from a program standpoint is connected to player events like national tournaments and player development camps. As you know, the national tournaments (along with the March, April and May IIHF World Championship events) were cancelled. The Officiating Program then canceled our two instructor training programs that were planned for late April and early May in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Colorado Springs, Colo.
At this time, details for any potential summer development camps are still being determined. On the player side, several camps we are connected to were cancelled, and the few camps that are still in planning have been dramatically downsized. The Officiating Program continues to monitor the decisions made for players and will take advantage of any opportunity we have to salvage our summer camp program and maximize participation.
The good news is, we are confident we will have a 2020-21 season. All indications show no reason to delay registration. It will open as scheduled on or around May 26, followed by the open book exams and online seminar curriculum on June 1.
SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (learn about the new national level screening program in the Q & A section) will also be available to complete at that time. If COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, it would be an ideal time to get these requirements completed.
The biggest unknown will be the timing in which we will be able to conduct seminars. The vast majority of rinks are currently closed, and many of them took this opportunity to remove ice to save operating costs and do maintenance. There is now doubt they will be prepared to quickly ramp up once they are allowed to do so, but as with most everything right now, the timing is uncertain. As a result, some of the earlier seminars may be pushed back a few weeks. The District Referees-in-Chief will secure ice times and facilities so we can provide seminar dates and locations as quickly as possible. We are also encouraging our instructors to think outside the box by providing some weeknight seminar options, and to look at other ways to best meet the needs of our members.
The Advanced Officiating Symposium, scheduled for Providence, R.I. in late July, is still going to plan. We will continue to monitor the situation, including local restrictions and travel advisories in the coming weeks, and we will announce any changes in advance to allow for alterations to travel arrangements. Click here for up-to-date information or to reserve your seat at the 2020 Advanced Officiating Symposium.
These are difficult times for everyone, and although our hockey family is important to us, it is a small fraction of the big picture that is impacting our daily lives. To quote Andy Dufresne in his letter for Red that he left under the big oak tree in The Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We hope the coronavirus is conquered with minimal loss of lives and a return to a prosperous normal as soon as possible. We hope your passion for the game of hockey will only grow as a result of its absence. We hope we are back on the ice in the coming months and that the 2020-21 season will be our best yet.
Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey and don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.