For as long as hockey has been played – more than a century, at least – coaches have been developing players. The ultimate goal of the game has never changed: put the puck in the net more times than the other guys do. But the way coaches communicate how to reach that goal most definitely has.
Gone are the days of lesson plans in a three-ring binder. Today, there’s the Hockey Canada Network (HCN).
“It’s everything we have. It’s every single skills manual, every single resource book, every single DVD and video, whether it’s goaltending or positions specific or skills specific,” says Paul Carson, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of membership development. “It’s literally everything we’ve produced over the last 15 years. What was available in hard-copy format is now available in digital format.”
That means on-demand access to thousands of drills, skills, videos and practice plans to help coaches run more efficient practices, as well as the ability to share that information with a tap of a finger.
“In today’s day and age, younger coaches are demanding more and more content be at their fingertips,” says Carson. “You can plan practice in five minutes sitting at your desk. You can distribute that practice plan to members of your team or to your coaching staff with the touch of a distribution button.”
The app is available for Android and iOS devices, and can be downloaded free from Google Play and the Apple App Store. That’s all that’s needed for players and parents who are simply receiving content forwarded by the head coach or team leader.
Subscribing to HCN Premium, starting at $4 per month, provides unlimited access to Hockey Canada’s full library of resources on the platform. The largest network of hockey experts anywhere – coaches and players, as well as trainers, nutritionists and sports psychologists – share their knowledge in features and videos.
Now, the app is included with every Hockey Canada Skills Academy license. Therefore, each school can receive one code that will give them full access to the Hockey Canada Network, which can be accessed by multiple devices.
The app doesn’t script what a coach should do practice to practice. It works the same way the old three-ring binder does, but without the paperwork. Taking it one step further, a coach could favourite the lesson plan he’s put together digitally and distribute it to his assistant coaches. “Not only would they have a PDF version of that two-page lesson plan, but that same file would have an individual link for each of the drills,” says Carson.
Within each of those individual links is a diagram and description of the drill, key teaching points and, in most cases, a video of minor hockey players performing it. (About 80 per cent of the drills on the app have an accompanying video.)
A coach can use the filter tool to help her put each individual practice together. Information has been sorted by specific age ranges (from Initiation to Midget) and by skill to practice (passing, shooting, positioning, and so on).
Lessons extend beyond the ice as well. “Sleep Recovery and Human Performance,” “Fuelling up for Game Day,” and “Off-Ice Stretching” are just some of the features that help coaches develop well-rounded athletes.
One of Carson’s favourite features is national team members such as Sidney Crosby, Tyson Barrie and Claude Giroux talking about how important being a multisport athlete in their formative years was to their development as professional hockey players.
The app – platform, really, as there’s also a companion website, www.hockeycanadanetwork.ca – will continue to grow and content will regularly be added to each of the areas of skill development, skills learning and feature content, which encompasses both educational articles and profiles on partner-sponsored events and activities.
“Our goal is that every coach who goes through the coach education program has access to this tool as their resource of teaching materials for everything they do with their minor hockey team,” says Carson.