Brian Walsh has been coaching hockey for 11 years, working with players ranging in age from mites to adults. As Hockey Director at Danbury Ice Arena, he ran in-house programs, summer camps, and year round clinics for beginners through high school for all levels of competition, and coordinated and coached specialty development clinics including adult learn-to- play.
He’s currently Mite coordinator and head coach for the Western Jr. Colonials Squirt Minor Tier 3/4 program.
How did you get into coaching? Well, let’s just say I grew up wanting to be Herb Brooks, so really it’s just been a long and crazy road filled with a pure love of the game and the life lessons it teaches.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to player and parent communication? I’m a big believer in frequent communication. In fact, I don’t even subscribe to the “24 hour” rule. If something needs to be said, I prefer it to be said and dealt with immediately, especially after practices or games. My thinking is that things don’t get better if you let them fester, so you take care of issues right away. Of course I love doing that in person, but given the current situation with Covid-19 we need new ways to do things. Tools like PowerPlayer also make it possible to communicate privately more often, and that’s perfect for me.
How did you first discover PowerPlayer? It was introduced to me by another coach who I really respect. I started to use it and just fell in love with it. It’s a development tool for sure, but now, with the challenges of Covid-19, it’s really become the communication platform I rely on.
What are the advantages of communicating with players and parents in this way? With PowerPlayer, I can upload a video and share a comment or two, and kids and parents can immediately see what I see. I’m finding that creates more conversations that might have been lacking before, and I definitely find kids are more likely to ask me about things. That’s a huge positive.
What aspects of PowerPlayer do you use most frequently? I use the practice rating tool all the time. In a normal practice, kids might be intense half the time, maybe less on some days. When they know the coaches will be rating their effort and attention in practice they ramp it up overall.
With PowerPlayer, they’re definitely more tired after practice than games. We can see the intensity, so we know the ratings and feedback are great motivation tools. Kids want the high they get when they see their scores, and they’re naturally competitive. PowerPlayer just brings more of that to practice.
Some coaches say you can’t teach competitiveness, but I don’t believe that’s true. If you instill a competitive spirit in a kid when they’re young, and reward them for it, it just becomes a habit. So PowerPlayer lets me raise the expectation bar, and while each kid is unique, in my experience they always respond.
Let’s talk about coaching the differences in players. How does PowerPlayer factor into that? Like I said, each player is unique. We established baseline metrics on each of our players and we’ll update them every four to six weeks, but the flow of personalized practice and game ratings and comments will be constant. I use this system every day, which I never thought I would. PowerPlayer allows me to focus on each kid as an individual, to really look at them and to try to help them with specific things. That lets them know that I see them, and it lets their parents know. That’s huge.
Any other thoughts about PowerPlayer you’d like to share? To me, a culture of communication is important, and PowerPlayer changes the conversation. We hear a lot about ‘crazy parents,’ but the vast majority of parents are far from crazy. They love their kids, and they want what’s best for them. Better conversations between coaches and parents lead to better coaching and better experiences for everyone, especially the kids.
And I really think this is the way to reach kids now. They communicate through their phones, and PowerPlayer is almost like instructional or motivational social media. It’s like if the kids don’t get a practice rating, to them it never happened! They all want the feedback and they react to it pretty quickly and positively. That’s all a coach can ask for.
Western Jr. Colonials
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