Kelly Collins

Player Development Specialist / Evolve Hockey

Dave Mason

When your mom is in the SUNY Oswego Sports Hall of Fame for both field and ice hockey, your dad has been a respected member of the Rochester NY-area hockey community for more than 45 years, one of your brothers is a former captain at the University of New Hampshire and European pro, and the other is a former Boston College player who led the nation in scoring and was a Hobey Baker Award runner-up who also embarked on a pro career that included playing in the AHL, German and Finnish pro leagues, you might think that hockey is in your DNA.

Kelly Collins proves that point. The first woman to play men’s varsity hockey at Fairport High School and a perennial top-five scorer in her four years of women’s hockey at SUNY Oswego, she also excelled at field hockey through high school and played lacrosse in college simply because a coach suggested she give it a try. Today she’s combining her love of childhood education with her love of hockey as part of the Collins family’s innovative Evolve Hockey Development Group, a program dedicated to fostering a love of hockey while it teaches skills and proficiency and helps to develop well-rounded athletes and people.

A huge advocate for feedback in athletics, we caught up with Kelly in a rare quiet moment.

Kelly, it seems as if a life in and around hockey was inevitable for you? And maybe it was inevitable that you’d become a coach?   Well, I guess you could say that I was genetically destined for sure. I definitely followed the athletic path from my family, and I’ve played the game my whole life. My background as a player in ice and field hockey, and my post-college experience in childhood education have really come together now. With the current circumstances playing a huge role in how we interact with kids now—virtual learning is the norm—and I’m the teacher in the rink!

Evolve has been using PowerPlayer for a while now, but tell us a little bit about how that’s changed as a result of “current circumstances.”   Obviously Covid has impacted everything we do, but in a weird way it’s actually helped us as a sports training organization. With a lot fewer real games being played, we offer a safe environment where kids can come and train in carefully controlled small groups. The time has really allowed kids to focus on skill development in a way that might not have been as possible during a heavy game schedule regular hockey season. 

With the Covid situation we really took a look at things and decided that providing feedback to kids and parents that they could view remotely was even more of a priority.

Kids come in and train, and we do metrics testing and provide evaluations through ratings. We shoot video of all of our testing and provide instruction based on that. The kids and their parents, who are not as present in the rink as they might normally be, can see their improvement through the data. And we can jump on zoom or whatever and go over the data with them and talk about things that they might want to focus on.

What’s the reaction?   I think the reaction from parents is most rewarding. They’re wide-eyed in amazement that we pay such close attention to their children. We provide “hockey homework” — I guess that’s my inner teacher coming out — like stickhandling tests and skating drills they can do with furniture sliders for example. Or to help with hockey sense, we’ll ask them to watch a game on TV, pause the game, and tell us what they think a player will do next, and then let us know if they were right. We’ll have kids do drills at home for speed, agility, and strength, and their parents will send us a video that we can comment on in PowerPlayer. So it’s all a great way to keep both kids and parents engaged and having fun while learning and improving.

And the kids love it. The PowerPlayer data and feedback is extremely motivational, and they especially love the hockey homework. Something as simple as an off-ice pushup session gets them competing against themselves, and we definitely see kids bragging about their improvements! 

How has PowerPlayer helped you as a coach?   I train kids all day so I see them in real-time, but now I also see their PowerPlayer scores, and lots of slo-mo video. That gives me deeper insights into individual kids so I can be a lot more specific about instruction, right down to minute details that can make a huge difference to a player’s abilities.

Looking ahead, I can see how being able to track improvement through captured data and a video record over years would be huge. Obviously it helps the players, but it also helps us as coaches to know that specific things we are doing are really making a positive difference.

The PowerPlayer experience is nothing but positive. And as more and more kids get onboard and talk about it with their friends, I can see it spreading like wildfire.

Evolve Hockey Development Group / Fairport, NY




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