Group dynamics.

Dave Mason

It’s championship time. All over the hockey world, players are battling hard to earn victories and make memories. But players don’t win games. Teams do.

Anyone who’s ever been part of a team—either as a player or as a coach—where things have just clicked, or conversely, have never clicked at all no matter what you did, has been subject to the power of group dynamics.

The Wikipedia definition says:

  • Group dynamics is a system of behaviors and psychological processes occurring within a social group (intragroup dynamics), or between social groups (intergroup dynamics). The study of group dynamics can be useful in understanding decision-making behavior…
  • There are three main things that can affect a team’s cohesion (the act of working together well). They are: environmental factors, personal factors and leadership factors.

For hockey coaches, beyond helping players master ever more complex concepts and skills, one of the primary challenges is to take a group of people with diverse skill sets, capabilities and personal attributes, and somehow shape them into a cohesive and effective single unit (a team) that’s focused on and committed to achieving a common goal. And oh yeah, remember there are a lot of other people (their competitors) who are trying to prevent them from doing exactly that.

Sounds easy.

Naturally, conventional player selection focuses primarily on visible skills—the ability to skate, handle the puck, make plays, score or make saves—but more often than not it’s the mostly invisible things about players that determine how well they’ll do when pulled together into a single entity and challenged to rise above their competitors. No matter the skill level of individual players, group dynamics significantly impacts any team’s chances for success.

Insight matters

Groups or teams, of course, are simply a collection of individuals. So it makes sense that insight into an individual player’s intangible attributes can and should play a significant role in determining with whom they play. But for most coaches, especially in youth sports, that’s a tough nut to crack. Of course not everyone is a leader. Not everyone thrives under extreme pressure. Not everyone is predisposed to take constructive criticism well. But those things usually don’t reveal themselves at tryouts to people who may not personally know the individuals who are working so hard to physically perform at a level that gets them noticed.

Counting what counts

By helping coaches understand just a little bit more about the personal attributes—the intangibles—of players they are either considering or tasked with coaching, we hope to remove as much of the unknown aspects of building a team as possible. And we want to help players understand how their own behavior traits might be subject to or have influence within the group dynamics in which they find themselves.

Because we believe that helping young hockey players develop positive intangibles is as much a part of coaching as instructing them in the mechanics of skating or system play, PowerPlayer captures and visualizes intangibles data that helps coaches and players better understand—and take steps to improve—the things that really make teams click.

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