USA Hockey Webinar Series Offers a Hockey Education Anywhere, Anytime

Sessions feature hockey directors, coaches, players and more with tips and knowledge


By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI – With rinks shut down nationwide and hockey at a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, USA Hockey wanted to offer educational opportunities and connect with its membership hockey directors, coaches and parents.

After a little brainstorming, USA Hockey thought a great avenue would be through a webinar series.

“It was always in the back of our mind of how can we do this, then all of a sudden [COVID-19] hit,” USA Hockey American Development Model (ADM) Regional Manager Dan Jablonic said. “We want to make sure we’re providing some value to our membership and at the same time move forward with this medium to see how else we can make use of it.”

Every Tuesday-Friday since March 24, there has been a different guest who has touched on a variety of topics. USA Hockey Webinar Series presented by Pure Hockey is being broadcast on the popular Zoom videoconferencing app as well as YouTube Live and USA Hockey’s ADM Facebook page.

“The goal of the webinar series is to continue to stay engaged with our coaches, parents and players,” said Dave Caruso, USA Hockey manager, Coaching Education Program (CEP). “We want to give them resources and content that they can access for free. We feel that in every webinar, the audience can take away a few things that they can implement right away. I love the fact that our members can ask questions to the ‘experts’ in real time. We try to make sure all the questions are answered from the YouTube live chat feature.”

Webinar guests are selected by USA Hockey’s ADM and CEP staff members, who they feel will provide great value and insight to its members.

“It’s all high-performance stuff, which is really great for our coaches to see,” Jablonic said. “We’re not just giving them the X’s and O’s, but hopefully more of the why we’re doing things.”

The series kicked off with Dr. Tiff Jones, who talked about mental skills training. The next day, March 25, former hockey great Martin St. Louis teamed with ADM Regional Manager Roger Grillo to discuss offensive zone breakdown.

“He just really broke down the game of generating offense, so that was really nice to pick the brain of a Hall of Famer,” Jablonic said.

Other guests in the first eight weeks of the series included: Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes, Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill, USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 head coach Seth Appert and legendary NCAA Division III men’s hockey coach Bill Beaney.

“It’s been a real nice lineup of speakers,” Jablonic said. “Just talking to our coaches in the field and hockey directors, it’s been really well received. They’re just real excited obviously with being away from the rink that it’s a nice way to connect. A lot of them are saying, ‘Man, we’re educating ourselves more than we have at any time’ — which is a good thing.”

The webinar schedule follows the same format each week with Tuesday and Wednesday primarily roped off for guests who discuss research-based topics. On one recent Wednesday, the United States Tennis Association’s Dr. Larry Lauer spoke about the mental game of sports. Thursdays are dedicated strictly to goaltending. In mid-April, former NHL goalie Scott Clemmensen spoke on building a plan for success. Fridays are set aside for the bigger named guests, e.g. Hynes and Blashill.

Each day, the webinar starts at either 2 or 2:30 p.m. ET and runs for approximately an hour. The first 45 minutes are for the guest’s presentation with the final 15 to 20 minutes — sometimes more — set aside for a question-and-answer session where those watching live on Zoom or YouTube can chime in.

“It’s archived there, so if you can’t make it in the afternoon, you can go back and watch it on YouTube Live,” Jablonic said. “We do it essentially with Zoom, so we can actually take live chat, so a lot of questions.”

With concern over Zoom-bombing — an unwanted intrusion into a video conference call by an individual — USA Hockey is keeping those invited to the Zoom portion of the webinar to about 300 folks, primarily made up of ADM and CEP staff members and hockey directors. Everyone else is asked to join the webinars via YouTube Live (USA Hockey main page and USA Hockey Coach page) and the ADM Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/americandevelopmentmodel.

The series has been a hit. In the first eight weeks, there have been 85,000 total views on all platforms, according to Caruso. On Facebook alone, people have watched over 80,500 minutes of webinar videos.

“We think we’ve found something here that it’s been well received,” Jablonic said.

If any AHAI members are interested in checking out the webinar videos, Jablonic suggestions they contact their hockey directors.

Jablonic is hoping that any hockey directors, coaches and parents all can take away some pointers they can use once hockey is back up and running, whenever that may be.

“The biggest thing is really looking at it as if you’re a hockey director, if you’re a coach, right now we don’t know what hockey’s going to look like post-COVID,” Jablonic said. “How can you implement some of these things into your program? Start thinking about, what are the kids going to value when they get back more than just hockey? It’s going to be the mental side, obviously the friendships. Are you going to build those things into your practice? If you’re a 12U, 14U coach, do you really understand the basis of physical literacy? You’re trying to give them an advanced drill, yet you’re not spending the time off ice to build those foundation skills for those kids where they can actually do fundamental movement skills.

“As far as takeaways, kind of know the why behind what you’re doing and then you can figure out ways of how we can do this within our program and make ourselves better.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.



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