IN THIS POST…
- Who Likes to Shop?
- Player Identification/Evaluation – Understanding The Process
- NCAA/Team COVID Update
Who Likes to Shop…
Most colleges and universities have strict core-course requirements that students must fulfill in order to graduate. Little flexibility is left for the student to choose and explore classes they may want to take within their academic areas of interest. The core of Yale’s academic philosophy is the complete opposite. Yale encourages students to explore their intellectual curiosity and discover new and exciting interests. One of the ways Yale motivates students to accomplish this is through the unique experience called ‘Shopping Period’. For the first 10-days or so of each semester, students of Yale College are provided an opportunity take any class they want. And there is no shortage of classes to shop as there are some 2,000 offered each semester. Undergrads get a great feel for the professors’ teaching style and what the workload is like, etc. This environment of choice is where the students foster a sense of control for their academic priorities and direction. A normal course load is 4 to 5 classes per semester and it’s not uncommon for students to ‘shop’ 5-7 classes before finalizing their schedule. Now, there are some academic requirements; Yale calls these distribution requirements. But again, Yale allows students to choose the requirements they want as long as the requirement is met.
Here is a link to learn more. Just click HERE.
Player Identification/Evaluation – Understanding The Process…
In this first installment of our 4-part ‘Understanding The Process’ series we tackle player evaluation and identification. In our last issue we said these two pieces were the most important in our recruitment process. The reason… It’s tough to have success when you don’t recruit the right players. Identify the wrong players or do a poor job in our evaluating and the next few years can be very difficult to recover from. Understanding our approach will help you be better judges of who will be a great fit for Yale.
Let’s start with a point of clarification about the term ‘recruiting’. I’m sure you hear the term recruiting a lot… ‘…going recruiting’, ‘you guys done recruiting? ‘How’s recruiting going?’. Most people associate recruiting with evaluating and just watching players, which is partly true. For us, we don’t think of recruiting as solely evaluating players. Recruiting is more about ALL of the things that happen after we have identified a player and know we’ll have a strong interest in her. Quite honestly, it’s the more ‘salesy’ side of the process. Ultimately recruiting is everything that helps get someone we want to Yale. So, think about a multi-step process with a ton of communication between our staff, the player, her family, and anyone else important helping in her decision – like you all.
OK—On to player evaluation.
We’re often asked by parents and youth coaches, ‘What do you guys look for in a player?’ The short answer is a lot of things. Our approach always starts with a few questions: 1) How many players at each position do we need to recruit in a given year and 2) What type of player do we want at those positions. Players we wind up having an interest in do have to have a minimum fundamental skill set we feel has the potential to translate well to our style of play. Here are a few fundamental skills we evaluate.
Skating ability… Probably the #1 fundamental skill we look at. Having above average speed, quickness, and agility is a must for our style of play. We want to play an aggressive, attacking style. With the puck our forwards need to evade defenders and move up ice with pace and attack the net/slot area. Without, forwards need to jump on loose pucks and close off time and space forechecking. Our defensemen need to skate backwards almost as fast or faster than they can forwards while having great lateral mobility and smooth transitions backward to forward and vice versa. They have to move their feet in the defensive zone to close gaps and lanes to the net while defending. With the puck we want our defensemen to begin the breakout moving their feet to start our attack up the ice.
Passing/Puck management/control/protection… Especially as a wing, we want to be able to skate at top speed with the puck and make a play. Can you keep possession while being defended against and find an open player to have your pass connect? Do you give the puck away and panic? Can you catch a bad pass? Does the play always end with you or can you keep the play going? Our defensemen have to be able to break the puck out, they can get beat to pucks in our end and they can’t present the puck to a forechecker and have it stripped. Offensively, Defensemen need to catch passes and be ready to distribute the puck while moving like D to D along the blueline.
Shooting… Both forwards and defensemen need accuracy. Do you have proper shot mechanics? A quick release? Can you score? As a Defensemen, can your shot get to the net with some velocity or are you always hitting shin pads?
Play away from the puck… Can defend in all 3 zones? Are you disciplined or running around the ice? Do you take good angles when attacking the puck carrier?
COMPETE level… This is probably #2 for us. If you don’t consistently compete, you won’t be a good fit. What does it mean to compete? It means how hard are you working to accomplish the task at hand. How hard do you work to get the puck back? How hard do you work to keep the puck and keep the play going? Do you work hard every shift or do you take shifts or entire games off? Do you get beat easily and give up on a play or on 1 on 1? How tough are you to play against?
Last one… can you play within a structure? This is a skill but it takes a bit more to uncover than just watching a few games. It’s vitally important we answer this question before making someone a part of the program. Can a player learn a system and be disciplined enough to execute it? If you just play by what ‘feels’ right and drift to wherever on the ice because you ‘felt’ you should be there or if you are positionally undisciplined you won’t be a good fit. We teach a structured game, we have systems for all three zones with and without the puck, and we need players who are willing to be disciplined and buy into the learning process of ‘the why behind the what’ and be able to execute it.
As we watch players, we try and answer these questions and in evaluating them begin to put players into categories or groups. Groups like the offensive minded skilled forward who creates offense or is a pure goal scorer and responsible defensively enough to play in your top-9 somewhere. Then there are the ‘grinders’ who are more like a 3rd, 4th, or 5th line type player who are more defensive in nature or great forecheckers, can kill penalties but not a real threat to score. Defensemen we have those who we see in our top two pairs who can play a regular shift, match up vs. your opponent’s top line, manage a power play, kill penalties – the type who can do it all. We also find those who are purely defensive minded, can move the puck well, make good decisions, can kill penalties, but ay lack some offensive ability
Now through our evaluations, we’ll identify the players who make our list.
Girls/women’s hockey is kind of like NASCAR. You know certain events take place every year at the same time and place with generally the same teams. Unless its 2020 and there’s a world-wide pandemic. Then things change. More on that in a future post.
Our player identification philosophy is fairly simple. Let’s identify players we think can fit certain team needs and develop a really good comfort level through our evaluations. In our approach, we wind up working a bit of a backwards process.
First, like mentioned above, we ask a few questions. We assess our program from a 30,000-foot view, a state-of-the-program-look if you will. We ask questions like, based on our competitive goals, did we take a step(s) forward or backward this season? Second, we define what our positional numbers and intangible needs are. How many G, D, and F’s do we want to bring in and what types of intangibles or ‘X’ factors do we want—2 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goalie with leadership potential, who have high character and are absolute hockey junkies. Answering these types of questions tells us who we need to IDENTIFY.
As a staff, we have certain goals for specific events/games we attend and always have a plan for what we want to get out of an event. Some tournaments and showcases are great because we’ll get a to see a handful of players we’re really interested in play against excellent competition. Others, we’ll see a large number of players in a particular age group for the very first time. No matter what our goal is we always have an eye out for who plays well and impacts the game.
So, how does someone get identified?
The easiest way to get identified and on our list—find a way to positively impact the game somehow. That doesn’t mean be a puck-hog and do everything on your own. That will get you identified alright… as a player we have no interest in. Honestly, just keep it simple. Make a play when you should make one. Pass and shoot when you should, defend well without the puck. Play the game the way it should be played. It sounds easy but, playing well at your position and showcasing the fundamental skill areas mentioned above in the player evaluation section goes a long way. Do that consistently over time, and you just went from being ‘identified’ to a player of ‘interest’.
NCAA/Team COVID Update…
-The NCAA’s Division I Council announced last week student-athletes who compete in a 20-21 Winter sport will receive both an extra year of competition and an additional year in which to complete it. You can read the announcement HERE. Essenttially winter sport athletes are getting a free year in 20-21 to compete and not have it count against their NCAA eligibility. How that will exactly impact Ivy League Winter Sport athletes is unknown at this time.
-Division I and III coaches had their monthly Town Hall Zoom meeting earlier last week. There was a lot of talk about the recruiting dead period and looming January 1 expiry date. Sounds like the NCAA is eager to hear from coaches’ associations about what they want recruiting to look like after Jan. 1. Go back to normal or create a modified model. Each women’s DI hockey conference was asked to make recommendations which will be forwarded to the NCAA. Interestingly, DII and DIII schools have been allowed to recruit this whole time since the pandemic began.
Last week the Division III New England Small School Athletic Conference announced it was cancelling the winter sport season. You can read the announcement HERE. With the rise in positive cases and hospitalizations rising over the past few weeks, it will be interesting to see how DI schools and conferences handle start dates. As as a staff we have been watching a lot of video lately. There are some hockey events coming up with the MN NIT this past weekend and US/Canada Cup in Detroit the next weekend. The rumor out of Minnesota is the high school season will begin Nov. 30th.
Until next time everyone, enjoy your weekend…