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    Darryl Belfry

April 13, 2018

Decoding Darryl Belfry

I was asked to decode this Twitlonger Tweet from Darryl Belfry. Read his original post with my comments alongside it.

I am presented with one of those “if I had to do it over again” situations. I’m going to share with you what some of the key pieces I’ll do different, to hopefully give you some insight that may help you with your respective teams.

This year, with my daughter’s hockey training group, I have a chance to go back in time with concentrated development time with this age group 11-13 year olds. It’s exciting because, the last time I was in this age group, we had some special special talents. However, I was a kid training kids. Which had it’s value, but I look at this situation as a chance to put in action all those lessons learned.

The following are the four cornerstone pieces, we are currently putting into place.

1. Way back when, I did edges and balance to start every session, however, it was the same set of edges and balance. This time around, we will open ever session with edges, balance and weight shift (weight shift was something we added later when we did this before – now it is front and center) and the development track will be progressive and have specific stages of proficiency I want to hit.

Progressive Development Track with specific stages of proficiency. This sounds like Belfry is going from a reps for reps sake model to a minimum requirements model. There is acceptance criteria for each stage that the players must meet. I assume a player is assigned extra work if they do not meet those requirements at the same time as their teammates.

2. Practice habits was frankly a differentiator for me years ago, I was about as demanding for effort as there was and had the benefit of strong horses to pull the group. I graded my practices by pace, ice management and work:rest ratio. This time around, the effort demand will be there but I’m excited to carve out more “true teaching” moments. Steal a page from the way I work with my private pro clients – focus on feel-based learning principles and a sharper demand for personal commitment to technical excellence.

True teaching moments? Contrasted with high effort? Does that mean that previous practices were high effort without “true teaching moments”? It sounds like Belfry’s definition of “true teaching” moments includes feel-based learning principles and more technical detail. I call feel-based learning principles “Feel Your Body Learning”. My methodology is to introduce new movements as a “Movement Experiment”, then ask players how it feels. I ask them to constantly compare movement hypotheses with their own trust in their body to see what feels better over time. In contrast, most coaches tell a player what to do, and that’s the end of the discussion. Ignoring how it feels for a player. In my experience, players who do “movement experiments” and pay attention to how they feel get “AHA!” moments as their body finds the Magic Mechanics. I wonder if this meets the criteria for a True Teaching Moment? I imagine that “sharper demand for personal commitment to technical excellence” means: Players focus on their mechanics more. And the standard is higher. He might not let sloppy mechanics slide. And perhaps he’d use that higher standard for more teaching moments.

3. In my previous time, I worked a lot in opposite situations (forecheck vs breakout, rush offense vs rush defense, point shooting vs shot blocking, etc) and leveraged the situational focus to reveal the teaching situations. This time around, I am teaching the D first in an effort to stack the technical deck in their favor. I’m going to allow the F to be creatively expressive and rely on their instincts. Why?

In the ages of 11-13, the forwards offensive skill set is generally miles ahead of the defenders technical defending skill set. The gap between encourages the F’s to believe they are better than what they really are. The D are behind in their technical ability to control space and therefore F’s are fooled by a success rate that is tilted in their favor.

In teaching the D first, I’ll raise their technical footwork, skating ability to hold defensive side position, stay square to the defender, use a purposeful stick, force turns and stops, control hips and use wedges and seals – and that’s just defending out of the corner – which is where we are now. Once I raise the D’s technical ability to defend, I’ll reduce the F’s success rate organically through translatable defensive principles. This will stack the deck in the D’s favor enough to see if the F’s can problem solve.

Once I’m comfortable with the D’s ability to control the F, then I’ll dive in and teach the F’s the translatable skill sets that they can use to grab control of the space. Then once the F’s adapt, the focus goes back on the D to raise the level again.

By focusing on the D first, we create a “leapfrog learning environment” and that is a big adjustment I want to have in place this time around.

Let’s start with the term “translatable”. Belfry uses this to describe skills that produce results regardless of the level. Some skills have a shelf life (like straight ahead speed). Others don’t (like creating space).

Ok, so translatable skills are the 80/20 skills – because once learned, they can be used all the way up. Doesn’t make much sense to learn skills that expire in a couple years, does it?

So he’s saying that he’ll teach defensemen these translatable skills first.

I think his reasoning is this: if you want to get better, you need a challenge. A challenge usually means that there is a gap between where you are, and where you want to be.

There is already a gap between forwards and defense at the 11-13 age level. I observe this as well. So the first gap to close is moving the defense closer to the forwards.

Then he creates a second gap, by moving the defense past the forwards. As this occurs, he tests the forwards ability to adapt creatively to the new demands. If the adaptation occurs organically – great! If not, he instructs the forwards how to problem solve.

Then the forwards move ahead again. I believe this skill gap closing – skill gap opening is what he refers to as a leap frog environment.

4. The last cornerstone is “competitive advantage” …. very different approach than that of building “compete level” … with the objective of creating intelligent competitors. I want that fierceness and will to win but through the competitive advantage lens.

This will be built through …. oh you didn’t think I was going to tell you everything did you!! I want to hear what you think I mean by this and how you would go about teaching it.

This type of competitiveness will supplant the current “compete level” and is a big differentiator at the world class level. Let’s build in in our kids now!

Compete level vs competitive advantage? Closest analogy would be business. A competitive advantage is a circumstance that puts a business in a better business position. So one business is actually better positioned to exploit an opportunity than others.

I think compete level refers to pure intensity.

Pure intensity runs out when players get tired.

Competitive advantage doesn’t require intensity. But when executed with intensity yields results.

Any example of this would be one of my favorite habits of “Stick on puck, hands on body.” I had a player who would run headlong into board battles, get on the wrong side of his opponent with his stick flailing, and lose every time. Once I showed him the habit of “stick on puck, hands on body” he turned his intensity into turnovers. I’d say that’s a good example of competitive advantage over compete level.

Well – those are my thoughts. My attempt at Decoding Darryl. Let me know what you think: [email protected]

March 11, 2018

How To Improve Your Edges In Hockey

Some of you may wonder why this is important. Some of you might notice that I stopped using technical vocabulary. And others might wonder what words have to do with edges.

The truth is that words are powerful.

“I’m happy.” vs “I’m fucking ecstatic.” – that’s a big difference. And it comes from words.

The term “Linear Crossover” is a horrible set of words. It’s good for Darryl Belfry because it caused a ton of conversation – and that conversation leads to attention. But it’s bad for players in three ways:

  • It is not simple
  • It is not visual
  • It does not “sound” good

Perhaps it is Belfry’s intention to make his terms confusing so that others can’t steal or copy. I don’t claim to read his mind.

You might notice that at Train 2.0 – we use particular words. And sometimes, you might notice that the words evolve over time.

The Hip Scissor, The Soft Hip, The Inner Spring, The Top Hand Pivot.

None of these were terms until we started breaking down NHL Mechanics.

Even the word “Mechanic” is now popularized.

The key to these words is that they are simple, visual, and sound good.

Words seem insignificant. But consider that before the “Inner Spring”, no one had any idea about the difference between Inner Spring and non-Inner Spring. The words made it an idea. And then we evaluate against that idea.

Some of you may point out that the term Inner Spring is still sort of unclear. It is. Some of you get it right away. And for others it takes time.

That takes me to my second point: A/B testing.

We introduce words and ideas at a rapid rate. Then we see which ones stick. Which ones get peoples attention. Which ones people ask about. Then we double down on those words. Using them often. This causes an evolution of our words over time.

We take the same approach with our instructions for those terms. We test different ways of explaining those concepts. Find which ones work and stick – then double down on them. This causes an improvement in our instructions over time.

This is the exact same process companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook use to make users happy. We do our best to adopt these principles to make players happy.

Getting to my point, and I promise that I have one: Edges.

I don’t think there are good words to describe edgework in hockey. So I introduce 3 new words to you:

  • Gliding
  • Sliding
  • Stomping
  • Holding

Gliding (Still Point)

The best players spend most of their game “gliding”. Even when they stride, they glide. And they can glide on both inside and outside edges.

Sliding (Skidding)

This is like a car skidding around a corner. Edge sliding tends to scrape snow off the ice when you’d do it. Edge sliding is commonly used for stops. But also for Anchors, Dahlins, Gaudreaus, and Jab Steps. Elite players use sliding as a way to decelerate or change direction quickly.

Stomping

When you lift your foot off the ice and plant the edge in a way that generates force directly into the ground.

Holding

Holding an edge occurs when you hold your balance on an edge by tensing the muscles of your feet, legs, hips, and core.

Beginner Skaters

  • Stationary: Holding
  • Striding: Holding
  • Transition Tricks: Holding
  • Inside Edge: Holding
  • Outside Edge: Holding

Bad Skaters

  • Stationary: Gliding (Still Point)
  • Striding: Holding/Stomping
  • Transition Tricks: Holding
  • Inside Edge: Holding
  • Outside Edge: Holding

OK Skaters

  • Stationary: Gliding (Still Point)
  • Striding: Stomping
  • Transition Tricks: Holding/Stomping
  • Inside Edge: Holding/Gliding
  • Outside Edge: Holding

Moderate Skaters (Midget and Below)

  • Stationary: Gliding (Still Point)
  • Striding: Stomping/Gliding
  • Transition Tricks: Holding/Stomping/Gliding
  • Inside Edge: Gliding
  • Outside Edge: Holding/Stomping

Good Skaters (Junior, College, Minor Pro)

  • Stationary: Gliding (Still Point)
  • Striding: Stomping/Gliding
  • Transition Tricks: Stomping/Gliding
  • Inside Edge: Gliding
  • Outside Edge: Stomping

Great Skaters (Most NHLers)

  • Stationary: Gliding (Still Point)
  • Striding: Gliding
  • Transition Tricks: Gliding
  • Inside Edge: Gliding
  • Outside Edge: Stomping/Gliding

McJesus, Crosby, Barzal

  • Stationary: Gliding (Still Point)
  • Striding: Gliding
  • Transition Tricks: Gliding
  • Inside Edge: Gliding
  • Outside Edge: Gliding

Gliding Deep Dive

Let’s look closer at the Mechanics of Gliding.

The Rocker Effect: Skates have a profiled rocker. So when you are on an edge, the resulting movement of the blade is like a C in the ice. This might be why Boris Dorozhenko focuses so much of his drills on a heel to toe action.

The Edging Effect: Skates have two edges. When you make contact with the ice with one edge instead of two, you increase your speed due to less friction.

The “Lean” Effect (Skating Downhill): When you glide on an edge, your center of mass is not oriented over your feet. Instead, you are leaned over like a bike turning a corner. If you glide on an edge as you lean, the lean (shifting your center of mass) generates your movement.

Here is how the Rocker Effect, The Edging Effect, and The Lean Effect work together to give McJesus-like skaters more speed, control, and power in everyone hockey movement:

  • The Rocker Effect creates a C.
  • The C-creates centripetal force.
  • The centripetal force allows you to lean (shift your centre of mass).
  • Leaning allows you to be on one edge.
  • Being on one edge reduces friction.
  • It all works together for MORE SPEED

Your ability to glide in all movements: stationary, striding, Transition Tricks, inside edge, outside edge determines your mastery of skating.

Comparing Glide Mechanics to Holding Mechanics

Holders hold tension in their legs to keep their feet under them. Then they push with their legs muscles in straight lines to change direction and accelerate. They are stiff like oak trees.

Gliders have very little tension. Then they shift their center of mass to change direction and accelerate. Their legs bend underneath them like bamboo, and their hips swivel and tilt to ensure they are on their edges and leaning.

Comparing Glide Mechanics to Stomping Mechanics

The best way to tell if a player is stomping or gliding is if their leg movement generates downward force into the ice. From now on, you’ll notice stompers when you see lot’s of leg movement – without much body translation. Meaning: the body doesn’t actually move in space. The legs just do a lot of work.

How To Improve Your Skating By Improving Your Edges

At first, your biggest improvements will come from standard edgework drills. Hold your inside edge. Hold your outside edge. Switch. That kind of thing.

At that point, most players’ progress either takes off or plateaus. The players who take off understand gliding and apply it to all of their movements. A good percentage of these gliders are bow-legged. My hypothesis is that it makes them “Drone Coach Proof”.

The ones who plateau – are ironically the ones who go to the most power skating. (I call them Push Power Skating Instructors). Their improvements come from increases in strength and power. Meanwhile, gliders improvements come from the ever-increasing dynamism of their gliding mechanics (just watch McDavid and Crosby’s evolution – watch Barzal’s soon to be evolution).

You might notice that my differentiator between Great Skaters and McJesus, Crosby, Barzal is one thing: Gliding on the outside edge. We call this the Hidden Gas Pedal. If you compare Barzal to Lucic – Lucic is a very strong skater, but look at his outside edge on this set of crossovers. Then compare to Barzal. Lucic can handle a puck at speed with great heel contact, and he’s strong and powerful – but the Hidden Gas Pedal separates the Barzals, McDavids and Crosbys.

If you’re at a plateau and want to get past it – or maybe you’re already a glider and want to turbo-boost it – you may want to check out the Downhill Skating System. We give players step by step instructions to master these mechanics and implement more gliding in their game – in all 5 use cases. You can check that out here.

As mentioned, we evolve our approach, our words, and our instructions over time. With feedback, we refine what we do. So if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please email me at [email protected] to talk hockey!

March 10, 2018

How to Skate Faster (In A Game)

Many ask how to skate faster. This is a good question since speed kills.

Many players, parents, and coaches are led astray with this line of questioning. They ask: how can I skate faster. But they are not specific enough. Because the top players know how to skate fast in a game.

Darryl Belfry popularized the two most important principles in this area:

  • Speed behind the puck
  • (Linear) Crossovers (What I call Transition Tricks)

The fastest skaters in a game are those that have more speed…

  • Relative to their opponents
  • At the right time

As a “really fast” player – I can attest to this. At my peak, I could squat 5 plates, clean 295, and outsprint anyone on my team. But if you saw me in my college game, my speed was neutralized. I didn’t have the mechanics to generate and maintain speed in Transition Tricks (like crossovers, shuffles, soft hips, half-corkscrews, etc.) And thus, I was only fast in a straight line. And the ONLY TIME this was helpful was in a race to a loose puck.

As Belfry states, getting loose pucks is not a translatable skill. Why? Because as you move up in levels, the occurrence of loose pucks dries up. Since the opportunities to win loose pucks dries up – so does your ability to exploit those opportunities.

When you watch end to end rushes that result in goals, you notice that there are 0-1 straight ahead strides. Yes, you read that right. Zero to one. But don’t take my word for it…

Detractors might point out rushes like this one:

But that relates to the pattern of speed behind the puck. As Robby Glantz and Lars Hepso indicate with Barzal, he skates low and slow. So he’s gathering his speed with shuffle steps and crossovers while the defender is flat-footed – or has their momentum going the other way. When Barzal gets the puck, he has more speed than the defenders due to his pattern and transition mechanics.

You see a similar pattern with Bure.

And with McDavid. Notice that he reaches his peak speed when he does a crossover. I pause the GIF there for a second to show you.

If you watch other NHLers enter the zone, they usually hit the tripod position, start stickhandling, and look for a pass or shot. Just an example.

 

If you watch Bure, McDavid, or Barzal, they maintain their speed with their footwork. They use what I call the “MacKinnon Shuffle”, Crossovers, Hip Scissors.

What to do:

I have a hypothesis that mastering the 5 Transition Tricks to generate and maintain speed while changing direction also translates to straight ahead speed. And since 95% of the game is Transition Tricks, it makes sense to focus on mastering the Transition Tricks. It’s a question of where to focus your limited resources of TENERGY (Time + Energy).

At first, I didn’t recommend the Power Edge Pro. But, it obviously helps players learn the Magic Mechanics of the Transition Tricks. It doesn’t FORCE the Transition Tricks – but it helps encourage them. So it’s a good system, but not a foolproof system. My reasoning is that if it was foolproof, we’d see more players with the same Mechanics as McDavid coming from that cohort. Don’t be fooled by late adopters of the system who were already good before testing it out.

After studying the system, I’ve incorporated elements of it into the Downhill Skating System. They key I’ve found is to use the obstacles to force a pattern – but then encourage the Magic Mechanics through verbal and visual feedback.

The Transition Tricks includes 5 Mechanics:

  1. The Hip Scissor
  2. The Soft Hip
  3. The Crossover/Shuffle
  4. The Anchor/Gaudreau Stride
  5. The Half Stride/Corkscrew

 

If you’d like to learn the exact drills we use to teach players these mechanics step-by-step, you can see that in the Downhill Skating System here.

Hockey is a complex sport. Our goal is to take the complex and make it simple for players. I don’t present this work as a finished product. Please let me know what questions, feedback or suggestions you have. Your feedback helps us to refine our thesis and make the instructions better. Email me at [email protected]

January 28, 2018

How to Become a Feel-Based Learner – The “Feel Your Body Learning” System

Darryl Belfry is the leading skill coach in hockey right now.

Listening to an interview with Belfry, he remarked that the top 6 players on NHL teams are something called “Feel Based Learners”. This means that they would ask how a movement should feel. The bottom 6 asked to be told what to do visually.

So it made sense to research this idea. Then to develop guidelines for players to follow.

At Train 2.0, we call this style of learning the Feel Your Body Learning System.

We turned up a couple interesting concepts that support the Feel Your Body Learning System.

 

Idea #1: Conscious vs Unconscious Learning – How it relates to feel-based learning

The research says that unconscious learning is better than conscious learning for three reasons:

  1. Unconscious learning leads to better performance under pressure
  2. Unconscious learning leads to better performance over time
  3. Unconscious learning leads to improvements in related tasks

(Note: When I say conscious vs unconscious learning, I’m actually talking about extrinsic vs intrinsic motor learning – that’s what it is called in the literature. I am simplying for clarity)

When a player learns through feel, they MUST learn unconsciously. When they get the Magic Mechanics correct, they immediately FEEL it. And they cannot unfeel it. I’ve tried using words to explain the “feeling” – but until you can get an athlete to actually use the Magic Mechanics they just won’t understand.

Since the “feeling” doesn’t seem to be something a player can think their way towards, I’d suggest that it is an unconscious learning.

 

Idea #2: Learn The Way Your Perform

(Specificity of learning hypothesis)

Success in hockey relies on a player using the correct body movements. We call these the Magic Mechanics.

When a player uses the Magic Mechanics they are more balance, in control, and effortless. This provides them with the ability to pick up more information with their eyes. And it also provides them with more options to use.

When a player is playing, they do not have time to internalize verbal commands. They have to “think with their body”. Hockey players have two main sources of data: visual and kinaesthetic. Visual data is used to make decisions. Kinaesthetic data is used to monitor body position – so for skill execution.

When a player uses verbal data to determine their movements (skills) – they may be able to make adjustments in a controlled practice setting. But they cannot use that data in a game setting. It’s like a pilot who only wants to use their windows to get around, but it’s foggy. It’s smart to use the flight instruments because you don’t have any other sources of information about where the plane is. But the pilot still wants to look out the window.

When a player uses kinaesthetic (feel based) data to determine their movements – they always have their preferred data source on hand. Like a pilot who loves using their instruments to fly the plane. Even when it’s foggy, the pilot can land the plane no problem.

Players who Feel Their Body Learning learn the way they perform. So this leads them to have stable performance in both games and skill development sessions. And they always have their preferred data source on hand – their FEELING.

 

Idea #3: Drone Coach Resistance

Players who use Feel Your Body Learning naturally have a special gift. The gift is that when they Feel Their Body doing the Magic Mechanics – it feels SO GOOD they never want to do anything ever again. Take for example shooting. Great shooters with the Magic Mechanics often do the opposite of what many coaches teach. The coach might seek to “coach” the players by giving them helpful advice. But this helpful advice is the exact opposite of what the coach should be saying.

Luckily for the player who Feels Their Body Learning, they’ve felt the Magic Mechanics of the shot. And they can never unfeeling that feeling. And it feels so good that nothing else feels natural.

So they nod politely and accept the coaches advice. But shortly after, they go back to shooting the way they always did. Because it felt right.

 

How To Use The Feel Your Body Learning System

Step 1: Choose a simple movement you want to learn. Let’s say a slapshot.

Step 2: Take a slap shot. Pay attention to how it feels. Where did you feel tension? Where did you feel free? Where did you feel blocked? Where did you feel powerful?

Step 3: Take another slapshot. But this time, completely differently. Ask yourself the same questions about tension, freedom, blockages, and power.

Step 4: Take another slap shot. Again different. Ask yourself the questions again.

Step 5: Now start optimizing. Don’t think about how to shoot. Forget everything you’ve been told. Just shoot. And FEEL it. Really FEEL it.

Step 6: Feel your body learning automatically. Keep asking yourself the questions: freedom, tension, blockages, power. Don’t think about how your body “should” move. Observe it as it moves.

Step 7: Treat each shot as an experiment. How good can you make each shot feel?

Step 8: Once your shot is feeling really good, repeat again and again. Make sure each shot feels great!

Step 9: When it feels right, stop shooting for the day. That’s probably what your body can learn today. Now give it a rest to incorporate all the changes it made.

 

Bonus steps:

The Straight Path and the Perfect Skill System

The key to Feel Your Body Learning is to experiment with many different styles of moving. Often players heard some Drone Advice and can’t get it out of their head. And they don’t even think about it anymore. It’s so ingrained. And they don’t realize how badly it is holding them back.

So you need to really do different things and test how they feel to break the Drone Coach spell.  We call these movement experiments.

Another way is to use the Straight Path and Perfect Skill System. With this system, you compare your movement with NHLers visually. You might rightly point out that this stops becoming a Feel Your Body Learning System if you’re looking at visual information. But the key is that the visual information is used to give you hints on your next movement experiment. Instead of testing 12 really different and weird hand positions, you test the hand position that you see Ovechkin using. Then you test the one that Kessel uses. Then you test the one Matthews uses. Your NHL inspired movement experiments are more likely to generate the right FEELING faster than if you tried 12 random movement experiments.

Use the steps of the Feel Your Body Learning System to become a feel-based learner. On the way, you can become a more consistent performer under pressure. Meanwhile, you become Drone Coach Resistant.

Good luck!

-Jason

 

June 1, 2016

The Formula for Elite Hockey Players

When Google started using their algorithm to predict your tastes, it was freaky. You’d be writing an email in your gmail account about a trip to Mexico, then not long after there would be an advertisement for trips to Mexico in your searches. Weird – Google is reading my email…

We might not like the idea of having our tastes reduced to an algorithm – a formula. But you also sort of enjoy it when you buy something that you “knew you wanted anyway” from Amazon. Or find another season to watch on Netflix.

The reality is that there are mathematical formulas which predict our tastes. They also predict our behaviours.

But it didn’t start that way.

Let’s look at the path that knowledge takes:

  • It starts as a mystery
  • Then it becomes a heuristic
  • Then it becomes an algorithm

The mystery is a bunch of information that has no connection. No seeming interlinkages. When someone starts to form conclusions about how the information is linked, it becomes a heuristic. A heuristic, or mental rule of thumb, organizes the information in a more meaningful way. This is where innovation happens. But the heuristic still has bias. So the next step is to systematically study the heuristic and make it more simple – reduce it to a mathematical formula.

Along the way, knowledge goes from exploratory to becoming exploited. What was learned in the heuristic stage gets exploited at the algorithm stage.

Not long ago, most of hockey was in the mystery stage. People attributed talent to inborn natural ability. They didn’t even try to do strength and conditioning. They would explain the success of certain players as literal mysteries.

Now we see some connections. Coaches are getting smarter. So are players. So are managers and parents. They’re starting to make connections in the patterns. There is still some bias. Bias is okay. It’s just part of the stage. And this is the stage is the heuristic stage.

I’d say that 90% of hockey is still in the heuristic stage. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s just the way it is. Certain businesses like McDonald’s, Amazon, and Google are way past that. They’re exploiting the benefits of their algorithm. A sport like baseball is further along the continuum towards algorithm than hockey.

At the management level in the NHL, we see a shift towards algorithms. Managers figure out how to put together teams with advanced stats. They use algorithms to measure player value.

For a long time, I’ve been dissatisfied with my own role as a hockey development specialist. I have my own heuristics around what makes a good hockey player. I believe they’re more valid than other heuristics used by other coaches. For example, many coaches and scouts believe that big, smooth skating defensemen are the answer to any potential situation. When I stood on the bench and coached a team, I had a bias towards putting out my bigger defensemen. I’m not sure if that was because they were the best players, or that their size inclined me to think that way. Either way, I don’t know for sure. Neither does a scout. Neither does a manager. Neither does another coach. I used to think that the “bigger is better” heuristic was junk. But now I’m not sure.

As a hockey development specialist, my business survives on the perception that I’m making hockey players better. Once again, I truly believe that I’m doing the right things. I believe I’m giving my guys a bigger advantage than what other guys get with other coaches. But how do I know for sure? I can’t. You can’t. They can’t.

The earliest to the algorithm game in hockey was Anatoly Tarasov: the father of Russian hockey. He was using advanced stats before they were in vogue. The next to the algorithm game came Darryl Belfry. Whether he says this or not, he’s creating a formula for player success: an algorithm. He seems to measure many details, then sift through to find the ones that make the biggest difference. I’m not sure how his statistical process works, but it seems to work in the NHL. Good enough for me.

Many coaches, development specialists, and business people try to “measure things”. But the things they measure have close to no validity for predicting hockey success. “Oh ya? You measure shot speed to .00001km/h? Wow!!!”

For example: I was tagging a player the other day and on a shift he was -3 for Corsi. Except all three shots originated from the other side of the ice. The player I tagged was in position and had nothing to do with the shots against. He then retrieved a loose puck, and exited the zone. We tracked the shots against, the retrieval and the exit. So, which piece of data was most meaningful?

Obviously the loose puck recovery and exit showed what the player contributed on that shift. He wasn’t penalized for the shots against.

As a former pro and college player player, myself and my cofounder know which pieces of data to pay attention to. Then we use a couple simple, yet rigorous statistical methods to find the most important data points. To mathematically prove our heuristics. With that we’re building an algorithm. We’re building a formula for elite player development. And we’re getting data from all levels.

This is our drive to move from heuristic to algorithm. It greatly improves the rate of development of the average player. Very few in the space have the combined technical and mathematical expertise to do this. We count ourselves lucky to be working together on this.

Will this stymy innovation in hockey? Yes. An algorithm naturally does that. It trades the search for validity for reliable outcomes. With an algorithm, you can get reliable development. Killing innovation in hockey is not a good thing if you’re killing Darryl Belfry’s ability to innovate. We aren’t trying to do that. But killing “innovation” in hockey is a good thing if you’re killing an inexperienced coach in your association’s experiments in “chip & drive methodology” vs the “get it out methodology”. In that case, you want a formula. You want to drive out heuristics and amateurish experimentation. You want reliable development.

This may not be exciting to you. But it is to us. When you are paying for results from coaches, and coaches have nothing to be accountable to, you’re essentially paying for a mixture between hypnosis and snake oil. And that includes me and what I do. I just happen to be really good at hypnosis. And I have the best snake oil.

But now that all changes. If we have data to meaningfully show the improvements that a player makes, we have something to be accountable to. You can have that too.

-Jason

P.S. If you liked this article because it was different than most Drone Coach advice, and you’d like to get to work on becoming a Hockey Wizard, then click here to check out the benefits of becoming a Train 2.0 Member.

 

February 8, 2016

How to Get a Stronger Core without Situps – & How Slippery Players are Slippery

How To Get A Stronger Core Without Doing Situps – And How Slippery Players Are Slippery from Jason Yee on Vimeo.

P.S. If you liked this article because it was different than most Drone Coach advice, and you’d like to get to work on becoming a Hockey Wizard, then click here to check out the benefits of becoming a Train 2.0 Member.

December 15, 2015

How to Skate Like Jack Eichel – The Uncommon Instructions

 

We’ve all witnessed the fluidity, freaky speed, and graceful stride belonging to Mr. Jack Eichel. Is this preternatural skill? Could be. And can we stop drooling over it? I can’t. And players everywhere always ask me: how can I skate like Jack Eichel.

So then, here’s an even better question: can it be taught? Can everyday players learn to skate like Jack Eichel?

 

We can probably agree that many coaches are dogmatic. By this, I mean that they cling to one particular set of ideas pertaining to what is right and wrong. When presented with evidence that disconfirms their particular ideology, they enter into an interesting psychological state known as cognitive dissonance.

Isn’t it also true that most players, parents and fans are also this way? That is why I have started adding disclaimers in my articles forewarning readers of the dissonance they are about to experience through reading my uncommon (yet usually effective) perspective.

I’ll pause here for the people who are growing bored with my psychology babble to tell you that the magic trick you’re looking for is “weight shifts”. Ok get lost. Thanks for reading up until now. If you haven’t liked the article up until this point, you definitely won’t like the rest.

Ok, now back to the full explanation on how to skate like Jack Eichel:

Jack Eichel skates a bit weird, right? He seems to shuffle from side to side while gaining speed effortlessly. So wouldn’t it make sense that the advice to needed to skate like Jack Eichel is also a bit weird. You bet!

Here it is… (again)

Weight shifts.

What was our first question? Can Jack Eichel’s skating principles/style be taught?

Let’s first see if you can identify what I mean by weight shifts. See if you can catch them here.

When Jack Eichel skates, he has figured out how to use gravity and momentum to his advantage. He leverages these laws with his body mechanics of shifting his weight.

Hmm, who else preaches weight shifts/transfers?

Mr. Darryl Belfry.

,Can you catch where Darryl coaches weight shifts?

No? How about here?

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.22.33 AM

Or here?

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.23.52 AM

Hmm, it sounds like weight shifts/transfers can be taught, doesn’t it? Now, let’s talk about how and what to teach.

Example from Speed Skating

So let’s again look to speed skaters to see a clear example of the principles of gravity and momentum at play in a skating stride. Notice two things, 1) the circular motion of this skater’s right foot and 2) the diagonal pushing pattern.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.32.54 AM

Circular right foot: push out and back

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Circular right foot: pushes out and more back

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.32.14 AM

Circular right foot: gets to full extension

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.32.23 AM

Circular right foot: Continues circle, now coming in and forward

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.32.36 AM

Circular right foot: Continues circle, in and moving forward

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.32.44 AM

Circular right foot: planting on inside edge

You can see this live here:

https://youtu.be/SSmwi9IAtEA?t=1m19s

Circular leg motion:

Rather than a diagonal and linear movement straight out and straight back in, the leg travels in a circular motion out, then out and back, then up and in, then forward and in, then back out, then out and back. This uses momentum and smooth biomechanics of the leg so there’s never an acceleration or deceleration of the leg, it’s always moving, like in a running stride.

 

Diagonal Stepping:

The only way you can maintain this circular stepping is with diagonal pushes. Rather than skating in a straight line, you’ll notice that the speed skater here pushes their body in a slightly lateral direction on each push. This again keeps momentum up, and mimics the falling mechanics of a good runner.

You’ll see here that the skater pushes diagonally and shifts laterally to make his next step.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.51.29 AM

Momentum from his right leg push is propelling him laterally to his left.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.51.39 AM

The skater is about to plant on the outside edge. Yes, I said outside edge.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.51.48 AM

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.52.08 AM

Oh, and there he goes. Planting on the outside edge. You can see that he has shifted laterally, and is planted on the outside edge.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.52.16 AM

He continues using his momentum, “falling” with the energy of the stride”

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.53.05 AM

Now to correct the fall, he transfers to his inside edge and begins pushing WITH the momentum.

Back to Hockey

MMMM’kay. So that was a speed skating example. Of course, in hockey you rarely take more than 4-5 linear strides at a time in a game setting. Most of the time it is between 1-2 linear strides. So just how important is this? I dunno…? Fairly important. Watch Jack Eichel start behind an opposing player in a race for the puck…like WAYYY back, and pass him in ONE STRIDE! I’ve started the video at 1:30, and the ONE SINGLE STRIDE where he absolutely gasses his opponent, EFFORTLESSLY happens at 1:31. You may want to rewind and stop and go a bit to catch the diagonal movement, circular leg motion, and the stepping on the outside edge. It is that step that generates all the acceleration to beat his opponent.

Same clip, but here he is again:

Now there are also situations in which you simply can’t take full strides as a hockey player. What does Eichel do?

He still uses both principles. He’ll use a circular leg motion and a diagonal push. His push is almost imperceptible, but because he leverages the power of momentum and gravity, he’s able to INCREASE his speed.

Same clip again, but abbreviated strides. You’ll see the similarities between the above full strides and the abbreviated strides after watching a couple of times.

Here again, at 3:56 he’ll use extremely abbreviated steps. But the weight shift and diagonal circular steps are still detectable.

Hmmmmmmmmmm. What does that look like to you? Who has taught us that before? Oh, how about Belfry????

Check out Belfry teaching this subtle, yet dangerous manoeuvre to Tavares at 0:54.

 

Freaky eh?

 

What to do now?

Ok, so now you should probably go to you local power skating coach and ask them to teach you this stuff right?

Doubt it.

Show them this article, and watch their face drop. Then they might tell you something like Jack Eichel’s stick is too long or something. They might even tell you they can improve Mr. Eichel’s skating because he’s skating all wrong, and I’m all wrong. Maybe I am? Who knows. But this is a tell for cognitive dissonance, which you should at least be aware of.

 

[Note I love Coach Prusso’s stuff, I just don’t agree with him about the stick thing, which is something I saw he wrote an article on while researching this article]

What to actually do now…

At this point, I wish I could point you to a resource that explains how to skate like Eichel from start to finish. It doesn’t seem to be out there. Maybe I will create it one day. But until now, I’d suggest studying these videos, getting video of yourself skating, and comparing the two. I honestly doubt that any power skating coaches teach this stuff other than Belfry. If they do, it’s a mystery to me, and I’m fairly well researched when it comes to this stuff. (Please tell me if there is someone who does teach this stuff).

In writing this article, I was heavily consulted by a former professional figure skater who mentioned that this type of thinking is rare even in figure skating. Like in hockey, the understanding of how to skate is linear and simple. Simple rules like: don’t swing your arms side to side, have full extension, bend your knees.

The fact that simple and moderately useless rules exist to teach players nowadays is only of benefit to players like Eichel who somehow inherited his glorious stride…and YOU, who is willing to research how and what to do to develop yours.

I know I have presented more than enough contrarian evidence to invoke significant anger in many of you, and you won’t even know why. I am fine with that. If you’d like some more evidence (I know you don’t actually) of the circular motion and diagonal stepping, you can see it here, hereherehere, and here. But for those who are interested in an uncommon (and more effective) approach to skating, please let me know how this goes for you.

-Jason

If you think this video was over the top, you should see this one.

 

August 21, 2014

Hacking Tryouts – Experimenting with advanced statistics

Tryout camps are a time of tumultuous emotion, upset parents, scorned players, stressed out coaches, and political agendas. When I took part in the minor hockey and junior tryout camps, I was sort of blind to all the calamity around me. When I began attending tryout camps from the perspective of strength and conditioning/skills coach, I took on a whole new perspective. I sort of took on the perspective of the anxious parent who wants his kid (in my case, athletes I train), to do well. I also took the perspective of the coach trying to sort out who was deserving of a spot and who wasn’t. This journey was further animated by the (wide) range of perspectives of every different parent.

Most parents of players who were cut, thought that their kid was not given a fair shake. I sometimes agreed, and other times disagreed. Since parents were so biased in watching their kids play, I wondered, though, exactly how much of my bias was distorting my perception of players’ performance. The next logical question was: how much of the coach’s bias distorted his views? In order to answer this, I wanted to evaluate some sort of objective data that might track a player’s performance in the tryout camp and possibly predict their future performance on the team. So that’s what I did…

Read More

February 4, 2014

Patrick Kane and Darryl Belfry

Patrick Kane and Darryl Belfry

I’ve mentioned Darryl Belfry before on my blog, mostly because I look up to him in terms of his approach to coaching. A friend of mine recently sent me this article as a corollary to my “Coaching: Cause vs Effect” article. His comment was that the coach of the future will focus more on analytics than on outcome. I couldn’t agree more.