Q: How can we systematically measure a 10-year-old’s improvement?
A: We all received progress updates and report cards evaluating our level of competency in school. The results were a snapshot in time and may have provided positive reinforcement of our study habits or an indication that we needed to change those study habits. Hockey season is very similar to the academic calendar. For many players, school and hockey begin around the same time. Homework, quizzes, and tests parallel practices, scrimmages and games. We receive grades and report cards during the school year measuring academic progress but how can we evaluate physical development during the hockey season and summer? A virtual progress report (VPR) can be an effective method.
Players, coaches, instructors and parents can use a VPR in many different ways.
Today’s players are visually oriented learners. They need to “see” to believe. As players begin their summer hockey training or summer sports, they start from a beginning point and work toward an end goal. Hard work and commitment are required for any athlete to improve their skills and achieve their goals. The sacrifices, dedication and pushing beyond our comfort zone while training can be an unrewarding journey if there’s demonstrable gains.
So how do players “see” their progress and gain the valuable motivation to continue working hard? The VPR is an easy way for players to observe their improvement and for coaches to track their players’ development. It’s also beneficial for parents to see the improvement and see their children develop a passion to improve.
Here’s how it works: The training program can be divided into a three-week or four-week interval. To begin, identify four to five drills or exercises for the training phase. On Day 1, film the player performing each drill to the best of their ability. Over the course of the training phase, the athlete will focus on these core exercises. On the third or fourth week, the player is filmed again, performing the same drills and exercises. If you have the technical ability to “split screen” and simultaneously observe Day 1 and final testing day, the player and coach can see clearly the level of improvement that has occurred. Repeat this process over the course of a year and create a file or folder with the players’ VPRs over the course of the hockey season or summer training program.
10U players are entering the “Golden Window of Skill Acquisition.” During this training period, the athlete’s body and brain are recording muscle motion patterns at the greatest rate in their lives. It’s important to understand that quality exercises and movements must also be paired with a higher quantity of repetitions. The body and mind learn by actively doing. Young players who are still adjusting to their changing bodies may get frustrated with the amount of repetitions needed to master a skill. By providing VPRs, the athletes are able to see their improvement over a short period of time, which in return, motivates them to develop their passion for improvement over the long term.
Hockey is the latest specialization sport among team sports. It takes time, patience and passion to achieve our potential. Motivation is the key to realizing our dreams. VPRs can be a valuable source of that motivation.
The author, Ty Hennes, began coaching youth hockey while in medical school. He did his undergraduate work at Boston College, helping lead the Eagles to an NCAA championship as an alternate captain in 2001.