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"How we learn to move" by Rob Gray, PhD, may be the game-changer minor sports, especially hockey, needs to shake up the coaching tree. If you like pylons, patterned drills, and specialty toys on the ice for kids to skate around, follow or go through, then this podcast will not be for you. Best to move on to a different episode right now!
Those who run Australian sports have concluded that the coaching of children has become too structured. Now they're doing something about it. The CEO of Water Polo Australia, Richard McInnes, explains what it is and how they're going about it. Interestingly, it involves many of the same approaches to coaching children as are being advocated in Canada. He also reveals their novel way to entice coaches to become better educated and trained. Here is the link to the cricket video he referenced in the podcast:  It employs the same ideas USA Hockey used in 2014 when they placed adults on a frozen river to point out what kids see on a large rink. ( Opening and closing guitar music for this episode is "Waltzing Matilda" as performed by Australia's brilliant guitarist Tommy Emmanuel.
"We take a  minor hockey coach off the ice, stand him at the glass, and we're going to ask him to watch his practice that the assistant coaches are going to run. What does he look for - and why?" So begins Part 2 with host Richard Bercuson posing the questions. Dean Holden and John Castrillon describe the importance of self-reflection in observations, beginning with, as Dean says, the constraints of what the coach even knows. So, even by posing the right kind of questions to the coach, the depth of knowledge to be able to properly and adequately answer is at the core of the issue.
"You can observe a lot by watching," said Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. He couldn't have known just important that statement would become for minor hockey coaches. The power of observation is indeed linked to critical thought, self awareness and self reflection, which is to say that all coaches would well to step back a moment and watch themselves. This is what mentors and coach developers do on a regular basis. In this first of a two-parter, host Richard Bercuson dives into a discussion with guest host Dean Holden and previous interviewee John Castrillon, a longtime soccer and hockey coach developer.
USA Hockey's American Development Model (ADM) has made huge strides since its 2009 inception. One of the program's original regional managers, Roger Grillo (, a successful college coach for 20 years before joining the ADM, provides a unique perspective on the ADM's successes and challenges. He also delves into practice and teaching approaches that are now tried and true, describing what he sees as the three key elements of a good practice. This episode harkens back to a Feb., 2015, version of Grassroots the minor hockey show on Ottawa's TSN 1200 radio, hosted by Richard Bercuson and Gregg Kennedy. In it, they interviewed another ADM regional manager, Bob Mancini, who discussed the cross and half ice hockey approach USA Hockey had been employing. It was another three years before the smaller ice was made a cornerstone of Hockey Canada's new pathways program. To listen to that 2015 interview, visit:
What does Leonardo da Vinci have in common with three intrepid French inventors and Scottish whisky distiller Lord Thomas Dewar? It's all about first having a parachute and then opening it. Without it, the game will remain mired in its age-old traditions and conventions about how it should be taught.
Canadian minor hockey players mostly play within their municipalities or regions. It's only at the highest competitive levels where there is more freedom to move. However, each playing area or association is largely a collection of teams governed by a board. With few exceptions, teams and coaches are on their own with respect to development, training, and direction. In Europe, for instance, clubs have  more clearly defined top-down training and guidance with coaching experts and mentors directing every team. Should such an approach happen in Canada?
John Castrillon's father brought his family from Colombia to Montreal in the 1970s. There, young John, already a fine soccer player, fell in love with hockey (and the story of Maurice Richard whom he once met) after watching it on TV. He taught himself how to skate on outdoor rinks then, at age 14, began to play hockey. Eventually, he was good enough to make a midget team and then a junior squad. He maintained his soccer skills and still plays at a high level. Today, John is a sought-after coach developer in the two sports, having worked with elite teams in both as a coach, evaluator and keen observer of practice approaches and training methods. In this episode, he shares his thoughts on the similarities between the sports' coaching methods and what minor hockey coaches need to do better.
The new coach of the Montreal Canadiens, Martin St. Louis, stated in his initial press conference that he was about teaching concepts, not systems. Whether or not that works remains to be seen. However, the idea of presenting concepts to players directly impacts minor hockey in various ways. In Episode 38, host Richard Bercuson and his guest, Dean Holden, examined the teaching of principles of play vs. systems. Now, with St. Louis' statement as a backdrop, how do concepts come into play for coaches of kids?Two books referred to in the show:Slavomir Lener: Transition Defense to OffenseErkka Westerlund: Transition: From Game to Practice(NOTE: Neither is on the Hockey Canada site nor in Amazon. You'll need to hunt.)
For any coach, there should be a tacit understanding of the need to make practices as game-like as possible. The one possible exception might be the teaching of raw skills. That aside, in order to best teach the game, how many players should be involved in an activity, be it drill or small area game? Shouldn't that number replicate what happens in a game? What is that number? In 2009, Slovakian coach Igor Andrejkovic published a scientific paper based on his  breaking down 60 game videos of a U18 team. His conclusions about how many players are actively involved in hockey events or plays should directly impact how we teach in practice. Listeners wishing to read his original paper should email host Richard Bercuson at richard(at)
Jim Mercer and Vic Chiasson return from Episode 61 ("Culture is everything") to discuss the program they've created called "Creating a high performance environment." It includes a document participants work with in a seminar format. With a website and other social media connections on the horizon, the program is just under way after having been piloted last November with the Whitby Girls Hockey Association. Those wishing to contact Jim or Vic should email podcast host Richard: richard (at)
The episode begins with an overview of a research report which showed how a group of Canadian college coaches completely changed their teams' culture without ever dealing with tactics or strategies. Can this be done in minor hockey? Guests Vic Chiasson and Jim Mercer have about 75 years of coaching and teaching experience between them. They are hot on the heels of defining culture in sport, explaining its importance, and determining what organizations or teams can do to improve it.
Episode 60 - The Room

Episode 60 - The Room


This one begins with the story of the dressing room eavesdropper before a championship game. Then, host Richard Bercuson reveals three short tales of his own dressing room talks that didn't go well. Otherwise though, this episode delves into what coaches should or should not be saying in minor hockey dressing rooms, let alone how they say it. And the guest host does an even deeper dive into a topic that is rarely examined.
We are inundated with drills from a host of sources. Leagues host drill exchanges. Coaches can access software that will provide them with more drills of every possible type than they will ever need. As tools, or learning opportunities, drills can serve a purpose. More importantly, however, is that using drills may be stultifying coaching creativity and not providing our young players with the kind of direction they should have. Then, there's the infernal whistle. In this episode, Richard and his guest host break this down and identify alternatives.Books: "The Hockey Handbook" by Lloyd Percival, "How to play hockey" by Tom Watt, and "The Road to Olympus" by Anatoli Tarasov.Videos: Funny Golf Tips by J.C. AndersonCounting to 100 in French with NYC cabbie
After a few months of reflection and other distractions, host Richard Bercuson returns with a list of new topics he will address in future shows, along with a guest host. The minor hockey addiction, development planning, triages, how to teach space, what is said in a room and many more are on the agenda.  A new ride is about to begin on the only podcast about minor hockey.
This shorty is the last podcast for the long, Covid-laden season. A few words from the host and then we'll be back in August with more great interviews and discussions about the minor hockey world. Till then...
The teaching of skating has improved immeasurably over recent years. While aided by improved technology, it's mostly because of a crop of eager young development people who explore ways to teach not just old skills but also the newer ones the game is being built on. One of those riding this wave of expert instruction is Jon Cara, a development teacher at a facility in Winnipeg, The Rink. In this episode Jon discusses his approach and offers advice to coaches of the key components they need to teach.
As David Laszlo heads to Finland to oversee development and coaching for young teens, he sees that his new club seems to have a strong vision for its future. There will, of course, be new challenges, such as finding proper goalie coaching and dealing with parental issues. Some things never change though. Here's more from Laszlo and his Norwegian goalie coach Frederik Meling on minor hockey in that part of the world.
Chicago native David Laszlo was once a middle school teacher and later owned a pro shop where he often sharpened the skates of some Carolina Hurricanes players. Today, after eight years coaching minor in Denmark, Finland and Norway, he has learned much about hockey overseas and his own skills as a coach. For instance, he uses his whistle judiciously and talks less, a lesson he learned in Detroit when hearing that ice cost $400 per hour. "Am I worth nearly $7 a minute to hear myself talk?" Here's his conversation, along with his Norwegian goalie coach Frederik Meling, and host Richard Bercuson.
USA Hockey's ADM has radically changed the game south of the border, accomplishing much of what it had aimed to do years ago. It has increased participation in the sport and, at the same time, made US hockey a world power. In this episode, we see how it works in a Massachusetts community, as described by Al Ramsay,  who coaches and directs the program where he lives near Boston.
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