Feedback to hockey players: Effective strategies

By Brent Bradford & Vic LeMire

Brent Bradford and Vic LeMire, authors of a new hockey resource book, “Goaltenders are not Targets,” have joined forces to deliver a series of articles that relate directly to parents in the game of hockey. Throughout the hockey season, it is hoped that all parents will gather some pertinent information so that every player is provided with the unconditional support that is necessary for enhanced levels of self-confidence, self-efficacy and enjoyment in the game of hockey.

With 85+ combined years of experience playing, mentoring, coaching and scouting in hockey arenas across the globe, we have observed several effective communication strategies that are available for parents to use to provide proper feedback to their hockey players. A parent who takes time to learn and deliver proper feedback to his/her hockey player after each and every practice and game is one who understands that feedback is a vital part of player development. For example, while referring to one of our previous articles (i.e., The Dreaded Ride To and From Hockey), when a parent discovers the importance of the ride to and from hockey, player development will be enhanced through various types of feedback delivered in a positive learning environment.

EDUCATIONAL FEEDBACK: Educational feedback concerning the specific team concepts should most often be left to the coaching staff. However, it is quite proper and beneficial for parents to meet with the coaching staff several times per season to discuss exactly what the projected teaching plan will be for their hockey players. Although it must be stressed that these meetings are viewed as a joint effort, parents must understand that the coaching staff has the right to make final decisions.

STRATEGY #1: Develop a “Personal Teaching Program (PTP)” designed by you and the coaching staff whereby you both agree to monitor, encourage and reward each and every accomplishment that is successfully completed by your hockey player. Within the PTP, several “attainable goals” should be set with realistic chances of success in fairly short periods of time (however, a few longer term goals can also be included).

“Hockey Development: It Is Not a Race!”

ATTENTION PARENTS! Do not expect to see your hockey player become the fastest skater after only a few practices if he/she is not very fast to start with! Set up “performance goals” for each practice that enhances skill development using baby steps! Attending to baby steps will produce a great deal of self-efficacy within your hockey player’s mind; he/she will want to get right back onto the ice to reach another GOAL! This method of goal-setting has proven to be an effective strategy for hockey players at all levels, including the Pros!

STRATEGY #2: Communicate different kinds of information at varying times. Feedback to hockey players can take several forms. It is important for parents to develop an understanding of when the most effective times are to communicate different kinds of information. For example, right after a game and/or a practice, it is very important to speak heavily about all the great improvements that occurred and, if necessary … WAIT … until several hours have passed to bring up any issues or ideas about something that must be improved upon and/or corrected! YES … issues that arise must be addressed also; however, timing and tactical presentation will ensure that your important information is received by your hockey player in a proper and educational manner!

STRATEGY #3: Use technology to assist in your hockey’s player’s development process. A video recorder can be an excellent teaching tool! When technology is used correctly, it has the capability to encourage hockey players in an effective learning environment. Every parent should develop a “GREAT PLAY” DVD of their hockey players and have several copies available for distribution to hockey coaches and scouts (e.g., Junior/College/University). In fact, a DVD of the GREATEST PLAYS (and of Areas of Strengths/Weaknesses) is the perfect medium for a hockey player to analyze before every game and for every parent to provide feedback in positive manner.

Although a video recorder is extremely effective when it is used as a teaching tool … it can also become a tool of discouragement. A video recorder can create several negative issues upon incorrect usage! For example, if a parent is sitting a hockey player down to point out MISTAKES being made all the time, he/she is, in fact, emphasizing these mistakes over and over again! Are you, as a parent, able to understand how quickly your hockey player will decide to make every excuse in the world up in order to avoid watching his/her hockey game videos … and to avoid listening to you?

A video recording can illustrate a plethora of mistakes on almost every shift during a game – if that is what you want to point out, it can easily be done. Using the rewind button with slow motion just adds to the degradation of the moment! The proper way to TEACH at home using video recordings of a hockey player’s performance is to select at least four segments of GREAT PERFORMANCES to discuss before even trying to examine one segment of mistakes!

Using the Bradford’s Goal Academy 4:1 Feedback Ratio (i.e., four positive comments to every negative comment) will enable hockey players to remain positive in the most conducive learning environments!

IMPORTANT POINT TO CONSIDER: Have you ever noticed how EXCITED a hockey player becomes when he/she observes a freeze frame snap-shot of him/herself in game action? It is never threatening ... only breathtaking to see the gracefulness and special effort that is frozen in time … NO MISTAKES HERE … only great efforts and super memories!

EMOTIONAL FEEDBACK: Emotional feedback is either 1) the glue that produces a lifetime of great memories and incredible FUN for your hockey player’s life, or 2) the pain that causes him/her to RUN AWAY from the great game of hockey which could potentially turn them toward making negative choices (e.g., immoral acts, drug use, etc.).

Do you realize that it is impossible for someone to break into a neighbour’s home or to do drugs with a neighbor’s family member if he/she is ON THE ICE having FUN playing hockey?

IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is a taste of reality that we hope each parent seriously considers throughout the years!

• How important is hockey in your family’s life – really?

• Was it necessary to swear at your hockey player because you were angry that a mistake was made (even when you strive to teach him/her not to swear … what message do you think you are sending)?

• Why throw a hockey stick outside into a field after a game your hockey player just played because he/she made a mistake on the ice?

• Is your hockey player’s respect toward you important to you at all?

REMEMBER! When providing feedback, make sure your hockey player knows how pleased you are with his/her effort. Explain to him/her that all the hard work he/she is doing will result in positive outcomes. Tell him/her about all the GREAT efforts he/she displayed; he/she will become so hungry for more compliments and will enjoy the positive conversation … and the learning environment you are creating!

Questions To Ponder:

• When was the last time your hockey player thanked you for helping him/her play hockey?

• Has your hockey player ever asked you not to attend any more games due to your embarrassing profanity in a sports environment surrounded by children?

• When was the last time you went outside and practiced alongside your hockey player and gave him/her a high-five?


KEEP IT UP! We are certain you are all doing a fantastic job, thus far … however, we would be overly excited to hear that you are providing proper feedback to your hockey players … we believe that proper feedback throughout the hockey season will convert into life-long, memorable experiences (as well as more developed hockey players)!

After all, due to the rich amount of positive, specific and constructive feedback you provide to your hockey players throughout the hockey season, would it not be outstanding if that feedback assisted in the development of your potential elite-level hockey player … and as a reward one day in the future … he/she offered to purchase tickets for you to travel across the country to watch him/her play a Junior, University/College or Professional hockey game? … and, to top it off, just to make everything ALMOST equal (we know it never equals out) … he/she may even offer to take you for a “skate on his/her HOME ICE SURFACE” after the game (now … that would make for a memorable moment)!

Coach Bradford and Coach LeMire’s Checklist for Parents
1. Have an enjoyable hockey season!
2. Develop a Personal Teaching Program!
3. Learn different types of feedback … and understand when to use each!
4. Include technology in your teaching environment!
5. Remind yourself …

“The feedback I provide to my hockey player will impact how he/she develops as an aspiring hockey player!”

It is hoped that this article has, in some way, provided you with some “food for thought.” We are excited to continue to write additional articles that will focus on parents in the game of hockey.

We invite you to contact us throughout the hockey season if you have any questions or comments on this or any other parent articles … and/or if you would like to share stories of success relating to your completed homework assignments!

Contact Coach Brent Bradford, M.Ed., at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Contact Coach Vic LeMire at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..