Volume 6, Issue 4 (April 2009)
Hockey Education Program (HEP): A Statewide Measure of Fair Play, Skill Development, and Coaching Excellence
Following the death of a youth hockey coach in a fight with a parent in 2000, the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center and Minnesota Hockey collaborated to implement a three-component Hockey Education Program (HEP). HEP was initiated in 2003 to ensure youth players develop sportsmanship, skills, and a Fair Play approach to the game. Another goal was to decrease attrition of players, coaches, and officials. Coaching Excellence, a component of HEP, is based on 25 years of youth sport research. The HEP manuals Coaches Who Never Lose and Sports and Your Child contain the philosophy, objectives, and guidelines to ensure implementation of HEP components across players, coaches, and parents. The Skill Development component emphasizes learning age-appropriate hockey skills though skill progression. Increasing the practice-to-game ratio to 3–4 practices per game greatly increases the maximum time players skate with the puck during developmental years. Pre- and post-season Skills Challenges allow coaches, players, and parents to gauge improvement, and structure practices to address identified skill deficits. The Fair Play (FP) component emphasizes sportsmanship. Teams earn a FP point each game if they incur less than a preset number of penalty minutes. A coach receiving a game misconduct or a parent/spectator asked to leave the game will cause the team to forfeit their FP point. FP points are factored into league standings across the state. This past season, 17 678 records of game data were obtained and 25 % (4420) were randomly selected for analysis. The data analysis permits comparison across seasons and changes are made accordingly. Based on four years of data, most Minnesota youth hockey games are played in a sportsmanlike manner. Checking from behind and head contact penalties have decreased since the penalty minutes for these dangerous infractions were increased.