Hockey Certification

By: Kent McDill


February 1, 2017
   In The Loop Extended Articles

Figure skating and hockey are related. Some people believe they are blood-related, while others believe the two sports resemble cousins by marriage.

The component that brings the two sports together is skating on ice. The component that makes skaters successful in either pursuit is being taught how to skate properly.

The relationship between figure skating and ice hockey on the neighborhood rink level was one of conflict. The most precious commodity in skating is ice time, and the two competing pursuits often wrestled while sharing the available hours. But the Professional Skaters Association, recognizing the fact that figure skating coaches are often called upon to coach hockey players, has created a teaching tool to help all hockey coaches make hockey players better skaters.

Today, the PSA offers the Hockey Skating Accreditation Program, which will soon be a four-step coaching platform providing the best input from figure skating coaches and translates that input for the use of hockey coaches to teach the particular skating skills that are different from the skating skills used by figure skaters.

Paul Paprocki, a skating coach at Rochester Figure Skating Club in Minnesota, is the chairman of the PSA Hockey Skating Committee, which has developed the four-step program and is putting the finishing touches on the last chapter, which is designed to take a hockey player to the highest professional level they can reach, including the National Hockey League.

Paprocki said his committee was formed after a PSA conference in 2009 when the PSA presented a hockey skating seminar and the feedback said “it wasn’t very good.”

“The program at the time consisted of three small introductory manuals,” Paprocki said. “In 2009, many of the attendance wanted a more in-depth program. So the committee decided on a very aggressive target of four manuals, which would cover getting started all the way to training a player to the NHL, and including running your own hockey school.”

It is a very aggressive and comprehensive course. It comes from the desire to help those coaches who often are figure skating coaches converted to hockey coaches out of necessity, like Paprocki, a master rated figure skating coach who was enjoying his figure skating coaching career when his son told him he wanted to play hockey.

“Now I am a certified coach in Hockey I, II and III,” Paprocki said. “I did all the travel coaching, and ended up being as involved as I was in figure skating.”

Jordan Mann has an almost identical story. Mann was a figure skating coach at Oakton Ice Arena in Park Ridge, Ill., when a restructuring of the coaching staff caused the rink director David Santee to ask Mann to serve as interim hockey director “to stabilize the program.”

“That blossomed into a full-time job,” Mann said. “I ended up coaching teams and building up clients and it snowballed from there.”
Mann is on Paprocki’s PSA Hockey Committee along with Tara Lane, Barb Yackel, Donna Helgenburg, and Karen Howland-Jones.

The PSA Hockey Accreditation Program begins with Hockey I, which is designed to be a transition program for figure skating coaches who find themselves becoming hockey coaches. It includes the instructions that were taught previously at the annual PSA conference but now can be completed online. It includes two 45-minute classroom lectures and a 50-question exam, and the PSA sequential completion of the courses: Hockey Skating 1 must be completed before Hockey Skating 2.

Coaches can then move on to Hockey II, also available online. This course goes more into the nuances of the game, and is where figure skating coaches truly become hockey coaches. They learn the details related to the playing of the game, offensive and defensive strategies, and skating drills that are specific to the needs of hockey players. It also includes information regarding equipment, most notably the significant differences that exist between hockey skates and figure skates.

The PSA actively encourages new hockey coaches to complete the first two courses online. That will prepare them for the more intense programs of Hockey III and Hockey IV, which are (or will be) available at the PSA conferences.

Paprocki said the material in Hockey I and II can be understood and fully absorbed online, but that the material taught in Hockey III and Hockey IV require a group setting and actual interaction with PSA coaches. Certification sessions take place at the annual PSA conference (this year in Nashville).

USA Hockey, the organization that runs amateur hockey in the United States, has its own coaching certification program, but it is not as much a skating certification as it is an organizational one.

“USA Hockey’s program is designed to train volunteers to coach hockey teams,” Paprocki said. “The PSA certification is designed towards skating skills needed by hockey players. It helps figure skating coaches to transfer their expertise to help hockey players improve their skating.”

“It is very good information, but the nature of it is general, a little bit of everything’’’ said Mann, a Level 5 USA Hockey coach. “We are designing coaching education specifically for teaching the skating skills side of it. It is all approached from a professional skater’s standpoint.”

USA Hockey requires coaches to have its certifications to coach at certain levels. The PSA certification program is not yet a required educational tool for USA Hockey coaches.
However, USA Hockey does promote the U.S. Figure Skating Learn to Skate program as their preferred method for beginners to get them the skating skills they need to allow hockey coaches to concentrate on the game.

Figure skaters and hockey players must coexist; few rinks depend solely on one skating pursuit, and many today fully support both sports with full coaching staffs and equipment.

Just as running sports have many different events which are coached differently, skating has different events that are similar but require different coaching. The PSA is an organization built to promote the best possible skating coaches in the country, and it does not matter whether the skaters involved are scoring points or goals.

“There is a lot less division between the two groups today because hockey coaches are more often seeing the benefit of skating coaches working with their players,” Mann said.