“Brad Pitt: Ringette Coach?”

Based on a true story, Moneyball is a movie for anybody who has ever dreamed of taking on the system. Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics faced with making the Athletics competitive but without the budget.

One of my favourite lines in the film comes from an all coaches meeting as they review possible candidates for the Oakland Athletics. General Manager, Billy Beane, made reference to a well known fashion model, and one of the coaching custodians of baseball traditions responds with “Who is Fabio?” as if he has been living in a baseball park – sheltered from the outside world.

Billy Beane hires a young economist from Yale University who has produced a computer program that calculates which players are the most effective with respect to producing wins for the team.

Of course, this approach went against conventional baseball wisdom. Resistance was strong. But, Billy Beane was the boss – he got his way.

I won’t spoil the plot for you. Check out the movie.

Imagine if this approach was brought to Ringette.

Each fall local ringette associations go through the process of selecting players for their competitive teams. I have sat through many of these player evaluations, using clipboards, rating scales and so forth. Some groups use ice drills and record numbers on computer spreadsheets. Others debate their choices back and forth to select their teams.

As I watched these tryouts, I kept asking myself “is there a better way?”

I devised a series of drills that I got from Ringette Canada. So, I was confident the ice drills and patterns were supported by ringette leaders.

Then I created a standard way of reproducing the tests so that my helpers could implement the tests without supervision, assuring each player of the same experience.

I gave each ringette skater two trials, and I recorded the times with stop watches to reduce the subjectivity.

Ringette experts will tell you that the players should be assessed in a “game” situation. So, we used experienced coaches in the stands to “rate” the players as they “played” the game.

We combined the scores of the timed drills with the scores for game-play for a well-rounded look at each player.

What did I notice?

It provided a good picture of all players who tried out. I did not miss anyone.

It ranked the players and made it easy to cluster those that required a second look.

Local association leaders and experienced coaches agreed with the tests and the results of the ranking.

I knew that I was on the right track.

Results on timed drills were similar to game-play ratings. In other words, I could have picked my team based on the timed-drills and it would have been the same as the team I picked from just game-play alone. Putting the two approaches together made the analysis more complete.

I have used these skill tests with my teams to assess, challenge and offer incentives to players to focus on what matters and to show improvement.

It is not just about tryouts.

Ringette Canada has recently released a skills-based recognition program permitting coaches to assess their players on some core ringette skills.

The key message: measure what matters – skills, moving the ring, doing the on-ice behaviours you want – checking, defence to defence passes and so forth.

Don’t be limited to counting goals and assists from the game sheet.

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