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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Paradigm Shift

Something that's been bubbling in the back of my mind for the past several months is the following question: What if junior hockey teams and leagues were subjected to USA Hockey certification procedures similar to those used for accreditation by colleges and universities? The origins of the question are obvious enough - I'm an academic administrator, and one of the aspects of institutional life my office coordinates is accreditation. Not just one, but four different accreditations. Accreditation to a significant degree is self-study, with the first question being "how do you know your school is doing a good job?" That question subsequently begets a plethora of other questions, starting with "how do we define a good job" and "how do we measure and evaluate whether we are doing a good job?"

I'm not entirely sure teams and leagues ask themselves these questions. Perhaps they feel survival is evidence of success. I believe, however, that survival is not only not evidence of success, but not even proof of any sort of standards of attainment.

So what are the standards? This year's Standards for Classification (pages 199-223 of the 2004-05 Annual Guide) cover 25 pages. Much of what I feel is ultimately needed is there, certainly at the micro-scale level, but I'm not sure these have been developed with much thought to the macro-scale needs of organizations. There's certainly evidence that politics guides too much of the process, and I'm not sure the parties involved concentrate enough on the "who/what," "how," and "why" questions that result in a final assessment of "Do these standards improve junior hockey?"

Returning to the original question, "What if USA Hockey Certification were based on the principles of accreditation used of college and universities?" I quickly come up with a pair of answers: 1) It will be more work for all the stakeholders involved and 2) Just getting people to think about it will improve junior hockey. At this point I'm willing to blow off the first answer because well, self-improvement isn't supposed to be easy, especially if it invoves the primary element of the second answer - thinking.

So what would this involve? Well here's a start... I've adapted the following from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, perhaps the strictest and most forward-thinking of the accreditation entities in the USA... It comes down to three things: meeting standards, engaging in continuous improvement, and providing for quality assurance.

Basic Principles of Certification and Program Improvement (proposed draft)

Meeting Certification Standards: The program is expected to document and validate compliance with standards

Engaging in Continuous Improvement: The program is expected to develop and implement the four foundations of continuous improvement.
Vision…a clear, compelling purpose communicated through the program’s vision, mission, beliefs, and core values.

Profile…a rich, comprehensive information data record reflecting the most current player performance data, stakeholders’ perspectives, community characteristics, and an analysis of the strengths and limitations of the program.

Plan…a strategic plan crafted based on an analysis of pertinent data, research of best practices, and an alignment with player, parent, and scouting expectations for player development.

Results…documentation of evidence that demonstrates successful implementation of planned innovations and strategies that resulted in gains in player achievement in targeted areas of development.

Providing for Quality Assurance
Peer Review: The program prepares and engages in peer review to strengthen the work of the program to improve player development.

The program identifies methods that are being implemented to provide for quality assurance.

Program Officials document and communicate the accomplishments of the program to improve player development and the success of the program.

Program personnel use the results of improvement efforts to inform what happens next.

From there, come the standards... This is only a rough draft, again adapted from SACS:

Certification Standards for Quality Junior Hockey Programs (proposed draft)

Standard 1 - Beliefs and Mission

A quality program develops and communicates a vision, beliefs and mission that provide a focus for the quality of the work of the players and the quality of the work of the program.

In fulfillment of the standard, the program:

1.1 Establishes a vision for development in the hockey community through the leadership of the governing board of the program and in cooperation with its stakeholders;

1.2 Identifies program-wide goals to advance the vision;

1.3 Establishes an accountability program to document and monitor achievement of its goals;

1.4 Develops and continuously maintains a profile that describes the program,
players, and community;

1.5 Ensure that the program’s vision, mission, and beliefs guide development throughout the program and reflect research and best practices concerning teaching and learning; and

1.6 Reviews its vision, mission, and beliefs annually and revises them when appropriate.

Standard 2 - Governance and Leadership

A quality program provides for and promotes stability in the leadership, governance and organizational structure which include a focus in developing and maintaining a vision; an emphasis on improving player development; and support for innovative efforts that produce desired results.


In fulfillment of the standard, the program under a governing board that:

2.1 Adopts written policies and procedures that promote the effective operation of the program that include clearly defined lines of authority, relationships, and accountability which support the mission, beliefs and goals of the program;

2.2 Permits the administrative team of the program to implement policies and procedures without interference;

2.3 Establishes policies and procedures that recognize and preserve the executive, administrative, and leadership prerogatives of the head of the program; and

2.4 Implements policies and procedures that provide for the orientation and training of the governing board.


In fulfillment of this standard, the leadership of the program:

2.5 Maintains access to legal counsel who can advise or obtain necessary information about the legal requirements and obligations that exist in the state, federal, or other jurisdictions in which it operates;

2.6 Maintains adequate insurance or equivalent resources to protect its financial stability and administrative operations from protracted proceedings and claims for damage;

2.7 Creates and strengthens collaborative networks of community stakeholders to support player development; and

2.8 Allocates and aligns the human, instructional, financial, and physical resources in support of the vision, mission, beliefs, and expectations for player development.

Standard 3 - Curriculum

A quality program offers a research-based curriculum based on clearly defined expectations for player development that is subject to review and revision at regular intervals.

In fulfillment of the standard, the program:

3.1 Develops curriculum based on clearly defined expectations for player development;

3.2 Provides a curriculum that includes a set of essential knowledge and skills for each position;

3.3 Aligns curriculum with clearly defined expectations for player development across positions;

3.4 Ensures that the curriculum reflects a commitment to equity, an appreciation of diversity, recognition of different ways of development, and challenges each player to excel;

3.5 Develops written curriculum guides and support materials that serve as a basis for implementing the curriculum;

3.6 Promotes in the curriculum the active involvement of players in the development process, including opportunities to explore application of higher order thinking skills and to investigate new approaches in applying their learning;

3.7 Gathers, analyzes, and uses data and research in making curriculum choices; and

3.8 Provides a balance of educational experiences through the curriculum that is based on knowledge of player growth and development, and relies on sound development principles.

Standard 4 - Developmental Design

A quality program creates and employs developmental strategies and activities in support of player achievement of the expectations for learning defined by the curriculum.

In fulfillment of the standard, the program:

4.1 Analyzes and uses the results of assessments of player development to improve instructional design and effectiveness;

4.2 Designs and employs instructional strategies and activities that are research based and reflective of best practice;

4.3 Aligns the Instructional design, including strategies and action plans, with the program’s mission and expectations for player development;

4.4 Allocates and protects instructional time to support player development;

4.5 Implements an instructional design that provides all players with instruction that stimulates and enhances intellectual and creative development of higher order thinking and playing skills and requires players to apply their learning; and

4.6 Provides a comprehensive program of information and media services that are aligned with its beliefs, mission and goals.

Standard 5 - Assessment, Measurement, and Effectiveness Results

A quality program uses effective and continuous performance management programs for assessing, aligning, and improving player development and operation performance, including organizational and instructional effectiveness, at all levels and areas of the program.

In fulfillment of the standard, the program:

5.1 Establishes key indicators and performance expectations for player development;

5.2 Develops and implements a comprehensive program for assessing player progress based on clearly defined player results for learning;

5.3 Establishes and provides a comprehensive assessment program that includes current data that includes a profile of player performance, community characteristics, program characteristics, and stakeholder perceptions of the program (staff and stakeholder);

5.4 Employs an assessment program that provides data for making informed decisions for continuous improvement;

5.5 Conducts a periodic analysis of developmental and organizational effectiveness as a basis for improving the program; and

5.6 Communicates assessment results to all stakeholders.

Standard 6 - Resources

A quality program has qualified staff that is supported by the financial and physical resources necessary to fulfill the vision, mission and goals of the program.

Financial Resources

In fulfillment of the standard, the program:

6.1 Maintains financial accounts in accordance with accepted accounting procedures and are audited annually; (Note: The report of the annual audit is on-site and available to evaluators.)

6.2 Secures income from all regular sources that is sufficient to support all regular expenditures and to assure the continuity and stability of services;

6.3 Manages debt service or lines of credit in such ways as to assure that fiscal responsibility remains under the control of program authority;

6.4 Maintains and monitors a balance sheet that describes the overall financial operations and financial condition of the program; and

6.5 Develops and implements an annual budget that provides the resources to support the beliefs, mission, and educational programs of each organization.

Human Resources

In fulfillment of the standard, the program:

6.6 Employs an administrative head of the program with the necessary education and experience required to advance the vision, mission and goals of the program;

6.7 Employs coaching staff members having responsibilities for developmental services with the necessary education and experience required to advance the vision, mission and goals of the program;

6.8 Develops and maintains a remuneration plan for all employees;

6.9 Maintains staffing that is sufficient to meet the vision, mission and goals of the program; and

6.10 Implements a program of employee evaluation and assessment that includes confidentiality for each staff evaluation or assessment.

Standard 7 - Player Services

A quality program identifies and has a network of services that support the development and well-being, including the health and safety, of each player.

In fulfillment of the standard, the program:

7.1 Designs and provides player support services that meets the needs of players, are continually reviewed, and are aligned with the vision, beliefs, mission, and expectations for player development;

7.2 Provides player services coordinated with the program, home, and community;

7.3 Develops and requires written emergency and security plan(s) that ensure the safety and care of players and stakeholders in the program;

7.4 Maintains secure, accurate and complete player records program in accordance with state and federal law and regulations;

7.5 Provides player services, as appropriate, in the areas of health, counseling, nutrition, safety, education, and transportation;

7.6 Promotes the development of player decision-making skill, ethical and lawful conduct, and responsible citizenship; and

7.7 Employs a process for developing and implementing written guidelines for player conduct that is communicated to players, parents, and staff.

Standard 8 - Staff and Stakeholder Communications and Relationships

A quality program develops and supports organizational patterns or structures that promote effective communications and relationships between and among the leagues, stakeholders and programs.

In fulfillment of the standard, the program:

8.1 Provides members of the staff with the information they need concerning players, parents, program operations, and employment status;

8.2 Demonstrates staff morale where staff reflects a positive attitude toward the program and stakeholders;

8.3 Ensures that communications among and between program staff and stakeholders are clear and effective;

8.4 Maintains constructive and mutually supportive relationships among and between all levels of the program;

8.5 Provides evidence of communications with other appropriate agencies such as educators, physicians, dentists, and other related professionals;

8.6 Ensures that records and other correspondence defining players’ accomplishments are accurate and consistent with professional standards;

8.7 Involves staff in the process of designing of professional development programs;

8.8 Provides professional development for staff that support the overall goals and action plans for the program, including building knowledge, skills, and potential for a high level of performance; and

8.9 Ensures that no form of bias or prejudice is practiced or sanctioned.

Standard 9 - Physical Facilities

A quality program has the necessary resources to provide the facilities, equipment, and housing for developmental services to be fully implemented throughout the program.

In fulfillment of the standard, the program:

9.1 Maintains compliance with applicable local, state, and federal law, standards, and regulations;

9.2 Ensures that the program facilities, equipment, and housing are maintained to provide an environment that is healthy and safe for all occupants; and

9.3 Has a process in place that includes plans and implementation for maintaining and improving the program facilities, equipment, and housing.

Standard 10 - Continuous Process of Personal Improvement

A quality program establishes, implements and monitors a continuous process of personal improvement clearly focused on player performance.

In fulfillment of the standard, the program:

10.1 Develops and implements a strategic plan, aligned with the vision, mission and beliefs of the program, to guide improvement efforts throughout the program;

10.2 Engages stakeholders in the development and implementation of plans and processes for continuous improvement;

10.3 Engages in a continuous process of improvement that:

- articulates the direction and purpose the league and its teams are pursuing for the future (vision);

- provides a rich description of the current conditions with a focus on player development (profile);

- identifies what actions program personnel will take to improve player development (plan); and

- documents what has been accomplished and uses the results to inform what happens next (results).

10.4 Ensures that each program is engaged in a planning process with improvement goals that complement the program vision and goals;

10.5 Monitors compliance with accreditation standards by each element of the program;

10.6 Maintains continuity and collaborative planning among the program elements in improvement efforts;

10.7 Provides professional development for program personnel to help them implement improvement goals and strategies;

10.8 Monitors and makes progress in meeting goals and standards for player performance set by the governing body; and

10.9 Communicates the results of improvement efforts to stakeholders.

This topic is not closed, nor is the process complete. Everything is open here. If there are changes/additions that need to be made to the standards, I'm openly soliciting for comments, especially from stakeholders - teams, leagues, players, and parents... past and present... The comments option below is anonymous for those who wish it, or you can send me an email.

The next step is to develop objective measures where possible for the above standards. I know there's a lot to digest here, especially if you've never seen it before. But for each standard, ask yourself the who/what-how-why questions within the context of improving junior hockey.

One final comment. I have no agenda here. While I have some ideas about where this process could go, I am not binding myself to any expectations. I am certainly not trying to usurp the authority of USA Hockey or the Junior Council. If they see usefulness in the process, they will adapt parts or all it. The main point is to get people thinking about these things.

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