by Lisa McRitchie on 02/17/12 at 04:30 PM ET
Billy Moores has been as assistant coach, a scout and now the Coordinator of Player Development, working under the Director of Player Development, Mike Sillinger. Moores is currently in his 12th season with the Oilers and now finds himself working with a very talented pool of players.
I couldn’t imagine a better personality to work closely with the players and coaches. Moores is calm, kind, thoughtful, resourceful but he also knows his hockey. You know that Moores would be able to tell a player when they are not doing what they are supposed to, but that he far more enjoys telling players they are doing well and helping them reach higher levels.
I had the opportunity to take five minutes of Moores’ time when the Oklahoma City Barons came to Calgary Thursday February 8th, and wasn’t surprised by how much he enjoys his job. It becomes very evident every time you speak to Moores to discover that he genuinely cares about not only the talent pool, but also the personal side of prospect development.
Moores on his philosophy on player development.
“There are a lot of things in the philosophy, but what we really try to do is to try to help our players by giving them the recourses that they need to succeed. And really their part of it is that they have to take personal responsibility for their own development; it’s a mutual thing. It’s a thing that we work at together with the player.
“We identify some of the things that they need resources in but the bottom line is that until the player takes responsibility for their own development, it doesn’t work. So that’s a huge priority for them to do that. We spend a fair amount of time talking about that.”
Moores and the development staff are in constant communication with the players in the system.
“We have contact at least twice a month, and often times more frequently than that. Really what we’re trying to do is that we’re trying to give consistent messaging. We want to be on the same page and we want everyone to hear the same things in terms of expectations and in terms of communicating things that we think are important.
“Whether it’s from management or from Tom Renney at his level or from our American League coaches, we want them to understand that we have an organization that we’re proud of there’s a culture development that we think is important. We want them to be a part of it but here are the parameters, here are the core values and the things that we think are important for you to be a part of it.”
For Moores and the rest of the development staff, it is also very important that players feel they matter.
“I think that an important part of the philosophy of the organization is that you treat people with respect and that you get a lot more out of people when you treat them with respect. You have high expectations of them and hold them to a high standard that’s part of it too. We’re not here for mediocrity, we’re here for excellence. And with excellence, there’s a huge price to pay.
“So that’s where the personal development comes back in, but it starts with caring and its legitimately that we care about each of these athletes and we’re going to do whatever we can to make them a better player. If they need a resource that we can find, or help, we’re going to help them in that way, but number one is that they’ve got to help themselves.
“And so they get that pretty quickly and most of them have been very responsive. One of the other core values is that we expect them to be receptive to the coaching because you can’t get anywhere without that, and so that’s a really critical part of the core values.”
For the player development division of the Edmonton Oilers, there are 35-40 players that are being observed and worked with at any given time.
“Mike Sillinger does a great job. He works more with our major junior players across Canada and then there are three players in college. So that’s his main assignment in terms of making sure that if they have any questions they get a hold of him.
“I’m in contact with them [the players] every two weeks as well and then the Oklahoma City players, the Stockton players and some of the European players become more of my responsibility. So it’s more, rather than being as hands on as Mike is, I’m more working with the players but also spending time working with the coaches like the Oklahoma City coaches.
“We’re taking care of our players in Oklahoma City so it’s a little bit easier of a thing to do and of course with the general manager Bill Scott. But the importance of ongoing communicating and the consistent message, those combinations are really important. I think that we work very hard at it. You have to work very hard because it’s easy to slide. And I think that the players have responded very well to it.”
It is important to the Oilers’ organization that players don’t slip through the cracks so to speak.
“I thought school for many years. There are always many kids that get their homework in right way, and then there are always players that don’t. You have to make sure that they get it in and promptly. There’s no difference with hockey players.
“Some of them are very disciplined about the way that they do things. Others, it takes them a little longer to do it, but ultimately we want them to respond and we’re going to have them respond. Sometimes you have to chase them down [laughs]. They respect the fact that we’re trying to help them with their career and we’re not doing it for just one or two people. We’re trying to do it as inclusive as possible because you don’t know at the end of the day who is going to be the player that will help you, and we’re looking for the sustainability. You’re trying to build sustainability so you need numbers.”
Leaning English is another resource provided by player development.
“That’s all part of our department, that would be a resource. Another example might be a player having trouble with the food or their weight or whatever so then we would get a nutritionist for them. So those are some of the resources that we take care of.
“We have a fellow named Frank Musil, Dave Musil’s dad, he has always said that some of these players coming in from Europe that they have to learn the language. And so we’ve got that now. We’re making special points of making sure that they get the support that they need from the junior teams to get that language so that they’re more likely to be able to do interviews, they’re more likely to be able to acknowledge situations and they’re likely to stay because they feel comfortable with the English language.”
And to not feel isolated from their teammates? “Absolutely right, that’s a good point.”
A player like Martin Marincin is working closely with the player development group. Although fellow Slovakian Martin Gernat came to Canada speaking English quite well, Marincin had lesser English speaking abilities.
Despite the fact that both players had some English training in school in Slovakia, it becomes perhaps a matter of personality why one player is more comfortable speaking English and the other struggles. Of the two Gernat is by far the most outgoing and so you know that he has been practising his English more not only with other players, but maybe also back home in Slovakia. For Marincin he needs more attention and perhaps even prodding to get him to practise his English. The results to this point are not only that Marincin has been learning English, but also that he is becoming more outgoing and confident.
Both Kristians Pelss and Martin Marincin have made significant improvements with their English thanks to the Rosetta Stone system. With the software, the players are able to work with tutors and on their own despite road trips, busy schedules and in Marincin’s situation a trade from Prince George to Regina.
With all that is involved with player development, it is great to see and hear from the players how interactive the process is. Players will often tell me that they just missed a phone call from Mike Sillinger on their way to come out and discuss a game, and it is clear that the constant communication makes the player feel that they matter and that they are a valued asset.
Not all teams have the resources to fund a player development group the way that the Oilers have, and that also shows through speaking with players. That is not to say that any other team is failing their prospects, because certainly they are not, but that extra bit of human interaction, communication and positive affirmation from the team is something that the Oilers are doing that may create loyalty to the club down the road.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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