Getting to know Dayle ‘Keeno’ Keen – Blaze Skills and Development Coach

Thanks to sponsors DRP Logistics, the Coventry Blaze have been able to take on Dayle ‘Keeno’ Keen on a full time basis as a Skills and Development coach. In this article we look to find out more about the new face on the bench.

Keen joins the Blaze fresh from being the Head Coach of the Basingstoke Bison under 18s squad, following time as an Assistant Coach in 16/17 with the Sheffield Steeldogs over in the EPIHL. His impressive credentials don’t end there. Over the last 10 years, Keen has been working with young players across the UK, Sweden, Norway and Finland at The Suihkonen Hockey Academy, The Furudals Hockeyskola and the Best of British Ice Hockey camps.

If this wasn’t enough – Keen has also for the past year been publishing articles for a Canadian Coaching Site (TheCoachesSite.com) on the KEENhockey style of coaching. (Who coaches the coaches?!) And also using constraints-based learning for Ice Hockey Training.

The initial set up for the Blaze was due to be that Keen would run a training and skills session during the week and joining Stewart on the bench when possible. However, thanks to the additional funding, he will be able to give more time to the training element and will join the bench as Assistant Coach for every Blaze game.

Head Coach Danny Stewart had this to say about his new appointment, and the expansion of his role;

’I’ve known ‘Keeno’ for close to nine years now and I’m so happy to bring him here to work with us in Coventry. Not only is it a fantastic opportunity for him to further his career, but it will also be a huge benefit to myself and the players on the ice. Skill work is very technical, and a specific part of the game today, and to have someone that has worked towards specialising in that area can only benefit us all”
“Keeno had committed initially to taking one training session per-week to help us focus on skill development. He has begun this and so far, has created a great relationship with the players and staff. Now, with the great support from Rob Plaister at DRP Logistics, we are delighted to have him here for weekend games to assist the players and myself on the bench. This league is too good now and another set of knowledgeable eyes will only benefit us and myself going forward, but at the same time provides Keeno with additional experience to develop as a coach.”

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Photo – Scott Wiggins | http://www.scottwiggins.co.uk | @srwiggins

I caught up with Keen via a quick Q&A;

How does it feel to now be a permanent addition to the match night bench for a top UK team?

It’s an honour, for sure! I began coaching 11 years ago and had always dreamed of the opportunity to coach in the elite league. I couldn’t be happier that the opportunity has come from the Blaze. This club has such a rich history and a wonderful fan base, it’s a fantastic place to be. Thank you to all the blaze fans who have welcomed me!

I must take this opportunity just to thank Stewy for bringing me here with the support of Management and of course Rob Plaister at DRP logistics!

As Skills Development coach, you obviously are focusing on Skills, but what does this entail? If you had to explain your role to someone new to Hockey, how would it go?

So my role involves working with each player and simply trying to improve their skill set. A lot of my work is based around watching lots of videos on each player and analysing it using analysis software. I look at the finest details and work with the player to help make subtle adjustments to maximise their performance. I also spend a lot of time talking with the players and finding out what they feel they need to improve!

For my skill sessions we look at situations that appear on the ice from previous games and then adapt them into drills or games that explicitly force players to work on the skills that we have highlighted from the game footage.

And how would someone become a Skills Development Coach? How did you get to where you are today?

I think my journey to here would be a little different from other skills coaches. As I mentioned before I’ve been coaching for 11 going on 12 years now, I’ve coached at every level of British Hockey from under 9 all the way through to now being in the elite league. I think that’s crucial for anyone who wants to be a skills coach. Developing the underpinning knowledge of skill acquisition and development at different stages allows you to truly understand how we can extend players abilities.

In addition to this I would certainly tell any aspiring skill coaches to try and find a university course that involves performance analysis and other subjects such as motor control and learning.

One last thing would be to try and find some work with a Hockey school. As the main focus of Hockey schools is skill acquisition and skill development it would really aid your learning. I have worked with Best of British for 11 years now and learned so much from the amazing coaches we have had over the years such as Paul Heavey! For the past 4 years I have been working across Scandinavia with elite level junior players up to NHL and SHL players.

At the moment what area of the game are you working on with the Blaze squad?

With each player we work on different aspects so that’s a hard question to answer.

As Skills Development Coach, I’m sure you have a repertoire of tips and tricks…! Impress us – whats your most impressive hockey trick?

The Auston Matthews zorro move.

Without been biased – as you have coached youth teams across Europe, and now coaching the young Blaze prospects, how does the UK’s youth programmes and youth hockey “scene” fair in comparison?

We have some terrific young players in this country especially down the age groups. The youngsters across the under 11s and under 13s would certainly do well against anyone. However, there is a distinct difference as they get older. The Swedish Hockey federation has 6 levels of coaching certification, I think that plays a big part in their continued success.

Who at the moment is your top pupil in the Blaze squad and why? And who is the “mischief maker” who needs to speak to teacher after class?

Ha! We have a really good bunch of pros here who all are focused on doing well here. So out of that I can’t pick a top of the class! There’s a few mischievous guys off the ice but on the ice it’s just focus. If I had to pick someone the mischief maker of the team is Smally! He’s the guy you have to keep an eye on!

You have spent time working in 2 of the biggest Hockey areas (Canada/Europe) what skills, tactics and elements of the games can you bring from those leagues?

Creativity in the offensive zone is certainly something we would love to see but also players being more direct.

What is the KEENHockey style of coaching?

Lots of opportunities for the players to think and react to different situations. Lots of questions and a desire for absolute intensity. In a nutshell – Constraints based work.

And finally – some quick fire questions!
Favourite NHL team? Leafs/Pens
Favourite NHL player? Rasmus Dahlin
Other than a Blaze player, which other EIHL player are you interested to see this season. Fournier
Whats your prediction on;
The top scorer for Blaze this season? Niki
Most PIMs? I literally have no idea!

As well as his new commitments to the main squad, Keen will also be coach for the Hockey Excellence Programme at the Skydome, bringing his experience to the next generation of Blaze players.

We are looking forward to seeing more of what has clearly already been implemented with the players skills so far.

Featured Picture Courtesy of Scott Wiggins | http://www.scottwiggins.co.uk | @srwiggins

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