CoachNow Blog

March 2023 Featured Coach: Riley Dudar

March 2023's featured CoachNow Member is Riley Dudar, Founder and Owner of Evolution Hockey.

Riley is a certified Hockey Canada skills coach, High Performance 1 coach, and a certified mental game coaching professional.

He manages Evolution Hockey’s research and coach development, educating players and coaches on the progressive nuances of the game. On the side, he also consults with many of Manitoba’s elite amateur and professional players, working on their individual games through video and private sessions.

Spencer was able to catch up with riley last week to discuss all topics around skills coaching, growing his business, and how he leverages CoachNow for digital growth.

You can see a transcript of our favorite moments below. You can listen to the full transcript on your preferred platform via the links below.





Welcome to the podcast, Riley! I think a good way to get started is just to ask you what a day in the life looks like for you running Evolution Hockey.

I usually wake up early, around 4:40 or 5:00 AM, and have a morning routine for myself. After that, I head out to the gym to either lift weights, swim, play tennis or squash. By 8:00 AM, I check my phone to see if there are any messages from our managers, coaches or players that we work with. If there are no pressing matters, I usually check our players' coach accounts and see if there's anything I can add or help answer.

During the day, I coach our coaches and players, do a lot of video clipping and watch NHL games, Western League games, and NCAA games to track our clients' progress. I send them feedback on what they need to work on, or I save the clips to use during the off-season when they come in for one-on-one sessions.

When working with individual players, we focus on their specific needs rather than what everyone else on the team needs. During the season, we work with the whole team or around 10 to 15 skaters during off-season training. Overall, my day involves a lot of planning, video analysis, and coaching.

I'm really impressed by how Evolution Hockey focuses on developing skills and helping individual athletes and small groups. How did you land on this niche and build your business around it, especially when many other coaching services focus more on game film analysis and set pieces? Can you tell us more about how you've hired coaches and built your team to support this approach?

Timing and passion are two factors that have played a significant role in my journey. I initially played hockey for five years at the University of Manitoba, and after graduating, I was unsure of what to do next. I started my business doing off-ice training, focusing on strength and conditioning, lifting, and working out with my two younger brothers and their teammates. Over time, my client base grew to over 50 athletes, which led me to pursue certifications in kinesiology.

Despite being self-educated, I was skilled in conditioning and worked hard to learn how to teach it effectively. After retiring from playing hockey, I became an assistant coach for the University of Manitoba team and began working with the players on their skills development. I researched the market and discovered that there was a demand for on-ice skill development, and I started offering those services to my clients.

At around the same time, Hockey Canada introduced a certification program for skills coaches, and I was accepted as one of the first 16 coaches in the country. This certification helped me to further develop my skills and reputation as a coach. Looking back, my journey has been a blend of timing, passion, and hard work. I continue to learn and grow as a coach and am always seeking new opportunities to improve my skills and help my clients achieve their goals.

It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment when my journey took off, but I would say that it was about six or seven years ago when I began focusing on on-ice skill development. I have since worked with a wide range of athletes, from beginners to professionals, and have helped them to achieve their goals and reach their full potential. Through it all, I have remained committed to providing the highest quality coaching services and to continuing my own professional development.

Can you walk us through your process of hiring coaches and building your team? As someone who is passionate about the business side of coaching, how did you approach hiring and ensuring that your coaches were not just exchanging time for money, but also building a successful business and lifestyle? For coaches who may be intimidated by the hiring process, can you share some insights on how you made the decision to bring on coaches part-time and eventually full-time? Hiring can be a difficult aspect of running an academy, so any advice you have would be helpful.

Sure, no problem. So, when it comes to taking on work and clients, I've actually turned down a lot of opportunities. It's more important to me that we do a good job and maintain a positive reputation than to just take on as much as possible. Word of mouth is really important in this industry and we don't even advertise, so we want to make sure every client is happy and satisfied with our coaching.

As for hiring, I didn't want to name our company after myself or my coaching specifically. I want to attract coaches who believe in our system and culture, not just those who want to work with me personally. We've built a strong model and environment, and it's important to me that we continue to bring on coaches who share our values and goals. I don't even have a fancy job title on our website, because it's not about me - it's about the team and our approach to coaching.

So, for me, it's all about maintaining a strong reputation and finding coaches who believe in our system. Turning down work and clients is okay if it means we can provide the best service possible to those we do work with. And when it comes to hiring, it's about finding the right fit for our team and philosophy, rather than just adding more bodies to the staff.

Yeah, I totally agree. Anytime coaches come to me and say, "what should I do" or "how should I name it?", I always suggest that they don't name it after themselves. Unless, of course, they are super famous and everyone just wants to come to see them. But, most of the time, that's just not the case.

As much as I want to stick to the hiring stuff, because it’s super interesting, I’m curious to know: what’s your niche? What do you think is making you such a high demand person in this industry?

As a hockey coach, I believe that I have a unique perspective on the game. Having been a creative and skilled player myself, I don't see the game in a systematic way. I focus on the little things that might make a huge difference to a player. I've noticed that some of these things seem normal to me, but they're often new and helpful insights to my clients.

One example of my coaching success is a player who came to me while he was already in the NHL, making under three million dollars. After putting in time and effort with me, and applying what I taught him, he recently signed an eight-year deal for over 50 million dollars. It's clear that investing in developing his own game has paid off for him financially, and I'm proud to have been a part of that process.

What makes me unique is the little things I've noticed in my clients' games that we've worked on together. I'm not interested in just making my clients better players; I want to help them develop their skills and understanding of the game. And by focusing on these seemingly small details, I believe I can help my clients achieve great success.

Let’s talk a bit more about the “WHO’s” in your company. I ask because I want our listeners to understand that most investors won't invest in just one person. The same goes for coaching. If you're by yourself, there's only so far you can go. Bringing in a co-founder, partner, or manager to help with the business side of things will allow you to expand and be more efficient. Tell me a bit about your early days and who you brought on when you were still scrappy.

When it comes to hiring a manager, I believe it's important to be realistic about what you can afford. You don't need to pay someone a million dollars right off the bat. Look into what an entry level position may or may not be and see if you can find someone who's willing to work with you. My first manager was someone fresh out of university in a sport management program. They were looking for an opportunity and I was looking for an opportunity, so we were able to come up with a deal that worked for both of us.

If you adjust your lifestyle and cut down on expenses like driving a fancy car or eating out all the time, you can save up some money to invest in your business. Then you can pay a manager who will free you up to focus on what you do best, which is bringing in more revenue. It's important to track your expenses and figure out where all your money is going so that you can find areas where you can save.

Another option is to find someone who's looking for a part-time job. For example, if you're a tennis instructor, you might know a stay-at-home mom or dad who's looking for something to do part-time. They might love working with you for a few hours a week, and that might be all you need to get started. From there, you can build up and bring in more coaches and clients.

It's all about being resourceful and finding someone who's a good fit for your business at a price you can afford. Don't be afraid to start small and work your way up as your business grows.

Epic advice. And I’d add that it doesn’t have to be full time, it could be a contractor in some cases. There are tons of people all over the world looking for jobs you can easily afford. At CoachNow, we leverage the global work force and it’s been super successful.

Moving into another topic: I’m curious how you stumbled upon CoachNow? When did you join us? Hockey is a bit of a niche for us so just curious.

I honestly don't know, maybe around three to four years. I don't keep track of time and just try to focus on doing what I do. In the past, people have asked me to do personal videos with them, but I could never figure out how to actually get it done. Back in the old days when I was playing, it was so difficult to get video footage. You had to use VHS or DVD and then figure out how to transfer it to something else, which just didn't make sense to me.

But then iPhones and iMovie came along and made recording and transferring footage easier. I probably just Googled or YouTubed it and discovered CoachNow. I had a conversation with someone about the platform and it sounded perfect, so I immediately bought three or four subscriptions. Since then, I haven't looked back on it and it has been a valuable tool for my coaching.

Overall, I think CoachNow is a great platform for coaches to use. It's easy to use and has made it simple for me to provide feedback and communicate with my athletes. Plus, it allows me to easily organize and access all of my athletes' information and progress. I highly recommend it to any coach out there who wants to enhance their coaching experience and better support their athletes.

Any best practices you’d recommend to our listeners?

I’d say just make it a daily habit to use the platform. It's important to actually use the tool, even if you have the best program or trainer in the world. So for me, it's about being on the platform every day and getting back to people within 24 hours. I try to reply instantly when possible, but the important thing is to actually follow through and respond.

Lately, I've been using voice notes a lot more. I've found that email takes too much time and can be difficult to convey tone or sarcasm. So after a game or practice session, I'll just voice note my thoughts and observations. It's much quicker and more efficient than typing out an email. A two-minute voice note can replace a 20-minute email.

Despite my preference for voice notes, we still use all the functions on CoachNow. I particularly love the annotations feature and being able to voice over everything on the platform. Overall, my best practice is to make CoachNow a daily habit and use all the tools available to me.

Totally. There’s a ton of power to the Voice Over functionality.

I’m curious to know your pricing model for coaching. Are you charging monthly, annually, per session?

Our business model revolves around charging an annual fee. We do not offer multiple packages or options because it becomes too difficult to manage and keep track of resales. Our model is simple: you are either in or out, and we offer payment plans to make things easier for our clients. Our coaches work closely with the athletes, providing feedback on their games and helping them improve on their weaknesses.

We have a team of coaches, and each athlete may interact with multiple coaches depending on their needs. After their game, the athlete may receive a session with us to work on the areas they were lacking in their game. We also offer discounts on smaller group programs, and we include a membership to a facility where they can enjoy other sports and activities.

We try to offer our clients as much value as possible. One of the things that sets us apart is our focus on mental training, and I have personally obtained a certification in mental game training. We believe that mental training is just as important as physical training, and we work with our athletes to help them build confidence and transfer their skills from practice to games.

Our mentorship program can range from $5,000 to $25,000 a year depending on the level of one-on-one coaching, ice time, and other factors. We understand that this can be costly, but we also don't want to price anyone out of our program. We care about our athletes and want to help them reach their full potential.

At the end of the day, ice time is a significant expense in hockey, and we cannot offer our services for free. However, we strive to make our program affordable and accessible to all talented athletes who want to improve.

You’ve said a lot of good stuff. I’m curious: what advice would you give to a coach just getting started in this space?

My advice to a coach just starting out is simple: work hard. It's not a complicated formula, but it's true. To get ahead, you have to be willing to put in the time and effort to improve, regardless of your paycheck. I know that nobody is forcing me to wake up at 4:40 AM every day, but I've built that habit because I want to stay ahead of the competition and continue advancing myself. It's about doing things that not many people are willing to do and repeating that consistently over weeks, months, and years.

Good morals and values are also essential in becoming a successful coach. Building good habits is crucial, such as evaluating how much time you spend on improving yourself as a coach each day. Attending coaching conferences, reading books, and doing things to help others for free are all ways to become a better coach. When you go above and beyond to help someone, it not only benefits them, but it also enhances your skills as a coach, and word of mouth travels.

Simply showing up for a one-hour session and leaving right after is not enough to make it as a coach. You need to ask yourself what you're willing to do to become the coach you aspire to be. You have to be willing to put in the work, to build good habits, and to make sacrifices to get ahead. Being a coach is not just a job; it's a lifestyle. You have to live it, breathe it, and be passionate about it. If you're willing to do all of that, then you'll be successful.

*NOTE: This is just a few snippets from the conversation Spencer had with Doug. If you liked any of these topics, please listen to the full conversation at our YouTube Channel.
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