Brenley Shapiro Becoming a Major Influencer in Pro Hockey

By Total Sports Quinte

Brenley Shapiro may not be a household name in Canada, but as a leading sports psychologist, she is quickly becoming one of the major influencers in professional hockey by innovating and developing alternative methods to evaluate potential NHL players. Her work with OHL, NHL and Olympic National teams has brought her work to the attention of the elite in the NHL, awakening them to the benefits of going beyond the “eye test” to identify potential NHL players. 

Shapiro said in a recent interview on the Total Sports Quinte podcast, “ Yeah, it’s a fascinating process for me.  I feel very honored and privileged to be a part of it.  

I feel it’s different and unique from what we’re doing.  My role in the draft is really about learning and getting to know who is the person behind all the equipment?  

What makes them tick? What do they value? What is their character like? What is their mindset? To understand them as a person.  My involvement is really to take a holistic approach.  We’re not just looking at a player on the ice, they are a whole person.  

I try to bring in that holistic view of who they are on and off the ice.  Looking at certain characteristics and traits and factors as predictors to long-term success.  The road to the NHL is not an easy one, and you see it all the time.  First-rounders that ended up being busts and vice versa, guys who might have gone undrafted and wind up having successful NHL careers.  The hard part about the draft is you’re trying to predict the future. That’s obviously not an easy thing to do.  We do try to go a lot deeper now and take on a collaborative approach in terms of looking at draft prospects “. Shapiro is not wrong. On a average only 19% of the players drafted play more than 200 games in the NHL. Drafting is not an exact science. Too many variables are involved in the equation, genetics, mental toughness, injuries, intelligence, adaptability determination as well as other intangibles that are difficult to predict. 

Shapiro says “My practice goes a lot deeper than most to eliminate as much of this risk in evaluation as possible.”  I actually have multiple phases; I follow these guys for about 10 or 11 months before the actual draft.  I’m doing a lot of testing, so I am going to look at their overall mindset, their thinking patterns. Different things that I think are important in an elite athlete — their confidence level, pre-competitive anxiety, I’m looking at emotional intelligence, competitive drive, team orientation, so there’s a whole bunch of things.  

Those are just some examples of things I look at.   

As they start off with us, I design interviews for our scouts so they can be more effective as they go out and meet the players.  They have some guided questions that they ask, and that brings in some information for me to get to know them a little bit.  They have a whole bunch of questionnaires from me.  I basically put all of that information together; I have a whole bunch of psychological scales.  I try to form a picture in my mind of who this player is and what they’re made of.

And from this, I start doing interviews.  I actually will do a full hour interview myself before we hit the combine or the draft.  I will have the opportunity to speak with them, sometimes a half-hour interview.  I get another look at them at the combine and then we head into the draft, so it’s a lengthy process.  

The other issue that often comes up is how today’s athlete is very different from the athletes even five years ago. Today’s youth players have a different mindset than we had as players. Shapiro agreed,“ That’s such a good question; it’s such a powerful topic.  We have a new generation of kids, and that old-school coaching, it just doesn’t work anymore.  It’s still out there; a lot more than I’d like to see.  That sort of yelling and intimidation.  That power imbalance, you’re never going to get the most out of the kids.  They might conform; they might listen, because they’re fearful.  But you’re never giving them a chance to develop to what they’re capable of because they’re motivated by fear.  Fear of failure.  They’re never going to be willing to try new things and make mistakes.  I do some work with coaches as well.  

How to create a better atmosphere.  

I know all coaches; you’re coming in for the right reasons. I did a really powerful workshop once with coaches, they came into the room and I gave them cue cards and said, tell me why you do what you do.  Why do you coach?  And we went through the presentation and I went back and read their answers.  They really wrote me the most beautiful things.  They coached for the love of the game, they coached to give back to the game, and they coached to grow the game. To develop players and good people, it was beautiful.  I started to throw back some scenarios at them.  When you’re screaming at a kid when he comes back to the bench after making a mistake, benching him, doing all these things, are you really in line with what you just told me on these cards?  Do those behaviours match with what you said?  And the room got really quiet; it was like this a-ha moment.

I think the intentions are good, whether it’s parents or coaches, for the most part  the intentions are good.  But we really have to educate ourselves on how to create that type of environment where kids can develop and grow.

I’m just as competitive as the next guy and I understand the need to win, but if you’re screaming at a kid for making a mistake, where is the learning opportunity?  Have you squashed it because now the kid is frightened?  He is going to defend himself, put his head down, and blame somebody else.  I think you just lost the learning opportunity.  It just doesn’t work.”  

This issue of confidence is always a balancing act for parents. Learning to deal with mistakes is part of the game.  

Tandy Uens host of the Total Sports Podcast said; With my own kids, we’ve got a thing on the board about how to deal with mistakes — acknowledge it, correct it and then forget about it.  What advice do you give parents — I know you do a lot of mental game coaching.  Team training.  What advice do you give to parents about — let’s say you’ve got a 10 or 11 year old who is having these issues.  What tips can you give to a parent for that? 

Shapiro: You touch on something, I think fear of failure is one of the biggest things holding people back, whether you’re 10 or 15 or 20.  The reality is, hockey is a game of mistakes, and you’re going to make mistakes.  The more you fear it, the more it’s going to impact your ability to play.  I like what you’re doing with your son and daughter, you’re kind of picking up on something I do, the strategy that I call the three Fs.  I give my players cues to deal with a mistake, I call it …find it, fix it, and forget it.  What did I do wrong, what can I do to make it better, and then you just move on.  So expanding on that from the parent’s perspective, there are so many things I do with parents but a big thing I will try to reinforce with parents is a focus on effort versus outcome.  

When we’re outcome-focused we tend to praise outcomes.  You played so well today, you scored a goal, what a good game you had, and everybody is happy when things are going good.  That’s a big piece of what I talk about; we always want to be encouraging their best effort irrespective of circumstances.  Good games, bad games, we are going to have them all. The more they praise effort, what they can do is create an environment for learning and growing and development.  As long as you’re putting in a consistent effort you’re not going to be judged on if you had a good game or a bad game.  You keep working, you keep growing, and you keep getting better.  Little by little, a little starts to become a lot.  And I think kids will have much more of a love for learning and for development as opposed to fearing outcomes and what is going to happen to me if I don’t play well, that dreaded car ride home.  

That would be another rule I have with parents, and often coaches have the 24-hour rule.  I try to institute the same thing with parents too.  Don’t talk to your kids in the car ride home about the game. Kids are getting this whole post-game evaluation from the parents.  They hate it.  And parents challenge me with that they need to talk about it immediately to remember in order to go over this play or that.  Write it down if you’re going to forget it, but it’s just not an effective time to be talking to your kid about the game.  If they played poorly, they know that.  It’s just not a great place or time to have a conversation about it.  If you are looking to contact Brenley Shapiro, she is available for consultation.“ 

My company website is, and I am also building out a whole personal brand because, like you said, I’m busy, and my passion is really being able to impact the world of sport and grow my method and make a difference.  I’m coming out with a line of online training programs.  An online community for players parents and coaches.  So you’ll get online training and you’ll have access to me in a group forum, questions and answers.  You can check out my new website which is, and there’s lots of exciting new opportunities coming there.”  

To hear the complete interview , please go to the Total Sports Quinte podcast. Available on Spotify,  Podbean, IHeart Radio and Apple Podcasts. 

Listen here