Friday, November 14, 2008

Rink shopping: Do it for the right reasons

Parental Guidance with Cean Burgeson (For California Rubber magazine)

Now that preseason play has ended and the regular youth hockey season is underway, there’s been some shifting of players amongst teams in California. This happens every year and can be attributed to several factors such as a player’s skill level suitability for a particular team or the amount of ice time he may get.

I have mixed feelings about moving a child to another program at a young age, especially the Mite or Squirt level. In most cases, players should roster with the rink that is closest to their home. It only makes sense when considering the amount of time spent either at the rink or driving to and from the rink during the season. With gas prices constantly fluctuating, this can turn into a serious cost consideration as well.

Cost of the rink’s programs is also a huge factor. Should a player be moved to another rink because the cost of hockey is cheaper there? If it means keeping the player in the sport when otherwise the cost would prohibit him or her from playing, then the answer is “yes.”

Moving because a player has a conflict with a coach is a tricky issue. Let’s face it, there are some coaches out there who are screamers and not all kids respond to this coaching method. There are also coaches who emphasize winning more than equal ice time. If a parent or player feels these situations are causing barriers to their child’s development, then a move to another hockey program might be in order.

It should be noted, however, that later in life players won’t be able to choose their coaches. They’ll have to learn to live with the ones they get. It’s a lesson that some youth players may as well learn now.

I have to admit one big problem I have with switching programs, though. I have a hard time watching a talented player leave simply for what they perceive as a “better” hockey program. As I’m reminded by my son who is a squirt: “you should play for the logo on the front and not the name on the back.”

Sure, he stole that quote from a television commercial, but the sentiment is incredibly accurate. The most important factor to consider when looking for a rink to start off a young player’s career is that of commitment. In any good hockey program there should be a level of commitment to the player’s growth and skill development. Transversely, there should be a commitment on the part of the parents and player to the rink and the growth of that local hockey program. Both are essential to the success of the sport here in California.

Let’s not forget that youth sports are supposed to be about fun. Younger hockey players should be instilled with the idea that it’s more important to enjoy playing than it is to enjoy winning. If winning becomes more important, they’re playing for the wrong reasons.

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