Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Youth hockey is a constant learning process
By Cean Burgeson
for California Rubber Magazine
As hockey parents with a son entering his sixth year of playing, I can safely say my wife and I have evolved from “greenhorns” into fairly educated hockey folk with experience in four hockey associations covering two different states. As such, there are opinions we hold now that are very different from when my son was in learn to play hockey, mini-mites, mites, and squirts. Now that those days are behind us, we have the benefit of time and experience. Each year we learn a few new things and change our perception of what hockey means to us and our son, as well as how we approach the sport. That’s one of the exciting aspects of youth hockey – it always seems to present something new for the families who become involved with the sport.
With the benefit of this hockey hindsight, there are two topics I wrote about last year that I’d like to re-address, as my opinions and insights have sharpened a bit over the course of the last year. The first topic is changing hockey programs. At the younger levels of hockey, it seemed to me that changing programs didn’t make a whole lot of sense. If you can keep the same group of players together year after year, hockey associations and programs benefit, and the development of each individual player and their team performance overall increases. This opinion has not changed.
That being said, I feel the need to add one small addendum. Every hockey program has their own distinct offerings which differentiate them. Some programs are run by rinks, while others are run by associations. Some field teams at every level, while others do not. Because of these types of differences, you may find yourself changing teams more than once during the course of your player’s hockey career. There are also factors such as program cost, rink distance, the ability to play up a level, and whether or not the player actually makes a given team. All of these affect where your player laces up for the season.
The second topic is the ability to play up a level. I said in my previous column that I don’t think kids should play up unless it’s an exceptional case. I still believe that is true. However, I’ve modified my opinion a little. I’ve found there are times when it just makes good sense to move a player up if they are performing well enough to do so or if a team is having trouble fielding the required number of players without moving someone up. I must add that this determination should not be made by parents, but by the coaches.
I think it’s valuable to reassess the hockey experience each year. One of the great things about youth hockey is that not only are the kids constantly learning new things, but so are the parents. I encourage all of you to look for ways to improve your own “hockey IQs” this season along with your player.