Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winning Versus Development

When it comes to choosing between winning and development, here are a number of issues I've seen arise during my 40-ish years in the game:

* There are some local (at least so-called) AAA programs where kids can sit in a car for about 7- or 8-hours each weekend to sometimes get about 12-shifts per game (if they're lucky). If a player isn't one of the best on such a team, he or she can quite possibly sit on the bench for an entire game after making that long trek (no kidding). Yup, that's the thing about needing to win (at virtually any cost).

* In fact, the pressure to win forces coaches to do things they might not do if their entire purpose was to just develop players. And, by this, I mean developing ALL of their players, not just a few.

* Then, a certain subject arose in a recent conversation at one of the local rinks, and I was telling a parent that I feel there are usually only about 3 players on each team who are truly at the designated level. In other words, there might be about 3 true Bantam AAA's on such a team, and the rest are just filling-in around them and paying the freight. And, I'm going to proclaim that to be true, whether we're talking about the local Mite A team or the big-time Junior team. And, when it comes to meting out ice-time, what do you think the need-to-win kind of coach is going to do? He or she is going to play the top players 'til they drop, and forget the names of the kids he or she doesn't trust.

* Now, this may be just as hard for some parents to swallow, but... Trophies are nice, and so are great stats. If there's a problem, though, it's that players can't take any of their accomplishments with them when they tryout for a high school team, or vie for varsity ice-time. No, all that is going to matter is what skills the player developed in previous years, and how smartly he or she can ultimately think the game.

*Finally, it recently struck me that winning doesn't become necessary until a player reaches high school, and games become increasingly more meaningful if a player is fortunate enough to reach the college and then pro levels of hockey. Think about that, if you would... All the youth games (and especially the practices) up to the time a youngster reaches high school only have value if they were aimed at helping the player be ready for that level.

Furthermore, I recall a Division I college head coach suggesting that he found it hard to motivate some players, mainly because (in my words), "...they had already played a kzillion of the most important games of their lives!" Ya, just think about that one, or about some coach trying to tell a 13-year old that a summer tournament game is a real biggie. Not.

Okay, so I've probably raised some slightly controversial points here. I'd really like to know how you feel about this stuff, though, and I'd love for you to leave your Comment below. I try to keep growing and learning every day!