My first time commenting on your site. Thanks for the information regarding the meetings.
Allow me to provide you a little background. As someone who’s literally spent my entire life involved in this great game, my personal philosophy regarding player development is very much in line with USA Hockey’s recommended practice to game ratio (3 practices for every game). Meaning, it’s far more important to practice than it is to play games. Pure skill development should far outweigh the attraction of playing games through the squirt level and possibly even through the pee wee level. For instance, through the squirt level, I’m against the selection of in season youth teams based on ability. Mite and Squirt hockey should simply be mites and squirts. No A’s or B’s. Complete emphasis on kids playing with their friends. In fact, at the PW level, I think we should only have traveling and non-traveling hockey. Meaning, once a community selects it’s lone A/AA team, the rest of the players (no matter how many more teams a community might possibly be able to create) would have to be divided into equal teams from an ability standpoint and those teams would play in local leagues. No more B-1s and B-2s. When we use this model all we’re doing to the kids that end up playing B-2s is tell them that they’re the worst of the worst. What then is their motivation to continue playing and to try to improve? You’re right. The answer is their isn’t any. Also, limiting travel hockey to the truly elite level kids in pee wees and bantams would decrease costs and maximize the opportunity for the “late bloomer”. This is how things were done in Duluth when I was going through the youth system and it worked extremely well.
Why this stance you ask? Well, the fact that the number of youth players has dropped dramatically over the last 15 years and, that we lose the majority of our youth players between the squirt and pee wee levels, speaks for itself. In Duluth, our overall youth numbers are literally half of what they were in 1992! The turn towards elitism that occurred in the early to mid 1990′s has done more harm to the youth game than any other factor including the increase in costs. We need to do everything in our power to reduce the emphasis on elitism and the negative perceptions that has created in the minds of the parents of potential future players in order to maximize our opportunity to grow the game.
The reality is that less than 3% of the players of any year class ever get even a portion of their college paid for via an athletic scholarship and, even less ever get the chance to pull on an NHL sweater. Therefore, the more successful we are at convincing parents that playing more games and spending more money is not going to positively impact their child’s chances of a scholarship or putting on an NHL sweater, the more positively we’ll impact the overall health and long term future of this great game.
Having said all that, it makes me nervous when I see Director Hewitt’s comment that, “if you ask the squirt people what they want…they will say more games and a state tournament”. Well, just because that’s what some or, even a larger number of squirt parents are saying they want, doesn’t make it the right thing to do or philosophy to follow. On a similar note, why can’t we just give the ADM full buy in for 5 years to see if it really works or not (in relation to not mandating cross ice games for all mites)? After 5 years we can evaluate it and see what our next step should be. Real leadership is about doing what’s right no matter how unpopular it may be. Sometimes leaders need to protect the followers from themselves — not always, but sometimes.
For some reason, that seems to be true of youth athletics far more often than most other areas of life.
Thanks again and I look forward to more updates.