This is my final deep dive of the Player Development Strategies we utilize in our home to develop great people and players. I will describe how we have positioned our players in the right Pipeline to enable future opportunities as they develop and grow.

Very early on we set a high bar for our players on what we would like them to accomplish on the ice and in life. As we explored how they could reach their goals one things was clear, there are certain paths that players in our area took to get to the next level or have great exposure and opportunities. I began looking at women’s college hockey players from our area and explored the path that most of them took based on their college player profiles and information I could dig up on and other websites. I also chat with parents of high performing players to understand what they do from a development/ alignment perspective.

I found that there were a few commonalities for most these players (remember this is for our region, what is right in MN may not hold in NY, CT, MI, etc.):

  • High School Varsity Team for about 3-5 years
  • National Development Camp Participants or made multiple development camps with Minnesota Hockey Region
  • Around 14U most played in the CCM High Performance Tier 1 leagues (there are multiple and too many long names/ acronyms to list)
  • AAA hockey during the off-season from the ages of 10U-14U
  • Combination of local association and/ or private winter leagues at the 8U-12U levels for an average of about 100 hours – 200+ hours of ice team from October – March

What did we do with this point-of-view and information? How did we put it into practice? First of all, my children are young so we focused on two key items at this particular moment. First, get them on the ice for 100+ hours during the winter season. Second, find the right AAA program and start positioning them within their pipeline.

To get our player 100+ hours of ice time during the winter we had to make a choice: Stick with local association and try to skate on the backyard rink and in local parks as much as possible, enroll in a private winter league that has 100+ hours of ice time in their schedule, do both private league and local association. We choose to tryout and enroll in a local private winter league this year for the first time while using our backyard rink as much as possible. One reason for this was because of the practice structure and focus of the private league coaches and curriculum (more to come on this in future blogs).

To get our player aligned with the right AAA team we continued to do our research of what AAA teams were producing top players in our area and explore their “feeder” system. We homed-in on three AAA teams in our area that were aligned to our goals and were developing top players. Each one had training programs that they made available for younger 8U players and as we talked to coaches and parents found that these were the primary way they placed players on their AAA teams at the 8U level (even if they were holding tryouts overall, development programs place nearly all players before tryouts even began). We then continued to explore what worked best for our family and situation, as well as meeting with some of the coaches, and found the AAA program that we got our daughter aligned to and enrolled in their development program as early on as possible. This resulted in her forming great friendships with other top players in the area, showing the coach the type of player she was, and building the critical skills that program was looking for. She end up getting selected for their 8U AAA team and will start that in the coming months.

One other consideration is politics. Hockey is political and most parents understand this, sometimes too late in the game. I knew the influence that politics can have on the game based on my experience as a player and some of the times it worked for me and possibility against me growing up. I am not a master of politics at the office or the ice rink so this is a tough one for our family to overcome, my wife is much better at than I am so she picks up the slack for me here a lot of times with advice or her engagement. I have found two methods that have worked to position our family and child well politically.

  • Volunteer and Get Involved: Youth teams are always looking for managers, coordinators, or coaches. We find the time to help out anyway we can to enable the team and program they are involved in. I have coached for many years, and this enables me to not only shape my player’s experience on the ice but gives me exposure to decision makers and other coaches that will possibly deciding where my player lands in the future, the least I can do is get her name out there and show our support for their goals. We also help out however we can, this can be as complex as being the team manager or coordinating the team end of season party. We also don’t over do it, so if I am head coach my wife won’t manager, but if I am not coaching she will step in and help out as much as she can.
  • Participate, Participate, Participate: Opportunities will pop-up for your player that may not be in your plans or on your radar, this could be participating in a last minute tournament or playing in a 3 on 3 league, if the opportunities are aligned to the pipeline we are looking to be in we jump at them and find a way to make them happen. It shows the coaches not only that your player and family are reliable but also that your player loves the game and is willing to jump at the opportunity to play it some more.

Out of all of our strategies this is the one that is most influx because we are truly learning by doing, but so far we have exceeded all goals and timelines we anticipated for our player and will continue to refine as the develop and grow.

In my next blog I will talk about specific on ice development decisions we have made for our players and what lessons we learned to inform what we do for our next generation of player.

-North Star Hockey Dad

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