In my last post went into detail on our choice to leave our local hockey associations and some of the drivers of our decision. This post will be to provide an overview to the season and how we are feeling about the decision. At this current moment (about a month into the season) we are extremely happy with our decision to leave our local association for a private league for our third year mite.
As a quick overview the team spends about 3-4 days a week on the ice for an hour and 20 mins for each session. The season runs from early-October to early-March. There is about a 3:1 practice to game ratio. All games are run like a squirt game (changing on the fly, offsides, icing, penalties send you to the sin bin). This results in about 100 hours of ice time during the season.
There are three primary reasons we are satisfied:
- Training/ Develop Curriculum
- Player Focus and Dedication
- Association Drama
A primary reason we selected a private winter league was because of our exposure to their training curriculum over the summer and the impact it had on our daughter’s game. It has lived up to our expectations and then some. The current training consists of a few core skills: inside and outside edge work, crossovers, backward skating, and stick handling fundamentals. Each drill and practice builds on each other so that the movements logically develop the player’s skills and confidence. There are also new movements interjected to keep the players on their toes (figuratively). Most of the drills are done through line drills (old school yes I know!) but it is also instilling discipline and focus in the team that will carry over to their life off the ice as well. They still have time built in for fun and the faster the team masters the line drills the more time they get for fun and competition drills.
Player Focus and Dedication
Our daughter is one of the youngest players on her team and she is at a stage in her personal development where she is very impressionable, the players on her team are about a year or two older than her and approach the game with a focus and dedication that is rubbing off on her. They do their best to be focused during line drills and are self-motivated to push themselves with limited yelling from the coaching staff (they are still 6, 7, and 8 year olds so there is some yelling and refocusing the group). The kids also act like hockey players, I know this is super subjective but the only way I can describe it is that they are happy to be on the ice and this joy comes through in how they behave and interact with each other. The kids also do more team type actions like supporting their goalie or giving each other a pound after a nice play. We didn’t see this with the teams my daughter was previously on, because the players were a bit younger and approach the game more as a social activity vs something they are serious about.
We have avoided all the drama associated with team selection and placement in our association. The league we are in was a pretty simple process you tryout and either make it or you don’t, not many parents involved in selection of who made the league and then there was a draft with the coaches based on their teams the previous year as well as performance in a pre-draft showcase. Our association took a more complex approach to team/ level placement and many parents we are friends with that have their daughters in the association are up in arms. The drama originates with the selection process and the outcomes of that process.
Initially in the process it was communicated to the parents that because of the age of their players they were eligible for a few levels/ teams and that “exceptional” players would be placed on upper the level teams, and a few of the top players were and there isn’t much debate about these players, they are absolutely some of the top players in their age bracket.
There were however some top players that were placed on lower level teams with players that are just starting out or are early in their development journey. The controversy comes in on the selection process, first and foremost it hasn’t been consistent year to year for our age of player so parents are not sure how to mentally or physically get their player prepared (e.g. the goal posts keep moving). Next there were a series of “optional” skills clinics that were used to do initial evaluations, however they took place in early-September when summer leagues were wrapping up, causing parents to have to make tough choices on if they attend an “optional” skills clinic or attend a playoff or championship game for a team their child had been on for 4 months. Finally, after the evaluations in the skills clinic “exceptional” players were invited to skate in official evaluations and scrimmages, but many of the top players in our age bracket didn’t even get invited to this evaluation or know it was an option.
Needless to say we completely avoided this drama, while this was all taking place we were already placed on a team and started practicing, we had known since mid-summer that we made the “level” and would be placed on a team shortly after our showcase draft day. Made for a low drama and great experience of us and our player!
All and all we are super happy with how our winter season is progressing and how things are starting, btw I didn’t even mention we won our first game and it was a great team effort!
In my next blog I am going to dive into our equipment selection strategy.
-North Star Hockey Dad