Playing minor hockey has become a career.
The first time I heard this phrase was a couple years ago, and I’ll admit I was skeptical. A career? That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun for a young hockey player. But sure, there’s a lot time, energy and investment involved. Hockey requires a lot of work, but the rewards received are well worth it, I thought. Kinda sounds like a career, I guess.
I had heard the word development before during my ten years spent working in hockey academies and coaching in Edmonton, but after I heard hockey referred to as a career, I started to hear development more frequently.
These days, development is the holy grail of minor hockey. Everyone is searching for it even though we’re not quite sure of the effects it will have on us.
And while I don’t think private lessons or powerskating classes will melt your face off like the guy in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (if I did then I’d be out of a job), I do believe it’s important to understand the limitations of development.
Alright, you can throw money at development, because lessons and classes cost money.
However, development is about quality, not quantity. If your son or daughter gets value out of 3 extra development hours each week, then that’s great, your money is being spent well.
The problem is we want to spend more and more and hope for more results. Development doesn’t work that way. It depends on the internal motivation of the athlete first and foremost. A lot of young hockey players receive their best development time out on open ice by themselves where they spend hours practicing without realizing they’re practicing.
Sure, open ice costs money too, but it allows children to organize themselves and play at their own pace. And like I said, there’s no replacement for internal drive.
You have to be competent at something before you’re great at something.
This is a fundamental rule in hockey that’s often overlooked in the pursuit of rapid development. Our children skip important steps, like shooting the puck properly, to achieve the flashier points of the game, like shooting bar-down.
This is where bad habits are created. Hockey is about muscle memory and repetition. Every skill in the game, from stickhandling to passing to shooting to skating, requires a solid base of understanding before new things can be added. The problem is we consistently compare our children to his or her peers, so we feel the pressure to catch up when others can do things our children can’t. Development doesn’t work that way.
The options for extra hockey development in Vancouver are endless. Here at home, for example, we have two (2!) full classes of puck skills classes filled on Friday nights. I hear some great stories from my associate Giants’ coach Stefano and one of our players who helps out, Clint Colebourn, while another NSWC coach Stan Sibert is busy running the other class. Development these days is fun, challenging, and constructive even if the kids don’t realize they’re practicing.
Kinda like the outdoor rink or open ice, right? The only difference is the structure, energy and expertise being offered.
The point is that these opportunities are available to everybody. Extra development doesn't guarantee a spot on the team.
There’s a balance to be struck when it comes to on and off-ice development. Comparisons to other players or spending oodles of cash to keep up with someone else misses the point. It’s about your son or daughter and what works best for them.
Everything else is just a myth.