Watching your child have fun on the ice is priceless. Seeing your son or daughter play, learn and compete with their friends is a lifelong investment. But mortgaging the house won’t turn your child into the next Patrick Kane or Hilary Knight. Not even close.
Ice time, tournaments, travel and equipment can take a hit on the piggy bank, but can it also hinder your child’s development?
Kevin Patrick, assistant men’s hockey coach at the University of Vermont, said that at the 10U level, there are three simple ways to avoid spending too much and gaining very little.
Share the Ice
The more people to split the cost, the lower that cost will be for everyone. Just because players are now past the 6U/8U levels doesn’t mean splitting ice time has to go away.
In fact, it shouldn’t.
“Multiple teams on a 200’ x 85’ sheet of ice still provides plenty of room for station and skill development,” said Patrick. “It’s not only a good way to cut costs, but it really is the best thing to do for a player’s development.”
Some coaches believe that sharing the ice will prevent them from working on team concepts.
“It’s that hesitation based on old-school ideas,” said Patrick. “We think that as our teams get older we need to focus on older team concepts, but that’s not the case. At this 10U level, skill development should still be the primary focus and sharing the ice in stations is the perfect example of doing that.”
Practice > Games
Development is based on what a player does day in and day out at their local rinks in practice. The 10U age is a prime skills acquisition stage for players, so practices must take advantage of this ripe window of opportunity. Because of this, players and parents should be less concerned about getting in the most competition and games.
“The idea of playing games is fun and people want to play games. They want to test themselves in multiple games at the expense of giving up practices,” said Patrick. “A 60-minute practice greatly outweighs the advantages of a 60-minute game.”
Eliminate the Travel
One primary culprit of loss in development and increased financial cost is travel. Traveling to get the best possible competition is not what is best for your team or individual players. It is actually the complete opposite.
“Just the time spent in the car alone is hurting the kids,” said Patrick. “Think with those three- or four-hour trips, how many times could your child be shooting 100 pucks or stickhandling. All of those age-specific, off-ice and on-ice trainings are being missed just while people are traveling.”
The financial cost of travel is another thing to consider. Between hotel rooms, gas, food and tournament fees, traveling to play games has an unnecessary hidden cost associated with it.
The occasional out-of-town tournament offers a fun team-bonding opportunity and experience, but over-competing in tournaments and travel-intensive schedules can become overwhelming.
As Patrick stated, spending more does not always produce better results. Let your child play, learn and love the game without breaking the bank.