Q: My child dreams of playing college hockey. Does it matter if he/she isn’t on a winning team now?
A: This is one of the more common development questions that we encounter. Many coaches, parents and players believe in the need to play on the best team in order to advance to the “next level.” This belief, however, simply isn’t based on factual evidence.
NCAA coaches are concerned with how good a player is, not where that player played hockey at 14U/16U. NHL general managers don’t draft players because of the organization they played for previously; they draft players because they are extremely talented and they project to be NHL-type players.
Too often, youth hockey parents will move their kids to a “better” team instead of letting their child play for a “lesser” team, even though they may develop more on the perceived lesser team. Kids are in a better development position when they are going to play a lot and in every situation. Sometimes, by going to the so-called better team, a player won’t get the necessary minutes and experience to develop to his or her full potential.
One of my favorite stories along these lines is about one of my all-time favorite athletes, Bo Jackson. He was recruited by both Alabama and Auburn to be a running back. At the time, Alabama was one of the best teams in the nation and had beaten Auburn many years in a row. Alabama told Jackson that if he went there, he’d probably be a starter by his junior year because they were so loaded at running back. Auburn, on the other hand, told him that the day he set foot on campus, he’d compete for the starting job (Pat Dye also let Jackson run track and play baseball at Auburn). Ultimately, Jackson picked the “lesser” team in Auburn, became a starter immediately and beat Alabama in his freshman year. We know the rest of the story, with Jackson’s many accolades on both the professional baseball and football fields.
Moral of the story? If Bo had gone to Alabama, we might not know what Bo knows!
So don’t be in a rush to jump to a better team, because the best team for your child isn’t necessarily the one that wins the most games or has the most “great” players. Be patient and keep your children focused on their own personal development. It will help them in the long run.
The author, Kenny Rausch, began his coaching career in 1996 with Boston University, his alma mater. As a player, he earned Beanpot Tournament MVP honors and was named a Hockey East Distinguished Scholar.