Q: My 10-year-old is a really good player and we're now being recruited to play next season for another team at a higher level across town. Should we make the move?
A: For players that have a real aptitude in hockey and want to play at the highest levels of our sport, there does come a time when a move may be necessary. When and where are always individual decisions that should be made by the player and family. However, at the 10U and 12U age levels, changing associations for the advancement of play is usually not necessary. If your child is showing great improvement in the sport, it should be an indicator that his or her current environment is pretty good. There are reasons why your child is thriving in the local association. Perhaps one of them is that he or she has friends on the team, and playing with friends in a supportive environment enhances development.
The youth sports environment is filled with coaches who aggregate the more advanced kids in an area. Then they barnstorm the region, or maybe even the nation, amassing wins in the short term. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are good coaches, or more importantly, good teachers, or that they will help your child improve. It just means they are aggregating more advanced players. The grass is not always greener.
So to reiterate, at some point, based upon a player’s individual situation and skill development, it may be time to move on in order to progress in hockey. However, at the younger ages, the your current program might be the very best place for a child that is showing great improvement.
The author, Ken Martel, coached collegiately at Air Force and Michigan Tech while also helping guide numerous U.S. National Teams. As a player, he skated four seasons at Lake Superior State, winning an NCAA championship in 1988.