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12U Q-and-A: Short-Shifted by the Shortsighted

10/23/2015, 3:45pm MDT
By Kenny Rausch, Youth Hockey Manager

Q: My 12U player has been getting short-shifted recently. I don’t want to be “that parent,” but I tracked ice times and my child only got eight minutes of playing time in a game, and almost none in the third period, while one of his teammates got almost 16 minutes of ice time. When I asked his coach about it, he told me it was so that they could win the game. Is it really necessary for coaches to short-shift 12U players in order to win?

A: Absolutely not! If a coach is short-shifting players to win a game at the 12U level, he or she is doing it for ego purposes only. 

Great youth coaches aren’t judged on wins and losses; they’re judged on so many other things instead. The No. 1 thing they should be judged on is whether all of their players come back to play the following season. John Kessel, director of sport development at USA Volleyball, said it best at one of our recent coaching clinics when he said the main mission is to “never be a kid’s last coach.”

Other things youth coaches should be judged on are the following:

  • Are they preparing their players with the proper skills to keep advancing in hockey?
  • Are they fostering passion for the game?
  • Are the kids enjoying their experience? After all, the top reason most kids play sports is to have fun, not to win. That’s not to say that winning is a bad thing; it’s just that how you get there that matters. Winning the correct way, by developing every player and letting them contribute, is a great thing. Conversely, kids also need to learn how to lose so that they can learn life lessons from our wonderful game.

On a sad note related to this topic, I recently heard about a youth team that won a state championship but half of the players quit hockey at the end of the season. When I asked why, it was because the coach only played half the team to ensure that they were victorious. Hopefully all coaches get the message that in youth sports everyone should play equally. Knowing what we know about long-term athlete development, the weakest kid on a 12U team still has a chance to become the best at 16U, 18U or beyond. Let’s not cut any child’s development short because of adult egos.

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.

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