Q: My child’s 14U team is playing in a holiday tournament. Does USA Hockey have any rules regarding the number of games that can be played in a day and the amount of rest time between games?
A: This is a question we’re asked often, and it gets a two-part answer. The first part is that USA Hockey does not have any set rules regarding this situation. The second part, however, is where common sense comes into play.
While there are no firm rules governing the number of games in a day or rest time, USA Hockey has established recommendations.
In our district and national tournaments (the only official USA Hockey tournaments), teams are limited to a maximum of two games in a day and there should be a minimum of four hours between those games. In addition, there should be a minimum of 12 hours between games on consecutive days, e.g., if a game ends at 9 p.m., that team shouldn’t play again before 9 a.m. the next day.
Now that we have addressed the recommendations, we need to ask ourselves, is it healthy for 14U players to play multiple games in a day and possibly up to five or six games in a weekend?
The 14U age classification is where hockey players truly begin building their hockey engines. For the betterment of the players, games at this level should include meaningful competition, a recommendation we make strongly. I question how meaningful those competitions are when players compete too often in too short a time span. What is to be gained or proven in that type of scenario?
I recently spoke to a coach whose team was in this situation and he told me how great the first game of the tournament was, but by the end of it, his players could barely get their legs going. This fatigue ends up becoming a safety concern. We have to be wary of over-competing and under-training, which often leads to fatigue, burnout, and overuse injuries. Additionally, when the quality of play suffers dramatically, which it invariably does in these scenarios, it again leads to the question of purpose. What’s the point of playing that fifth or sixth game in a weekend, when it’s merely fostering diminished quality of play and heightened risk of injury?
I’m not saying tournaments are a bad thing, but too many of them might be, and certainly too many games in any one tournament is questionable at best.
As parents, coaches and administrators, we need to always keep the big picture in focus and avoid getting caught up in the quest for short-term payoffs.
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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