It has never been so clear to me the need to segregate our top-end athletes from their lesser-skilled peers than after watching a group of elite hockey players the other week.
As they were doing squat jumps, an assortment of “B” and “C” level athletes walked into the gym and almost instantaneously, total power output decreased. Worse yet, the longer the plebian collection of players stayed in the gym, the greater the decrease in the elite athlete’s athleticism.
Seeing this disturbing impact on our elites, we quickly shuttled the low-end kids out of the gym. Jump height immediately improved. To confirm what we were seeing, we asked the plebes to walk in and out of the gym, staying for about 30 seconds in each location before switching.
This was simply too much on the neuro-muscular system for our elite players. One lost complete control of his legs and had to stop the workout. Others had lost 90 percent of their peak power capabilities by the end of the experiment.
We did the right thing, of course, and told our studs to go home. If playing Fortnite or attending a social gathering, we requested they only do so with real athletes. We know the power of social networks. Hang around a bunch of couples that are getting divorced and you’re more likely to get divorced as well. Similarly, we are finding that hanging out with a bunch of benders is more likely to turn you into a bender. Don’t do it.
We want to develop the best hockey players possible and to do that, we can’t have rec league kids getting in the way. You’ve all seen the disastrous affects this has had during on-ice practices. The lesser- skilled kids make watching the practice aesthetically unpleasant as they try to keep up with the good kids. They fall a lot. We have actually seen puck handling and edge work skills, despite being done in stations where like-skill groups are formed, diminish significantly when brutal players are on the ice. An elite player’s inside edge or mohawk abilities will regress, in our estimation, anywhere between 2-3 years.
What should we do to combat this problem? First, tell the bad hockey players to choose another sport. While this may sound mean, it is actually the benevolent thing to do. Why should we let these kids continue to chase some silly dream of loving a game enough to just play beer league hockey some day? There is NO money in beer league.
Second, while we cannot force players to quit, we can continue to push them in that direction by identifying at the earliest ages possible the best players. We can then segregate them from the masses and train them with the best coaching and resources possible. Through social media, we can label the best kids as “elite” and implicitly signal to their athletically-challenged peers (and their parents) that it is probably best to quit.
Let’s make a positive change in youth sports. By ridding ourselves of the deplorable plebian mass, we can truly develop the best, most ruthless and fiercest warriors that shoot little black pucks into a net the world has ever seen. Only then will we have achieved perfection in hockey training.
The events depicted in this article are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Follow-up articles will contemplate – seriously – on why, when and how athletes from various skill backgrounds should be separated to enhance practice effectiveness.
Josh Levine is the Assistant Coach of the Bloomington Jefferson Girls Varsity Hockey team and owner of The Fortis Academy. Fortis works with youth associations to implement skill development programs with all teams, from Mites to Bantams. The program includes parent education seminars, coaching clinics and Fortis skill-based practices. If you’re interested in learning more, shoot Josh an email at email@example.com. Follow Fortis on Facebook and Instagram.