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Why is my kid on the AA team?!?

10/02/2017, 1:01pm CDT
By Josh Levine, Let’s Play Hockey

“Why is my kid on the AA team!? He would develop so much better this year if you’d just put him where he belongs – on the B squad!” said no parent ever in the history of hockey. For many bubble players, the best thing for them developmentally is to play on the lower team. In many cases, playing on the less skilled team against weaker opponents affords a player the opportunities he or she needs to improve. 

Being on the lower team gives a player far more time with the puck. The best team in any association at a given level (squirt, peewee, and bantam) tends to place a greater emphasis on winning than the lower teams – as if the win/loss record matters more for “AA” versus “C” squirts. The bottom skaters on these teams often receive less development and more “just don’t make a mistake out there!”. Sounds like a winning recipe for developing into an elite hockey player, eh? Conversely, bubble players placed on the lower team tend to score more goals, carry the puck, and try out new stickhandling moves. This fuels their intrinsic motivation to improve and become better. Success can breed success. 

Perhaps one of the more overlooked benefits of playing on the lower team is that players get a chance to slow down the game and see the ice. Just imagine a bantam skater who has always played on top teams. The game was always fast. It was hard to see give and goes emerge or how best to capitalize on a turnover. Now that the game has slowed, this bubble skater is able to see the ice in a completely different manner. All of those teaching points coaches were making that he couldn’t process previously, can suddenly be clear and obvious. The extra second or so allows players to connect the dots.  

Finally, bubble players on the lower team are able to gain confidence and be leaders. They often are the ones selected to be captains and are expected to lead the team on and off the ice. These lessons will extend far beyond the ice rink. And isn’t that the point of the game anyway? 

There are still developmental reasons to not want your player on the lower team. Some bubble players are always placed on the weaker squad, just barely missing the top team. For these individuals, a year with the best players in the association might be needed for them to break out of their comfort zone. Perhaps most frustratingly, the biggest developmental negative on the lower teams can be coaching quality. Associations tend to place a greater emphasis on getting quality coaches for their top teams. The “C” players shouldn’t be neglected. If anything, the skill differential between those players and the top skaters should push associations to double-down on development at the lowest rungs. There’s no reason to neglect those players, many of whom are simply biologically much younger than their peers and will eventually, when they catch up, be skilled players.

With most tryouts are wrapping this week, a good question any parent can ask themselves is this: “Is being on this team good for my player’s long-term development?” 

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Tag(s): News  Let's Play Hockey  Josh Levine