Development as a player is far more important than the status of the team, especially at the younger levels. I see so many parents and players alike get caught up in their egos and worrying about being on the “best” team possible in terms of standings instead of worrying about playing time. Players need to be on teams where they will see playing time.
I hear all kinds of excuses for it, too. “Being on that higher team means more opportunities.” Opportunities for what? If you are sitting on the bench or in the stands as a healthy scratch, who is seeing you play? No one! You might be getting the opportunity to wear that suit and tie more, but scouts are interested in watching players play.
“Being on that higher team means better development.” Why would you think that? My son has had some great coaches and some not so great ones, and the level of the team had absolutely nothing to do with that. There are plenty of coaches out there who could coach at a “higher” level but choose not to because it would mean uprooting their family, or more stress than they want, or any other host of reasons. Honestly, I think it takes a better coach to coach a C team than it does an A team anyway because there is a greater difference in the highest and lowest skilled player on the team.
Or maybe “better development” means nicer facilities or more practices? Sure, it’s nice to have access to a nice gym or a fancy bus, but often those nicer facilities means more staff which means more money, and more practices are great, but game experience is better.
Scouts want to see players in key situations so ideally, you are in a position where you are getting those opportunities. If given the choice between a higher team where you will ride the pine and a lower team where you will be a top 6 forward or top 4 defenceman getting power play and penalty kill time, you are far better off on that lower team. Just practicing with that higher team isn’t enough. That game experience is key.
I get that it isn’t always easy to accept being on a “lower” team, but it is important to put your ego aside for now so that you end up a better hockey player later. Playing where you can dominate, where you can have your stick on the puck a lot, goes a long way for your mental game. That confidence players gain from having an impact on their team and getting multiple puck touches per game is huge, especially the higher up the ranks you move. That confidence usually means the player is having more fun, too.
Most athletes are still developing physically into their twenties, too, and I have seen plenty of kids who were on the A team at U12 never play beyond high school JV as well as kids who played C’s all through youth end up stars of their high school or U18 teams. Take a look at how many kids who are drafted into the NHL at 18 and then never play a single NHL game. There are also guys who got passed over in the draft and got signed after playing college hockey. Think about that--31 teams times 7 rounds is 217. There are guys who got passed over 217 times and still made it because they put their ego aside and focused on their development.
Don’t hit the panic button too soon over not making that dream team. Hockey is a marathon, not a sprint.
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