Thursday, February 27, 2014

Guest Blogger Wally Kozak Writes "Quitting Hockey"



30 years ago my 9 and 11-year-old nephews were playing hockey. Like most families we wanted them to play and enjoy the game. After 3 years they quit. It was not fun. The coach played the best players a lot more and they were discouraged. All they wanted to do was play, but the unfair ice time was enough to take them out of the game. Their parents did not complain. It seemed to be acceptable and the “way it is” in minor hockey. Winning is the primary objective and the best players might help them to win. In the meantime their boys noticed the difference and they decided to give up on hockey. It was a discouraging experience.

I wonder how many more young children have quit the game because they did not get a fair opportunity to play, develop and have fun. They were not good enough at 9 and 10 to play in shorthanded and special team situations. When the game was in hand they would get a chance but only if the team was far enough ahead. Besides not playing on special teams they got to play 5 on 5 every 3 shifts while the 2 centers got to play every second shift. They might have stuck with it if they had a chance to penalty kill or play the power play but missing so many shifts took its toll. It just wasn’t fun. They QUIT.

How many parents are living the same situation? You notice the unfair ice time and do not want to complain thinking “that’s just the way it is”. The Local Hockey Association accepts this although a number of board members might disagree. The majority rules and kids quit hockey. The focus on winning is more important than personal development and enjoyment of all participants.

Recently, I talked to a Father about his 15-year-old son-quitting hockey when he was 10. The story is the same. The boy got into football and had just finishing a football camp in the USA and was being sought after by Prep schools for a scholarship, At 6 foot 3 inches and a fit 215 pounds and athletic it was not a surprise.  I wonder what kind of a hockey player this kid would have been if he didn’t quit the game.  At 10 years old he was discouraged and driven out of the sport. Fortunately he found another that he would excel at.

Minor Hockey leaders and parents have to “wake up” and tell it like it is.  Minor hockey is not about developing NHL players. It is about developing life skills through teamwork and learning to work hard, respecting your opponent and the officials IT is about learning from winning and losing.

Win – Win coaching is about trying your best to win on the score clock but not at the expense of the growth and development of all players. When you win a game but shorten the bench you lose the spirit and self esteem of players who have not yet developed like my nephews and the 15-year-old Football player who quit hockey.

Goggle the “Positive Coaching Alliance”, a USA sports organization that is leading the way in the USA helping establish a healthy perspective and providing numerous resources for associations, parents and coaches to use to serve the “good of the game.”


Kudos to the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association for dealing with this issue.