As long as we're on the subject of spring hockey (see last week’s blog), let's have a look at its cousin, the spring tryout.
This peculiarity must have come from someone who genuinely believed his organization would get a huge autumn jump on competitors if tryouts were held shortly after the season ended. It sort of made sense, on the face of it at least.
Your team finishes in March or April. The kids are in prime shape. Even the ones who play on affiliated teams have not been off skates for long. Certainly it's no longer a respite than the summer when kids may attend hockey schools for a week or two but otherwise aren't doing much hockey. So having kids try out from the level playing field of everyone being in game shape seems to have merit.
But then you need to step back to examine some other important factors that refute the idea.
For one, picking a team, or even trimming the tryout numbers, five months ahead of time eliminates the possibility of late bloomers having any chance at all. Kids grow and mature at wildly variant rates. Look at a bunch of them in April then again in August and some will be almost unrecognizable, they've changed so much. Do kids grow more in summer months than winter?
Seems so. According to Joseph Gigante, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, "although we don't have a good explanation for it, children seem to grow fastest in the summer and slowest in the fall."
From a purely principled standpoint, how important is it to get a so-called jump on other associations? If an association is bent on winning, that’s a philosophy in need of a rethink. Even at the most elite levels, like AAA, there may be pressure to be successful. But surely people understand (or do they?) there is neither consistency nor predictability to how kids improve, learn, or compete. Some years, teams will be strong and other years not so much. It’s for the same reason the pros regard certain years as good draft years and others as poor ones. They’re also dealing with kids, just older ones.
There’s also a pretty strong argument to be made about giving hockey a rest for a while, as mentioned in the blog about spring hockey. Let the kids get their minds off the game by doing something else, then ramp it up again in August.
Why are we creating these situations for kids who just don’t need them? Beats me.
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