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Deflections - One size fits all?

 

I went to a coaches conference and one of the bits of swag they gave everyone was a ball cap. I have lots of caps and there was nothing particularly unique about this one. Except there was a sticker on the brim which read “One size fits all.” 

I figured that was pretty obvious since all of mine are made that way, but then I wondered if the sticker was an accidental microcosm of our game. Consider how much of the one size fits all approach we’re faced with.

  • Same rules, rink, puck and nets in novice to midget
  • Drill books that make no allowances for age or ability – but great drills!
  • Practices that look so much like what was done three years ago and will be done five years from now, yet the kids are vastly changed.
  • Even our coaching education programs aren’t quite there. High performance seminars and assignments are the same whether you’re coaching 13-year-olds in AAA or CIS adults. Similarly with the other levels.

Let’s look at our school system as an example. While teacher training is divided into primary, junior, intermediate and senior grades, the vast majority of teachers tend to stick within an age range. You don’t see kindergarten teachers working with fifth graders. Nor do senior high teachers do much in grade 7-8, if at all. Teachers tend to specialize with an age group because they’ve learned its needs and understand the students.

Minor hockey has done a poor job of that. Since we have a volunteer based system where coaches tend to be parents for the beginning years, we get coaches who do understand their own children but sometimes have trouble adapting beyond them. You’re good with your eight-year-old and his buddies. Once they get to pee wee though, it’s another issue. Does the coach have a true handle on the new age group’s idiosyncrasies?

Whose fault is this? What training have we foregone? I suppose we all share in the blame for not being more proactive about teaching our coaches more about each age’s needs. After all, our minor coaches, even many of the elite and junior ones, aren’t professional educators who’ve spent years honing their skills with an age group.

Sometimes I think our coaches take developmental age changes for granted. In coaching clinics, we spend insufficient time on the topic. We just assume the typical coach will make the transition seamlessly.

One size fits all may be fine for ball caps. It doesn’t work for much else.

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