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Deflections: Tail wags dog


The younger the kids, the more you have to do.

This is no truer than with the Initiation Program (IP) which was designed to deal with the littluns at ages five to six, even four-year-olds in some places. Herding cats on a football field would be easier. This likely explains why new instructors in IP find the very thought of arranging on-ice programs to be so daunting. They're right; it is. At first.

Sidebar: Did you note the use of the word "instructors"? One of the great and misleading misnomers in Canadian hockey is how the title of "coach" is applied to those working with little gaffers. There's no coaching here. It's all leading, directing, instructing, and guiding.

As to an actual IP setup, there seemed to be a school of thought that you showed up on the ice with your blue 4 oz. pucks, ran the kids through a few pylon drills or crossover exercises, then dumped them into a half ice game of 6 vs. 6 with one volunteer per team poured into a pair of goalie pads and gloves.

So when, in a recent day long IP clinic, I spent some time reviewing just how detailed a program needs to be, there were questions. And eyebrows raised. What about getting and storing equipment? What about how we create groups (when we’ve been using teams 'til now)? Which instructor creates the lesson plans? Who does the budget? (My answer: budget for what? They’re five and six years old and already registered!) Where do we get goalie equipment? (My answer: you don’t. Give one kid a goalie stick and don’t worry about it.) Who’s going to deal with all these logistical issues?

For a brief moment I wondered if they were confusing the set up of an Initiation Program with hosting the Olympic Games.

Gents, I said, those are valid questions, but not the ones we should be asking. It’s not about logistics. It’s about how we best teach these kids and provide a program that is kid-centred. There’s no question, I continued, there are some challenges at the outset. However, once these so-called logistical issues are addressed, the program, if done properly, will hum nicely.

I guess people who haven’t been involved much in development programs themselves may be more prone to worrying about relatively non-essential things. If you strip down an IP to its most important factors, you could probably run a decent program with none of the things they asked about. Not great, but passable.

My suggestion was to create committees of parents to deal with each of these. Parents mostly like to help out with small tasks as long as the roles are shared. But let’s not make the focus of a strong Initiation Program be where to store pylons and play balls or just how to create homogeneous player groups. They’re the wrong tails wagging the development dog.

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