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Deflections - That First Tournament

 

What would happen if minor hockey tournaments didn’t exist? Panic in the motel industry? Anxiety among parents having no place and no one to party with on weekends?

Aside from the financial hole it would put associations in, it might take a lot of the fun out of being on a team. From a coaching standpoint though, it would also remove from the season plan a valuable tool to assess your players and overall team. That’s really what a tournament should do, especially ones early in the season. (I’m not touching the parent party perspective!)

Having good results at an early season tournament can be misleading. Your group may be strong right out off the start then plateau as other teams get in better technical and tactical shape. Or perhaps you have a couple of superior players who are able to dominate early before the opposition has had a chance to figure out how to play them.

The first tournament of the year should also be a “feeling out” process for the coaching staff. Coaches need to learn more about players’ attitudes, information which is difficult to glean from tryout or sort out sessions. Those are almost exclusively done based on observations of game or drill participation.

It’s still too early to even assess where players fit on lines or defence pairings. In minor hockey, that’s often a season-long experiment. However a first tournament is a great opportunity to try some match-ups and see how they go.

One key element coaches, particularly head coaches, may not spend much time considering is the interaction among members of the staff. Sometimes additional assistants or trainers are 11th hour picks. I recall one fellow with a competitive pee wee team whose entire staff, one by one, dropped out in August because of changes in work schedules and other commitments. He had to scramble to replace them.

However, staffs that have been together a while may have changed roles or responsibilities. How they handled the bench in novice is about to change in atom. Or going from tier 3 competitive to tier 1 will alter their approach. The first tournament of the year is an ideal opportunity to do some in-depth self- analysis and evaluation.

There’s another piece to this: the parents. Again, setting aside commentary on their away tournament parties, I’d want to know what they’re “really” like. Everyone was on their best behaviour during tryouts. While you’ve heard rumours of this one or the other, part of your team assessment has to include a close-up view of their comportment because the inescapable truth is that the parents are an integral part of your team.

So then, yes, the first tournament can provide a great deal of valuable insight into your group, and little of it has to do playing technique or tactics.

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