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Deflections: The ins and outs of rotating positions


When you stand before a class to teach, as I’ve done in both hockey and the school system, there’s usually the expectation you’ll have an answer for just about anything. Multiple options don’t count much. Saying, “Gosh, I don’t know” isn’t exactly helpful either.

When I’m truly stumped, I share my best dumbfounded look and answer with my own questions. Yes, that’s the ticket. Turn the tables and try to elicit responses from the questioner then dissect what they have to say.

Here’s one for you: "Coach Richard, what do you think about kids playing different positions in atom hockey?" To which I invariably reply, “Personally I’m in favour. Next question…” But that doesn’t help. Coaches want to know why. Most are in favour, too, but are at a loss to offer parents and/or kids viable rationales to sell the idea. It’s especially challenging for higher level or competitive teams and practically impossible in mid-season without prior warning.

“My kid’s a centre” or “my boy will not play defence on this team” are common remarks from parents. They scuttle any plans the coach had to expose kids to different positions. They also are somewhat contrary to Hockey Canada’s Long Term Player Development plan where, from ages 6-10, kids are just learning to take skills from practice to game. It’s the ideal opportunity to allow them to apply new-found skills to different positions.

But we as the game’s leaders haven’t done a great job of selling that approach. Associations may suggest kids rotate positions. However there’s a difference between a suggestion and a rule. A coach could be expected to have them rotate yet not need to actually do it. It would seem we need to educate first the coaches on its benefits and then parents.

In both cases, that’s a tall order once the season begins. Even at a recreational level, parents (and perhaps their children, too) will argue the child “tried out” as a defenceman and should remain there.

Meanwhile, to best meet the needs of developing kids, the association creates its teams by placing 13 on each one, regardless of position. Then they leave it up to the coach to find kids for each position, usually with assurances like, “It’s only for a month.” Not exactly an endorsement for the approach’s worth.

Once the season starts and there’s been no rotation per se, or at least a minimal one, it’s difficult trying to convince a nine year old to switch to forward after three months on 'D'. Not to mention needing to find a child to switch with him. Then we’re down to begging or bribing, neither of which provides a positive spin.

Next week, some reasons why we should be doing it and how to go about it.

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