AHU Coach’s Corner: No need to play with a short bench in youth hockey
Part 1, which ran in the March 2019 issue of Arizona Rubber Magazine, can be read HERE.
A good youth hockey coach can manage the players and not have to play with a short bench so that all of the skaters participate in the game.
A good coach will spend extra time with the weaker players throughout the season to improve their skills. A coach who starts the season by talking about skill development, teaching, self-esteem and having fun would not break his word by shortening the bench. The short bench is the easy way out for a coach who has not prepared his team properly.
Does this mean a youth coach should run the lines 1-2-3? Well, for the most part, yes. I would suggest that a skilled coach can find a way to equal out the ice time. Will some players get more ice time than others? Yes. In fact, some players do not want to be put into the game in pressure situations.
Are there specific reasons to reduce ice time for individual players? Yes, there are (discipline or perhaps illness) but to relegate five skaters and a goalie to the bench for extended periods of time in order to win is not a valid reason. In effect, the message to those benched players is that they are being penalized for lack of talent and they are not really part of the team.
The game is for the kids, ALL of the kids. Research nationwide tells us that players would rather play on a team that wins 50 percent of their games than sit on the bench of a championship team while receiving little or no playing time. The bottom line is that all of the kids want to play. Each year, we lose 10,000 players nationwide as they move from Pee Wees to Bantams. Many cite the reason they quit because they are not having fun.
I can personally cite numerous conversations with Pee Wee and Bantam parents over the past several years that told me that their boys had played for five or six years and they were about to quit because there is so much pressure to win and it was not fun. I receive numerous emails each year from parents upset that their child’s coach was routinely running a short bench. One instance was from the parents of a Squirt C team.
This is an issue that needs to be resolved at the beginning of each season. The parents and coaches need to all understand the policy. With a no short-bench policy, there are no problems. If your team is going to have a short-bench policy, perhaps it is better to not have three lines but rather roster only 14 players. That would solve the problem.
This one issue alone ruins the season for hundreds of kids and parents each year. Even in victory, it is hollow for the players who sat and watched their teammates play. I know several instances each year where the teams had a problem with the policy in mid-season and the teams fell apart for the rest of the year.
Parents of youth players should not put up with short-bench policies. You need to get a commitment from your coaches at the beginning of the year that they will not shorten the bench. Be proactive about this issue at the beginning of the season because once the train leaves the station, it is too late to get off.
Kurt Goar is the coach-in-chief for the Arizona Hockey Club.
(July 12, 2019)