AHU Coach’s Corner: Why do youth hockey coaches go with a short bench?
We beat a better team in the regional playoffs one year because our opponent only played two of their three lines. We changed our three lines every 30 seconds in the third period and wore them out. When we went through the post-game handshake, there were five cold, dry hands. The last game of the season for them and the third line did not skate a shift.
In another instance, the third line never played a shift against us in a scrimmage game in October. In high school games, I see opponents have left the third line sitting for entire games, not to mention the fourth line. In Pee Wee B, our opponents routinely shorted the bench, and in one instance, during the first period. Tournaments seem to bring out the short-bench syndrome.
So what is this all about?
Is it about winning? Perhaps, or maybe it is about not losing.
Perhaps the fear of losing is stronger than the joy of winning. I cannot actually understand what is so important that a coach needs to sit a third of the team down in the important games. The impact on those players is devastating.
Winning cannot heal the damage.
I am often told that the parents and players were told by the coach at the beginning of the season that this might occur and that everybody agreed to it.
This is self-serving for the coach because when would a parent or player speak up against a policy like this?
After all, every parent and player thinks it will be the other kids who sit out. It is not until it occurs to them that the reality sinks in. By the time it happens, it is too late to object. The parents of the players who are getting the extra ice time are suddenly in favor of the short bench and will not speak up.
I know that there are two schools of thought about this.
The first is that winning is the salve that heals all wounds. A player relegated to the bench during the championship run should be happy to be along for the ride. The second is that we play all season together as a team and as a team we will finish by playing together. The reality is that the players relegated to the bench simply get bored and lose interest. Who would blame them?
At the higher levels of hockey where it is a business and winning actually affects players and coach’s careers, player utilization is accepted by the participants. Players are delegated certain roles and they need to fulfill those expectations. In youth hockey, winning feels good but there are little other benefits other than adult ego gratification.
I believe that in youth hockey there is no place for the short bench.
Check out Part 2 in the April issue of Arizona Rubber Magazine.
Kurt Goar is the coach-in-chief for the Arizona Hockey Club.
(April 12, 2019)