Mission Statement: Do young hockey players still have a team-first mindset?
I recently saw an article in USA Hockey Magazine that got me thinking about how we are losing sight of the purity and reasons why so many play this great game.
It was an article that talked about how 14- and 16-year-old kids can promote themselves to get on the USA Hockey Development Camp radar.
I see articles like this contributing to the lack of focus on hockey as a team game, and more and more parents and players are focused on the wrong things and what this sport is truly about.
I have played, coached and currently scout for college hockey and junior programs, and can tell you the No. 1 thing coaches are looking for are good, coachable kids who will be an asset to the college or junior program. They want kids who understand the humble nature of being a piece to a bigger puzzle. They look for kids who are coachable, and are willing to learn and take on roles in order to make teams and players around them more successful.
Kids should have individual goals and aspirations beyond youth hockey, but it can’t come at the expense of their team goals and other teammates’ aspirations to be successful.
In the last few years, with all the marketing, showcases and money-making adventures, hockey is becoming a breeding ground for individual focus rather than the intended focus of the team first. Players jump jersey to jersey, leave town early, and could care less about team success. It has more and more become about who can climb the ladder and do it no matter what the expense may be.
I managed to do some great things in the game of hockey, and can tell you there wasn’t a day in that process where I focused on my individual agenda. Team success was always a priority, and through that mindset, individuals would be recognized individually.
This is a battle I fight every day, not only with my older kids, but now younger kids who are being pushed with the promise of “being seen” or as players that you have to “market.” It is destroying the essence of the game and in reality, is creating less and less of what coaches are truly looking for – players who are coachable, humble and are willing to be a small piece of a bigger puzzle.
I had the opportunity to go to Tucson recently and hang out with some of my teammates from my college playing days. We had great teams back then and it was a reminder to all of us how special we were as we focused on a common goal and common purpose.
Youth hockey should be the very definition of what “team first” is all about and all the lessons that come with that process. It should be magical, and about the common jersey.
These days, sadly, I see a change as the name on the back is indeed more important than the name on the front.
Jeremy Goltz is the director of hockey operations for Mission Arizona.
(Jan. 11, 2018)