I am asked all the time what other parents can do to get their kids the success our son has had? How did you get him to Juniors, how did you decide what teams, what camps, who to trust and who to believe? I’m going to be honest, I don’t have any answers. I try to give advice the best that I can, but like most of you, I too don’t know what I am doing and just try to use some common sense, ask a lot of questions and do research. That all seemed to work until now.
Our son did not start playing hockey until he was 13. He played soccer, and basketball (which I played at a very high level), and then one day started skating with his mom’s old roller blades, a $15 stick from a local sports store, and a tennis ball on our back patio. He begged for almost two seasons to play hockey until I finally gave in. From there on the wild ride you are all experiencing too, started! What travel team should he try out for? How are we going to get him there (the nearest rink is three-four hours round trip away), and the BIG question……how are we going to afford it?
The best advice I can give is, do your research. Talk to players and parents of the team you are thinking about trying out for. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too late to the game. With really hard work anything is possible, but as a parent it takes as big of a commitment from you, then it does from your son or daughter. That is the biggest piece of advice I can give. Mistakes will be made, wrong decisions, politics, all play a huge part in whether your kid has the success you are hoping for them.
For us, I negotiated the youth hockey, and Tier 3 Junior Hockey maze myself. Taking our son to several showcases, and combines. That all worked to get him to Tier 3 Jr Hockey. Did it get him on the best team, or with the Coach that was best for our son’s development? No. Our first year we played for an amazing owner, he had an amazing billet family who he loved, and we are still friends with today (Hi, Kevi and Eric), and he was named Assistant Captain as a rookie.
The Coach……was horrible. Our son stalled in his development. Stats looked ok, he started out the year as a point per game kid thru the first quarter of the season. Then he just stalled. He was only 17, in his fourth year of hockey, and he had no idea how to handle the situation regarding going to the coaching staff to find out what happened. This is my second piece of advice. Make sure your kids are EMOTIONALLY ready for junior hockey, or high level AAA where they are away from home.
Junior coaches do not want to hear from mom and dad. Oh they heard from me alright, but it hurt more than it helped. That’s my third piece of advice. Let your son or daughter learn to stand up for themselves. There will be controversy to be handled, peer pressure, and responsibility learned.
His second year in Juniors, we were fortunate enough to do our research and got him on a Tier 3 team with a very good reputation. His stats don’t show it, but the strides he made…….HUGE. Not only as a player, but as a young man, and a leader as well. But now……we have hit the time to get to the tier 2 level. Every coach and scout we talk to says he is right on the cusp of Tier 2.
We have been bombarded with offers to attend Pre-Draft Camps, Main Camps, Combines etc. College Teams are offering tryouts on top of all of that. It has gotten too big for me to handle, I don’t have the time and money to keep running to camp after camp. I don’t know what the difference is between 1 college or the other.
It finally got to the point of hiring a Family Advisor. The relief, and stress I felt after the lengthy conversations we had with multiple organizations, and we made our decision…..was huge! I should have done it at 16 when we were forced to make the decision between AAA or Jr’s, and what was best. That first year in junior’s where he stagnated could have been avoided.
So do your research, seek professional help if you are struggling. There are a lot of money grabs out there, and what’s real interest, compared to a team just padding their pockets, is hard to decipher most of the time.