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Baaa! Don't Be A Sheep, Be A Shepard

As players mature and graduate from one level to the next, it is inevitable that they not going to be able to play with 100% of their pals the whole way through their journey. Sadly, over zealous moms and dads receive bad information and make bad choices when it comes to their next step. Much of what I'm referring to happens between the 14U and 16U years.

As players graduate from 14U, they are caught between making decisions on where to play 16U. As you likely know, the older a player gets, the fewer the teams to accommodate them. This puts both parents and players in a position to have to make decision on where to try out and where to play. This process can be harrowing. It can also be quite simple if you understand one main concept:

Each player's path is unique and MUST be treated as such.

What may seem like a good choice for one player, may not necessarily be good for another. So many parents can slow/regress/stagnate or even ruin their player's upward trajectory simply by "following the herd." Here are some "Do's & Dont's, when it comes to selecting where to potentially play for the upcoming season:

DO: choose based on the quality of coaching and coach.

DO: choose based on the amount of practice time you will receive.

DO: choose based on the off-ice training you will receive.

DO: choose based on that team's/program's amenities & facilities.

DO: choose based on that staff's track record of advancing players.

DON'T: choose based on where your pals are going.

DON'T: choose based on what the recruiter tells you...VERIFY IT!

DON'T: choose based on how good (perceived) the team is.

DON'T: choose based on your gut feeling...VET EVERYTHING!

DON'T: choose based on hype and promises.

Obviously, there is much detail that goes behind each bullet point. It simply comes down to your willingness to do some homework on each potential situation. As a coach, I have one saying that I leave each parent with..."Don't believe a word I say...verify it!" So many coaches and recruiters will paint an awesome picture of what they are offering. If they didn't, they wouldn't be in it very long. While it's fine for recruiters to be excited about their program, you must listen to their pitch, take notes and verify their information with other sources. Here are a few avenues to take:

* Ask to speak to current/former players regarding that program.

* Ask to speak to billet families regarding their experience.

* Ask to speak to parents of current/former players about their experience.

I could add more, but I think you get the point.

Parents and players get so caught up in a team telling them how great they are and forget about what's really important. I will address the pitfalls of recruiting in another blog. I just wanted to emphasize here that every player and their family needs to make the decision that's right for them and not be a lemming and follow the uniformed players and parents off the cliff.

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