Go to any youth ballpark, football or soccer field, basketball court, and even hockey rink and you will hear about these “select or all-star teams”. They are everywhere and are becoming even more popular. Kids are playing single sports year-round with the help of these types of teams. Playing year round is a whole different topic for a different article. Kids play on their local teams during the season then spend the offseason playing on these select teams. I have been approached by a lot of families asking for my opinion on these teams. It is like anything in life, you must do your homework and see if these teams are what they say they are. If the product or experience does not match up with the cost, in my opinion, it is not worth the time or money.
In the off-season, rules become very relaxed. Anyone under the sun can create one of these teams. Slap an extra A behind it, call it something fancy, but at the end of the day it isn’t anything to write home about. Here is a short checklist on what to look for when deciding whether to play on one of these teams:
1. What is the level of the coaching?
2. What type of tournament are the teams playing in?
3. What is the level of other players on the team?
4. Does the cost make sense for what you are receiving based on the 3 previous questions?
I know what a lot of you are thinking… how can he be writing on this topic when he is running three elite teams out of Kansas City this spring? I have experienced both sides of this dilemma. I have played on teams where I wondered what the heck were we doing. I have also had experience on some amazing teams. I’ll never forget the team I played on run by Basil McRae and others. The team was called the Midwest Wild and the coaches assembled the best players from both Chicago and St. Louis for the 1990 birthyear. We played in a tournament in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I can remember it like it was yesterday, playing all-star teams like Minnesota Blades, Team Vancouver, Team Saskatchewan. We beat everyone! It wasn’t until the finals that we met our match, the Ontario Blues. I have never been on the ice with that many elite players at once. On the other side, there was the likes of Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, and Michael Del Zotto to name a few. We ended up losing in the championship, but it was one of the greatest experiences of my youth career. I gained so much knowledge, experience, and confidence from being a part of that team. I couldn’t put a price tag on it.
Now ask yourself did that team pass all those questions above? You better believe it did and more. That is what I am on a mission to create here in Kansas City. With the help of Chris Newans, Kenny Goetz, DJ Wiles, and other. We are forming a great group of coaches! Coaching is such an important piece in the development of hockey players. Ask any player who has played professionally, and they will be able to immediately rattle off coaches who played a huge role in their careers at a young age. The next task is making sure the competition piece adds up. I believe that hockey markets are growing around the country and world. There are still places that have such a rich history. That it is undeniable. In the United States, areas like Minnesota, Michigan, greater New England, Chicago, St. Louis, and even California have great talent and depth across the board! Our goal is not to win hockey games. Our goal is to develop hockey players. A part of the development process is pushing yourself against better competition at your age group. As players develop then the winning will come against even stiffer competition.
Hockey is growing in this city without a doubt. I believe players can develop and grow into really good players and people here. It will take time but before everything is said and done you will see home grown players playing under the bright lights. The young players will have someone to look up to and want to be just like. You do not do anything in life to just be average or superior against sub-par competition. Let’s become Elite!