July 24th, 2009, 04:02 PM #1
Who's kid(s) play travel?
OK...so my mite son, who just started playing hockey about 3 months ago tells me he wants to try out for the travel team. He did the whole "skating academy" before we even got him hockey gear, and now he's completed the "hockey academy", but he's never played in a competitive game yet. Granted...he LOVES hockey. Its the first sport he's played where he asks me almost every day if we can go to public skate, puck-play, or clinic.
So...I talked to him about trying out and I told him if he wanted to do it, then sure. We also talked about how attending try-outs this year would be a good experience for *next* year when he *really* tries out (as a squirt).
Well...he made the team.
Now the problem: I really did not think he would make the team and was not prepared to make a decision as to whether or not he would actually play travel. The price-tag was a real shocker (probably > $2000 when factoring in jerseys and tourney fees), especially for a kid who had never played a game w/ a ref. I politely asked for a couple days to think about it. I talked to one of his academy coaches who is also a travel coach at a different age group and he convinced me that it would probably be best to do a season of in-house first. So...that's what we're doing. He's playing in-house (and having a BLAST), and intends to try out for squirts next season.
My question is: Who here has kids that play travel hockey? What are we getting ourselves into next season if he makes the team? I wanna hear all the good AND bad and any advice you have. Thanks.
July 25th, 2009, 09:31 PM #2
there are so many people here that know first hand as a parent what it is like and can give you so much more detail, but i'll speak as a roller travel hockey player (sporatically from my teens to now) and coach of youth.
Its fantastic. It is an incredible experience physically - he WILL get worked, practices are no joke. He will come home tired...and he will eat. Alot. Also, mentally - he will have his confidence built by a good coaching staff and from within as his skills build, but losses can be difficult for kids that age when they see other teams still playing but their packing their bags to go home, and socially - he will hopefully bond with this group of kids that are his teammates and that can develop into life long friendships. One of my longest friends (15 years and counting) I met playing hockey. They will experience all that is good and all that is bad together.
Just make sure you as a family will be prepared for the sacrifices.. Depending on your team and their affiliations, you could be out of town every weekend and then some during the season. He might have to miss a little school for tournaments that require travel. Factor in costs of travel (food, gas, hotels, possibly air travel and rental cars). Plus practices every week (sometimes multiple, my last travel team had two practices a week plus we played in a mens advanced in-house. the kids travel teams followed much the same structure). Invest in one of those seats that attach to the bleachers so your back doesnt kill you. they even have seat pads. best thing ever.
It is an investment of money and time, but if the organization is good and you can afford it the benefits outweigh the drawbacks ten fold.
Congrats to your kid and good luck... if you dont already have one get a planner and put Hockey Monkey on speed dial!
July 27th, 2009, 12:12 AM #3
My son is a 2000, who has been playing travel for two seasons. He loves it and I'm happy with how he has responded to the pressure of playing high-level (for a 9-year-old) hockey.
However, I have made a few observations that perhaps are a bit cynical but I think are important points to be considered by those parents new to travel hockey. If you are willing to go forward with your decision after reading this, then welcome to the razor's edge.
1. Remember that the best coaches in socal are professionals (imo), and for them youth hockey is a business, and its not fair to expect him to offer advice solely with your kid's best interest in mind. Who's to say that Lil Lurker wont be the next Crosby? Who's to say that his "Elite Mite Sniper's Camp" in Canada won't give him the necessary edge that will lead eventually to a Div I scholarship? I'm not saying they're all dishonest frauds, but I am saying that their ambition for a middle class lifestyle is enabled by us, parents willing to spend thousands on our kids. They need to be heavily vetted and earn our trust, and we as parents need to be discerning customers. To start, you can review the American Developmental Model (ADM) outlined on the USA hockey website ADM overview. What is the emphasis of your program? How does it compare with the ADM? What should be your expectations?
2. I think we need to seriously assess why we are paying so much so our 6-8 year olds can play travel. $2000 is the base rate usually. Add uniforms and equipment, tournament fees, playoff fees, spring leagues, extra practices, dry-land, semi-private clinics, camps, and private lessons and the costs can easily get in the $10K range. For 2-3 weeknights (pushing through traffic), weekends, and holidays (labor day, thanksgiving, christmas, president's day, memorial day, 4th-of-july) you will be at the rink while your child plays hockey. My kid missed 3 days of school last year as a Mite A player to attend tournaments.
Consider that when your kid hits Squirt, the fees will rise substantially, and you may be expected to travel out of state for 2-3 tournaments a year. By the time they are 16 and are playing AA or AAA, they could be away from school 15 days a year and the cost to you could be in excess of $20K annually. Are you still willing to sit with me on the razor's edge?!
3. At age 5-10, our kids sure do love playing hockey! Please remember though that they are playing hockey because we drove them to the rink, put on their skates, put a stick in their hands, and pushed them onto the ice. Seriously, they would be just as happy playing horseshoes as long and their Dad is showering them with praise and encouragement. Dads are generally at the center of a young boy's universe, and they are happy to be the object of a Father's (misplaced) hopes and dreams. From what I understand it gets more complicated when Jr realizes that Dad's dreams are not his and the investment in the family's time and money has been substantial. This is another reason to be discerning about what lengths we are willing to go to for our little ones. Have you considered putting your son into a good house league to get the feeling of competitive hockey, for a fraction of the cost? TSC, Anaheim Ice, Valencia Ice Station, among others I am sure, have good house programs. The focus of in-house is fun and development. Your kid will get plenty of ice time, and plenty of touches.
4. On the other hand, in travel the competition is greater, the expectations are higher, and ... well... it’s more about winning. Our coach, for example is good about distributing ice time between all the kids, emphasizing skill development over set plays and systems in practice, and generally creating a positive hockey environment. However, he is not responsible for ensuring that the opposing kids have a positive experience too. 20-0 thrashings are common in Mite. Regardless of how Zen you are about your $2000 investment, its hard to watch some 9-year old on the opposing team doing a pumper-nicholl after a double hattrick while that 6-year old from your team is perpetually off-sides, doing snow angels in the faceoff circle at the other end of the ice (awww, he’s so cute). The most outrageous parent antic I know of is where one parent stabbed another (in the hand) with a ball point pen, prior to a Mite B playoff game. Why? The bench had been shortened and his kid was on the “fourth line”. Much more common is the ugly parent who screams at the teenager ref, or mocks the 8,9-yr old opposing goalie who lets in a softie. For them the stakes are too high to just let things go. My advice: Remember that they are little kids, let things go or you won’t make it to the end of the season.
5. Your fellow parents will make or break the experience. If the core group has a good sense of humor and is generous with their personal time and resources, then the experience will be worth it. The kids will learn faster to trust each other and will develop at an amazing rate. They will become fast friends and look forward to coming to the rink. Free drinks will flow at the hotel bar… There is always parent-based drama on every team, but as long as the core is dedicated, but pleasant, it’s worth it. Even the snow angel kid is worth it!
See the socal hockey league website at SCAHA, and if you are up to it, look at SoCal-Hockey.com Forums (Powered by Invision Power Board). Youth ice hockey in southern California is a relatively small and odd community.
July 27th, 2009, 12:30 AM #4
All Of THAT!!
Oh, and the hockey community as a whole is small and borderline incestuous. You can play six degrees to EVERYONE within 6-months.
July 27th, 2009, 12:54 AM #5
Oh...and don't be that parent.
July 27th, 2009, 02:05 PM #6
The first thing that you will start doing after your kid starts playing will be referring to him or her as a birth year instead of a age. My son is a 95 and is a second year Bantam. He is playing at OCHC on the Bantam AA team. Tier Hockey is a whole other animal, very serious.
My son played travel hockey as a 5 year old on a mite team. We thought that it was too much for someone so young. So when that season was over he played mostly roller at the local YMCA. It was fun for him and the whole family.
When he turned 10 he was getting really good at playing goalie, so we decided to tryout for a Pee Wee team at our local ice rink (Artesia). He made the team which turned out to be a Pee Wee B team, which was a good intro to playing travel hockey.
Travel hockey is expensive but it is a lot of fun. Both my wife and I play so most of our time is taken up by either our hockey or our sons.
I think the most important thing to remember is that as long as your kid is having fun, it doesn't matter what you think about what line he's on or how much ice time he is getting.
July 28th, 2009, 10:39 AM #7
Great info, and thanks to all. Let me comment on a couple posts (since I can't figure out how to multiquote)
1) On "professional" coaches
What made me feel really good about this situation is that my son's Hockey Academy coach was the one who recommended having him play in-house. This same coach is also a travel coach, so I took this advice with much more weight than had he flat-out said to have him play travel.
2) On "higher competition level"
This was also part of the discussion with the coach. I coached baseball for several seasons (when my son played) and I really liked the way the league eased the kids into competition. I don't think it does kids any good to throw them in a situation where their team gets consistently stomped. No matter how much you tell kids that the score doesn't matter..they know the difference between wins and losses. In-House made more sense as a first experience in "competitive games".
The in-house league for 8U at our rink, even though it only has 2 teams, is matched pretty evenly. Out of 2 practice games and 1 real game, there have been 2 ties and 1 one-goal loss.
3) On having fun...
I couldn't agree more. Every parent wants to see their kid succeed at whatever they're doing, but I really emphasize with my son that the #1 reason he's out there playing hockey is that he's having fun. I also think that most kids pick up queues from their parents as to how they *should* react. I saw several examples in baseball of parents having a negative reaction or conversation with their kids right after a loss - not necessarily saying negative things *about* their son, but acting as if the game was a negative experience. Kids pick up on this, and the fun starts to drain out. They start thinking about "not losing" instead of "just playing".
This may sound cheesy, but before every game, I ask my son, "What's the #1 rule of hockey?" to which he responds "Have Fun". Rule #2 is "Be Aggressive", Rule #3 is "Listen to your coach" and Rule #4 is normally something dumb I make up, like "Don't eat yellow ice"
July 28th, 2009, 11:01 AM #8
It sounds like you and lil Lurker are ready for some travel hockey! Have fun, take lots of pics, and save every little thing you can (flyers from tournaments, plane tickets, whatever) for a little scrapbook or box. Ive started doing this with my daughter (they trade pins at larger tournaments from the teams you play against...) and she loves it! These are memories that will last forever!