Can I just go on the record and say that my competitive streak is all about improving myself? I tend not to compete with anyone else. I mean, sure I would prefer not to be dead last when I’m running a race (not that I’ve run a race recently either). But in general, I’m happy to just improve. This particular gene seems to have trickled down to my children. As a result, we have had three seasons of what they call low level hockey ( it’s C level hockey in our association) between the two older ones.
That youngest one of mine seems to have inherited some of the competitiveness that exists in other parts of my family (dear sister, I’m looking at you). I have no idea what that will mean for hockey, but for life in general? There’s a good chance he’ll conquer the world.
As a quick recap, in house leagues kids are evaluated at the beginning of the season for skill level, some are evaluated at the end of their season for the next season and some, like ours, are evaluated at the start of the season. Teams are built based on similar skill level. There are other ways of doing this with some leagues mixing kids of different skills levels and each has it’s pros and cons, but for now, we’re talking about A, B and C level style of team set up. When I say C level, I am talking about the low level hockey. C level where the less advanced kids play.
And it is a lot of fun, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
We’re not talking about the competitive hockey, because I have zero experience on that and It’s an entirely different beast. I will leave it to people who know it to speak to it. That leaves three levels, A, B and C (some bigger leagues divide into tiers numbered 1 to whatever but the idea is the same). Obviously the kids that excel in all the skills evaluated play in A level. B level is middle of the pack and your C level have the kids who play for fun, or are just starting.
That’s a really basic definition but it’ll do for now.
So when Boy #1 started in Novice C, we didn’t know any differently. And we had a blast. We saw Boy #1 make major improvements over the course of the year. So when Boy #2 started in Novice C hockey, we actually were pretty excited. This year Boy #1 played Atom C hockey too. Awesome. Can’t wait to see what the year brings, we thought.
It too us until this year to figure out that there are two schools of thought on the C level hockey. I’ve spent the better part of a season being reminded of the downsides to C level hockey, so I’m just going to focus on the upsides. Because they are legion. But let’s go with three.
- In C level hockey, it focus is on skill development. It is less competitive which puts the focus on improving rather than winning. This is what hockey is all about for us. Play for fun. Yes, win when you can, but learn from the losses. It’s a nice balance for us because more often than not, you don’t spend an entire season winning all the time. And yes, this is the case for a good chunk of hockey teams, but it seems to be common amongst C level hockey. Every year we’ve been on a C level team (three out of four seasons now) you can see the improvement from the beginning of the year against the end of the year. That’s a major plus for me, because if I’m putting my money towards something, I kind of want to see results.
- It’s more relaxed. Parents are less likely to get upset at the outcome of a game in low level hockey. There just isn’t as much at stake. There isn’t the same expectation or conflict. And the kids are just happy to play the game. The parents are happy to watch. This is my jam. I have anxiety and expectation enough for about 37 people. I do not need anyone else’s expectations on my kid.
- The opportunities to affiliate to another team are better. At least in our league this is the case. Boy #1 was able to practice with the Peewee C team and an Atom B team this year. For a boy who couldn’t be on the ice too much at the beginning of the season, this was a major confidence boost (and you know how I feel about confidence when you hit the ice). It also pushed him to meet that level. It pushed him, hard. Ultimately, the practice did him good. Coaches, if you have the opportunity to affiliate from other levels, do it. Even if the kids only ever get out to practice, do it. It feeds into point #1.
Here’s how I see it: I pay the same in registration fees and team fees as every other parent. And while some might write it off as “just C level”, it means something to our players. So it means a lot to me. At the end of it all, there will come a point where they will decide to move on from hockey. Whether that’s next season or seven seasons down the road, it won’t matter what level they played at.
All that will matter is that they played.
See you at the rink.