does talent really matter at 8U?

The latest article on 8U from just came out, entitled “Does talent really matter at 8U?” written by Dave Pond. Link to the article HERE.

I was always under the impression that if a kid is talented, he/she will always have that talent. So imagine my reaction when I read the first line of the article.

Talent is fleeting.

After reading the whole article, I understand why the writer arrived at that statement. However, I believe that that will not always be the case. There might be a small percentage of talented hockey players out there that dominates and have dominated every single age division they have ever been into. I would like to think that talent has a staying power if you combine it with passion, hard work, good work ethic and coachability. I definitely see talent lagging at some point and other kids catching up to that kid when you let it get to your head, develop an ego so big you think you will never be at the bottom. The hockey wheel is a well oiled one. You will find yourself in opposite situations, multiple times. I see it in my child, I see it in other children.

Big picture, small games

What does that mean? If you’re the kind of player that finds success coasting end to end and you do not practice, either through private lessons or through team practice, skills appropriate for age as recommended by ADM/USA Hockey at some point your hockey IQ will fall behind.

That “big picture” that is being emphasized by those that follow the American Developmental Model is focused on  “small-area games, station-based practices, multi-sport participation and unstructured fun”.

The article also mentions about drawbacks of early domination. They do exist. They think that because they are dominating that they do not have to work hard. Then they start blowing off their team practice.

“Why would you want to work when you’re already dominating?”

I always tell my son when “he thinks he’s all that”. I quickly pull that pedestal he put himself on and I tell him that somebody is always better than him and if he wants to be an elite player, or play for a D1 college team then he needs to be top level player. And top level players are not born, they are made. I am blessed in a way because he really is a hard worker.He listens, takes it in and lives by the rules. He works (hockey) hard, he also plays (online) games. School first, hockey second.

“That’s a long-term, big-picture perspective that will pay off in time and something you as a parent can really help them with”

This past season my son has a lot of frustrations. He’s skilled in a lot of things but he also needs practice and help with a few other things. He is not the perfect hockey player. One of our principles is “there’s always room for improvement”. One thing he can do is pass. And it frustrates him when his team mates do not pass the way he does. The puck almost always never make it to the blade of his stick. And he is left scrambling to get it. I can’t remember where I read it but I read something like there are no bad passes, only bad hockey players. Good hockey players make it work. I told him that and he got mad. He asked me do I even know how hard it is to scramble after a puck that has been passed poorly and not turn it over to the other team. Of course I don’t know. So I told him to just do his best. In the end, that’s all I can ask for is that he did his best.

“You really see the big drop-off for some of these kids in their bantam and 14U years”

Me and a couple of other hockey moms were just talking about this during our short playoff run. And we all contribute it to other things like over-all loss of interest, girls, social life, etc. It never occurred to me that my son might “check-out” of the game because the game has gotten more difficult. Case in point, for President’s Day we played a tournament in a skill level higher than our skill level at our home league. We played with a Canadian team. Imagine that. The first 5 seconds after the first face off I knew we were toast. At that point, it was important for me to emphasize that he did his best as did his team mates. He said it wasn’t fair that such a skilled team would drop down just so they can win a tournament. I told him that it’s on their conscience, not ours. We played a good game and that’s all that matters. Hopefully he took some notes because the only takeaway we have from playing that team is how fluid they played, I described it as hockey Cirque du Soleil. They had a short bench like we did but the skill level is high and equal throughout the roster. Every single kid knew where to go, what to do at what time.

Effort, not outcome

Always. But there are those that beg the coach to ask players to pass to their precious Gretsky or those that get “rewarded with money”for scoring goals. I was just writing about this on my Facebook because apparently it’s a big deal. Heard on the locker room, the kid sitting next to my son in the locker room asked him how much he gets for each goal he gets. He was quiet for a second and he said, he doesn’t get anything. Audible gasps all around. I heard it and I said that I can buy him something reasonable if he wants He approached me and hugged me and told me that he didn’t want anything. One of the proudest moment of my life. He truly didn’t want anything. Later on I heard the kids talking about how much my son could’ve made if he asked for $20/goal. His end of regular season stats were 29 goals, 10 assists. At the end of the season he was #4 in points and #4 in goals among 200 other players in Souther California. All of that, he did on his own. No rewards, no bribes, no asking for favors from Coach. I want him to be proud of his hard work. That hard work pays off.

Last year was not the most ideal of seasons but there’s a lot of lessons to be learned. Nobody passed to him and he got berated a lot by a team mate’s father. I only told him to listen and follow what coaches were saying, try your best to make plays and give it a 110%.

Coachable attitude fosters growth, grit

One thing that I notice from coaches is that they want coachable athletes, doesn’t matter what sport. In my opinion, being coachable means you are passionate about your sport,  willing to work hard, great work ethic and persevere despite adversity. This fosters grit which means strength of character.

Just enjoy the ride

At 8U, I can tell from experience the best advice I can give to parents is enjoy this  time with their kids. It will get serious fast enough, we don’t need to start it at 8U. Life is more fun when we enjoy the game that they love with them. And enough with the FOMO. Your kid is not missing out on anything. They will have time to be serious about it.

Season is over. Have fun, play another sport. Or just chill out, maybe “chill” is not a good word *wink wink*. Enjoy each other’s company. Make memories.

your fellow hockey mom/parent,


One Comment

  1. flhockeymomfit

    With 3 boys in travel hockey, with one that has now moved on to beer league, I can tell you the article is spot on. Its amazing to see how the dynamics change over the years and those that were strong at mites (aka. U-8) are no longer strong players at bantam (U-14.) One of the biggest shifts, is when checking is introduced. Some kids simply don’t like being leveled into the boards and they move away from the game or they become timid players.

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