>Some parents need a dose of reality about NHL dreams

Posted: December 19, 2008 in Hockey

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Parental Guidance
By CEAN BURGESON (for Rubber Magazine)

They push their child athletes to the brink – buying them the best equipment, sending them to the finest camps, and purchasing expensive private lessons with expert coaches.

What I’m talking about are those parents who are convinced – sometimes absolutely certain – that their children will be professional athletes. I’ve seen them. I’ve met them. I’ve heard their stories. I’ve coached their kids.

Let’s face it. In youth hockey every young kid dreams of some day playing in the NHL. There’s something about the sport which holds a certain kind of magic for anyone who plays it. With my son and the other kids I’ve worked with, I think there’s absolutely no reason to squash these dreams, either. But as parents we need to be realistic about how much money, time, and other heartache to invest in a youth athlete in an attempt to get them into the NHL.

No matter how many goals your son scores as a Squirt or Pee Wee, the ability of a player 10-12 years old won’t necessarily dictate that they will continue to dominate at their age level as they progress. Early success doesn’t always predict later success, and there are many hurdles to overcome to make it to the big leagues. There are travel teams, tournament teams, tier teams, junior teams, not to mention prep school and high school teams across the country and Canada, all producing players with the same dream. And if a college scholarship is the goal, then there’s some other sobering information that parents need to hear.

Of the 52 colleges and universities that have Division I hockey teams, six don’t grant athletic scholarships because they belong to the Ivy League. NCAA rules allow each of the other schools to award the equivalent of 18 full hockey scholarships per year divided among up to 30 athletes. Then, after playing in the juniors or college, if they manage to make it into the NHL draft, the numbers get even more daunting.

In a 20 year study of the pro hockey draft it was found that 2 percent of the picks became superstars, 4 percent of them transformed into stars and impact players, 15 percent became good or average players, and roughly 79 percent didn’t become NHL players at all. Overall, 55 percent of the draftees never even played a single game in the NHL.
I don’t mean to dampen the spirits of any youth hockey player. Parents should let their young athletes determine the amount and type of hockey that they want to play – but don’t sacrifice your entire life or savings account to hockey. Allow kids to focus on having fun with the sport without the added pressure of grooming them for a shot at the pros and they’ll end up a winner no matter where their career takes them.

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