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Travel hockey is a much bigger commitment than in-house hockey or recreational leagues. Financial expenses are higher and demands and expectations are greater. That being said, travel hockey is great fun for the player and his or her whole family. Thehockey team becomes an extension of your real-life family. Lifelong friendships can be established between players and parents alike. This travel hockey guide is meant to help inform new parents of what to expect when signing up for travel hockey.
The opportunity to travel, see new places, meet new people, and experience the flavor of life other than that of your own hometown is very exciting. My players can look at a map of the United States and point out the dozens of states they have visited for travel hockey. Some have even gone as far as Canada and Europe. That’s amazing!
You can expect to practice at least a few times a week. There will generally be one or more games over the weekend. Because of this rigorous schedule, striking a balance between hockey and school will be challenging. Often times, players may find themselves having to do homework in the car or at the rink. Keeping your car set up for this is essential! Include a power inverter for laptops, a book light, spare batteries, pens and pencils, spiral notebooks, your player’s textbooks and backpacks, and any other supplies that could be necessary. School, of course, should come first, and playing hockey should be a reward for doing well in school.
There will be both local (within state) and out-of-state tournaments. Expect tournament fees (unfortunately the ice time and officials are not free), airfare expenses, hotels, meals, transportation to and from rinks, and entertainment – this can all add up pretty quickly.
Travel tournaments may also occur over important holidays. You might be asked to participate over Thanksgiving or even Christmas. There will almost certainly be tournaments over President’s Day weekend. Travelling on holiday weekends can be remarkably expensive. Your player’s regular participation is expected, and to not participate would hurt the team. If you cannot fully commit, either financially or because of the time commitment, you should rethink participating in a travel league.
Now, you must decide if you yourself are attending the tournament. Some parents are comfortable allowing children to attend without them present. Many parents simply enjoy watching enough to willingly bear the added expense of traveling along. In some instances, tournament passes must be purchased for family members to attend the games. This is a means of fundraising for the host team or rink. A great deal of work is involved in hosting these tournaments, so supporting the host team through their fundraising is a legitimate and necessary aspect of participating in tournaments. Remember, we are all in this together, so be supportive of the hockey community in general. We are growing our players and a sport together!
Travel hockey is extremely competitive within each league, and having aspirations is important. Because the ultimate goal is to earn an opportunity to advance to the playoffs and continue on to play for a championship, there is a general focus on winning games. This type of dedication instills values in the players that can translate into other experiences. A good work ethic, working in a team environment, self-discipline, following directions, and setting and achieving goals are all essential for travel hockey and more importantly, essential later in life. Travel hockey is the perfect opportunity to hone these abilities.
Since the objective of a tournament is to advance as far as you possibly can, the pressure to win is heightened. When the objective is winning, ice time among players is not necessarily equal. While we all want our kids to have as much opportunity as the next player, if their skill set is not comparable to some of their teammates, then their ice time may not be what you are accustomed to in a recreational league. This can be a tough pill to swallow; nevertheless, the goals of the team as a whole take precedence.
Your player should ask the coach what to improve upon, which will ultimately lead to getting more ice time. Then, make sure your player does the work needed to advance, either through private lessons, stick time, learning more about the game, or whatever his or her weakness may be. Working on shooting, stick handling, skating, or fitness is also a routine that your player should maintain throughout his or her hockey career, regardless of skill level.
Remember, too, that each player comes from a different background; one may have been playing for years while another may have just started but shows real promise. Some players may have the benefit of private lessons while others may not. It’s all very individual, and ultimately it is the responsibility of the coach to decide who plays when and where.
Most importantly of all, enjoy the experience, and support and encourage your player. It is priceless and goes by oh so fast!
Best of luck.