The balancing process...
Balancing the teams at each division level is extremely important for a number of reasons. First, the President’s League (of which we are a member) mandates that we balance all of our teams such that they will be more or less competitive with each other. The President’s League takes this requirement very seriously and will suspend teams if they are overly strong or overly weak.
A second and far more important reason for balancing the teams is quite simply that it is fair to do so and results in a more positive experience for all of our players. Being on a team that loses every game can be quite demoralizing for children and accordingly, we do try and avoid it if at all possible. The best way to safeguard against such a development is to ensure that there are an equal number of players from each skill level on each team.
Our assessment process has two parts. First, the head coaches assess individual skills. The second part is the scrimmages. The drills we have planned for the upcoming individual skill assessments are intentionally basic. This is because we have a number of coaches in the stands rating the players. We need to be able to observe each player performing basic hockey skills. Having a player do tight turns around cones can be monotonous but it is perhaps the most visible way for our coaches to make the observations that they need to formulate the rankings.
We also may need to send each player out one at a time so that the coaches will be able to give each child a fair look. Although normally, we strive to have all children moving at the same time during a drill, the exact opposite is the case in assessments. After our first assessment session, the players will be put into groups for the remaining sessions. These groups will scrimmage against each other, and while the kids will enjoy this part much more, further assessing will occur. From these assessments, we plan to collect further data to allow us to make balanced teams.
In Initiiation, only Divisions 2, 3 and 4 go through the assessment process while Intro and Hockey 1 do not do this because they do not play games against other organizations. Once individual assessments are done by the head coaches of the respective divisions, the Division Managers then take that information and make balanced teams. At this point, the assessment process goes from individual skills to team play assessments. A series of scrimmages occur between the teams within the division and further balancing is done (if necessary) by the Division Manager.
The Division Managers make the teams based on coach assessments. Because the notion of balanced teams is expected of us by the governing bodies, the Division Managers do not take parental requests for certain players to play with their friends or to accomodate for piano lessons etc.. The balancing must come first. We do however consider restrictions that some players may have to play hockey at certain times based on religious reasons. If your child is unable to play hockey at certain times due to religious reasons, please inform your division manager "before" the assessment process begins (stating when they cannot play) to ensure that your request can be accommodated. There are no guarantees that requests can be granted if notification is given after the teams are already formed. That being said, we also do our best to prevent
conflicts with local soccer. Sometimes the ice that is allocated to us does not grant us the luxury of not conflicting with socccer. We simply do our best to make it as convenient as possible for everyone.
The last message we want to give you is that you and your children should pay absolutely no attention to the ranking that we are giving to each player. These ratings are certainly not passed onto the children nor are they kept throughout the year, they are not used for any other purpose than initial balancing. We certainly acknowledge that children improve at different rates and it is more often than not the case that weak players on a team become strong players by the end of the year. We do not use these assessments for any purpose other than to ensure fairness at the beginning of the season in terms of balancing. If your child does not perform well in assessments, this means absolutely nothing and will not affect his or her season. Please do not think that there is any reason to put any pressure on the kids. We would far rather have them playing at their natural level than playing under any pressure.
If you have any questions about this process, please do not hesitate to contact your Division Manager or your Vice President of Initiation, Bill Juhasz. All of our contact particulars are on the Thunderbird Website.
Hopefully this message will answer some of your questions during the assessment process.