Every year, with my own clients, and potential new clients, a lot of hard conversations need to be had. Hard and honest conversations that for most players are long over due.
Every player who is true to this game, no matter what level they play at, is a competitor. Each player is motivated to compete at the highest level possible, and that level is different for every player. For some its the NHL and for others it may be simply making a good Tier III roster. But they all compete to be the best they can be.
That’s one of the most beautiful parts of this game, and still one of the most frustrating parts of the game at the same time.
Frustrating because many players and parents do not have realistic views of themselves and where they fit in among their peers. These unrealistic views cause them to set themselves up for disappointment nearly every year, and will almost certainly lead to a distaste and bitterness for decision makers in the game in the long term.
Lets get honest. Lets look in the mirror and just really look at ourselves and be honest. Lets accept our weakness’s and embrace our strengths and find ways to allow those strengths to help get us to new levels of success.
Currently I am speaking to a player who is an ideal NCAA D-3 candidate. He has the grades, test scores, and legitimate playing ability to play D-3 at several schools. He has never been a dominating player at any level, but as he enters his last year of Junior hockey he is coming into his own, and I expect he will have a breakout season if he is in the right place for him.
The problem is that he is not being realistic about what will get him to NCAA D-3. He is still more concerned about his ego and playing on a Tier 2 team. This player could make several Tier 2 teams and would be a great third or fourth line role player who can potentially fill in on some special teams.
While playing on a pay to play team he is easily a second line player getting lots of ice time and special teams play. Elevating his measurable performance, and increasing his visibility to scouts. This would obviously enhance his value to NCAA D-3 programs.
Third and fourth line role players at Tier 2 usually end up in ACHA programs. First and second line high producing players in pay to play programs usually end up in NCAA D-3 programs. Not that ACHA is bad, but if NCAA is the goal, then you need to put yourself in position to reach that goal.
Remember, it is the long term goal that is the most important. Not short term ego satisfaction.
Yes, I understand pay to play hockey is expensive. Tier II is less expensive or free. So there is definitely a short term financial savings by playing Tier II in most cases.
The difference between playing ACHA hockey though and NCAA D-3 hockey is much more significant. Most ACHA players will pay to play for those teams. Most ACHA players will pay a higher cost of tuition to attend those Universities. NCAA D-3 players will receive academic scholarships, and wont pay to play hockey.
The difference is a savings in the tens of thousands of dollars each year. Over the course of a four year education you can expect to save at least 50 to 60 thousand dollars by playing NCAA D-3. That is a lot more money saved than the 10 thousand you may pay to play for Junior hockey in your final season.
It’s time to not only be honest with yourself, but to start using that brain you will need once you do enroll into a university. It’s time to start making smart life decisions and not just hockey decisions.
No one will care that you played Tier II if you don’t play NCAA. No one will care if you don’t play Tier II when you do play NCAA. It is about getting to the final destination that matters, not the path you take to get there.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser