Size Is A Skill

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Size Is A Skill? October 22, 2012 7:23 AM

How many times have you heard the phrase; "You cant teach size?"

You hear the phrase in nearly every sport. From Football, to basketball and hockey, so many coaches seem to be obsessed with how big a player may or may not be. It has become so prevalent that it seems to have become a problem.

Far too often today, bigger players are given opportunity over smaller players simply because of their size.

Other variations include “You can’t teach soft hands,” “You can’t teach vision,” and “You can’t teach hockey IQ.” Essentially, “You can’t teach *blank*” seems to just be a way to optimistically focus on a prospect’s best aspects, while minimizing their weaknesses by assuming that they can learn or be taught whatever is missing.

You obviously can’t teach size, particularly height. Genetics are genetics. Sure you can bulk up any player with the right amount of time spent in the weight room with the right regimen in place, most are able to increase their core strength and put on more mass. But, if you dont have the "tall" gene, you simply cant go from 5’10" to 6’2". It seems that now height is a very large factor in determining opportunity for young players.

Not many people watch as much Junior, High School and Midget Hockey as I do. For those that do, I am sure you can point out just as many players as I can that have been given great opportunity because of their height, even though there are many players who are more skilled playing at a lower level.

One phrase many coaches need to begin using is; "You cant hit what you cant catch".

If there is a smaller, smarter, faster player the bigger player more times than not can not hit, defend, or out play on a regular basis that more skilled player. If a goalie is big, but slow, more often than not he will be exposed and replaced by a more technically sound, more athletic goaltender. Why?

Because in the end winning games and developing the smarter, more skilled players is what the game is all about.

The proof is out there. Looking at Western Michigan University 2011 roster, nearly half the team was six foot tall or shorter. If you look at the NHL, taking out the tallest and shortest players, the average height is around 5’11".

The "big" player, the Chara or Meyers, is the oddity. They are not the norm, they are the one in a million player. So why then are coaches constantly trying to find the oddity? The answer is simple. Because it is these players who get the most attention, it is these players that influence every coaches choice of player subconciously.

During one of the drafts here in the states I told a friend of mine that his team had drafted a very big player that simply couldnt play. I had watched this player for the last few years, and sure he could hit, but that was it, he was one dimensional. That player has played a total of 2 games and is minus two in those games. The crazy thing about it is that because of his size he already had a D-1 commitment, even when he hasnt been playing. Because of size.

Another team took a big goalie that attended a higher level camp. Having watched this goalie for years as well, I warned the coach of his weekness. Although his save percentage is well below .900, and he has a great defense in front of him he is kept on the roster because of his size.

Coaches, when making their rosters, do not want to second guess themselves. No one wants to do that in any business. There will come a time though when the wins are not coming and changes have to be made. Honest skill and hockey sense evaluations must prevail over size.

Team owners are impressed by size as well. The most impressive size to them is the number of people in the stands watching a highly skilled team that is winning games. That size will always determine how long coaches can go on saying "You cant teach size".

By Joseph Kolodziej

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