As the regular season starts to wind down and playoffs enter the horizon, team benched have an uncanny way of getting a little shorter this time of year.
Yet, running a short bench often has the opposite of its intended effect, especially over the long term. Here are five reasons why equal playing time is a better strategy.
1.) Maximizes long term player development. Without access to playing time, quality coaching or experiencing critical situations (such as special teams or playoff games), players who started hockey late or are temporarily behind their peers in terms of physical or mental development are less likely to improve. These same players may actually have more long term potential if provided with the same opportunities to develop.
2.) Improves relationships between coaches and parents. One of the most common causes of disagreements between coaches and parents is the subject of playing time. By providing players with equal opportunities to play, coaches set the stage for more positive relationships with parents on the team.
3.) Minimize fatigue. When teams utilize a short bench, the top players are exhausted by the end of the game and the lesser skilled players are cold, stiff and have less game experience. The negative impact of a short bench is even more noticeable in tournament play when teams participate in three, four or even, five games in a limited number of days.
4.) Enhances teamwork. When players feel everyone is an important part of the team and is treated fairly, they are more likely to focus on working together. When teamwork improves, players are more likely to make friends, have fun at the rink, and the team will have a better chance of experiencing success.
5.) Fun increases motivation. The number one reason kids play sports is to have fun. Enjoying hockey is the main reason kids work hard in practice and spend their free time stick handling, skating or shooting pucks on his/her own. Not playing is not fun and can result in kids who are less motivated to improve, have less fun and may choose to quit.