The profound effect of “shortening the bench” in kids sport

There is no good reason for a coach to bench a child playing a sport.

In the latest podcast from the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, Richard Monette, editor-in-chief of Active for Life, talks about the importance of looking at player time and lineups from the perspective of the child.

And most kids don’t play sports to win, but to have fun.

Benching kids, for whatever reason, impacts the child’s idea of their own self worth. No matter what they may be told, their interpretation of the situation is that they aren’t good enough.

And as Richard explains, this can have a long lasting effect.

Richard has been consulting with professional athletes and Olympians for more than 25 years, and says there is one rule that applies to them all: Players only play to the level they believe they can play at.

It is, he suggests, up to every coach to commit to developing players for life. Even if that means losing a game now and then.

You can listen to the conversation below.

2 responses to “The profound effect of “shortening the bench” in kids sport

  1. “Mind your own Business!”
    Bob Hartley, the head coach of the Calgary Flames speaking at the Hockey Alberta Summit strongly stated that anyone who shortens the bench in minor hockey should be “kicked out”.
    Rick Carriere, former Major Junior coach and GM and present Sr. Director of Player Development for the Edmonton Oilers stated that the only league that should shorten the bench is the NHL. All other leagues are about development.

    Minor hockey today is challenged trying to deal with coaches and associations who condone shortening the bench.

    I recently witnessed the shortening of a bench at a Novice 3 level game. The 2 centers who were the team’s best players played every second shift while 3 sets of wingers rotated around them. Do the math and you will discover that 2 players got more ice time (10 minutes a game) and over a 30 game season that adds up to 300 minutes of opportunity to play, develop and to have fun.

    In the same game the team was up 5-1 and killing off a series of penalties. One of the 2 top players was on the ice for the entire penalty kill and when there was 3 vs 5 PK both top players were on the ice. I sat beside a parent whose son did not get on the ice for 14 minutes. He was upset and did not complain. I was upset and spoke to one of the assistant coaches after the game suggesting that what was happening was not good for the kids or the game.

    The next day I received E-mail from an association executive member telling me to “mind my own business”. My reply was that it was “my business”.

    Parents are reluctant to complain because of the ramifications. My opinion is they should complain because of the ramifications. Shortening the bench allows fewer players to develop and enjoy the game. They accept the way it is and will quit playing the game sooner than later

    As this season starts it is time to reflect on why kids play hockey, why coaches coach hockey and why parents put their kids in Hockey. If everyone “thinks’ about it, they should come agree that is about FUN for the kids. Unfortunately adults forget about that. They often get caught up in “Winning” which is what the business of Hockey is about. WE need to think about the kids and the SPORT of hockey. Hard work and Teamwork are two of the most important lessons learned that playing hockey teaches. They are the foundation for success on the ice both in the Business of hockey and the Sport of Hockey.

    There are many valuable lessons that Hockey teaches:
    1. The importance of Listening – to your coach, teacher and parents.
    2. The Importance of Respect for teammates, opponents and officials.
    3. The importance of learning from making mistakes, losing and winning.
    4. While Hockey Canada advocates a Fair Play code there are many coaches who practice an Equal play code. At competitive levels the best coaches manage their benches using a fair Play philosophy. They manage the ice time to teach the importance of respect, teamwork and learning. All players experience all game situations. Everyone feels part of the team and in the end the best TEAM will win.

    You play the game with the goal of winning. The lessons learned in competition will last for a lifetime. Let kids play and learn the lessons that sports can teach.
    Google and join the “Positive Coaching Alliance” and learn more about WIN –WIN coaching.

    “Try not to become a man of success but rather a man of Value” – Albert Eintstein

  2. The Best Team Win’s
    The biggest coaching lesson occurred in m fourth year of coaching High School football. In my first year of teaching nobody would coach the high schools Junior Football team. I had no coaching experience but played six man football in small town Saskatchewan and taken a football course at University, had a degrees in physical education. It was time to jump into the water. Little did I know how that decision would affect my growth and development as a Teacher and Coach. That first year was the best year of coaching I ever. Our record was 0 wins and 7 loses. 44 players tried out for the team and 44 players finished the season. The first game was a 44-0 shellacking. Meeting the players at the Monday team meeting I told the players I had no experience coaching football but I would work hard and learn. I expected them to do the same. We would get better together. WE never won a game but we improved each game as we lost by closer margins. In the last game we played the undefeated first place team and were winning 15-7 at half time. We lost the game 20-18 and we were proud of what we accomplished. Every player that tried out every player played and all players finished the season. That season was more satisfying than all of the seasons that followed coaching 5 different sports and winning city, provincial, national, world and Olympic championships.
    After winning a City Football Championship in my fifth year of coaching I coached the same way. Every one played. No players played both Defense and Offense. In that fifth year we got to the City Finals and I became more focused on Winning I decided to have the two best athletes play both ways. The Offensive Full back would also play middle line backer and the offensive half back would defensive safety. The defensive players who were replaced would play to allow the best athletes to play both ways.
    Needless to say we lost the City Championship. I had put winning ahead of the “TEAM”. WE lost the game and the spirit of the TEAM, especially the two defensive players who had less playing time. The lesson was learned. Coaching with a Team first philosophy allowing all players to develop and compete. Shortening the bench in hockey is the same as playing your two best athletes both ways. I decided I would never do it again coaching football. In Hockey I would manage the bench to develop all players Hockey skills and life skills by rewarding playing time for the right reasons (exceptional effort and performance) and taking away playing time for the right reasons (selfish play, long shifts, bad penalties. The key thing was to consistent when the rewarded players or reduced players ice time. Every on e plays, everyone develops and everyone’s learns how to play the right way. They learn to play for one another not for them selves.
    A coach’s job is to “Transmit Belief”. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish coaching the “Right Way”
    The first year experience of coaching high school football was an important lesson. We never won a game. We gave it our best effort. Preparation and effort are within a coaches and players control. Put in the effort planning and preparing and the Score will look After Itself
    “ You never Win or Lose, You either Win or Learn”

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