How to pick a rep team

Randy Russon
January 8, 2020

It can be a toxic topic. And it seems as though it is a constant cause for consternation. As in, coaches of certain AAA rep hockey clubs who not only pick their own son for the team, but kids of their friends as well.

In a perfect world, the best players who try out for one of the AAA rep hockey teams would make the team, give or take a slight margin of error.

But most of us know — by admission or not — that some players make some AAA rep teams because their dad is the coach or assistant coach or their dad or mom is a friend of the coach or assistant coach.

This goes on with players as young as nine years old. Dad is a coach? You are on the team. Dad’s friend is of one the coaches? You are on the team.

Even in instances where, at an older age level, parents aren’t allowed to coach their kids, there is a way around the process. Ever heard of backroom deals involving dads and their friends? Don’t kid yourself. Some may already be in play a season ahead.

So, how to get away from AAA rep teams being stocked with kids of the coach and players of dads who are friends of the coach?

Well, I doubt that anyone would ever go for this. But here goes.

The most fair way to pick a rep hockey team would be to invite all from a given age group to try out for a given team. And at the tryouts, a qualified, neutral coach is selected to pick the team. The catch is that going into the tryouts, the coach does not know the name of a single player. At the end of the tryouts, he picks the best nine forwards, six defensemen, and two goalies — without knowing their names.

I know, I know. There are are some who will scoff and shake their heads at what I just said. But in the spirit of fair play and fair evaluation, why not go with such a method, or at least a variation of it?

Why not? Because it is too radical a thought. And because when it comes to AAA rep hockey, there are always those with an agenda and a motive who are allowed to get away with having the kids of those in their inner circle a part of a team, whether they deserve it or not.

Check out the rosters of some of the AAA rep teams. Do your homework and see how many kids of dad of kids of dad’s friends are on the team. You might be surprised.

Sooner or later, a kid is going to have to make a team on his own, without the influence of dad or dad’s friend. So, the favouritism and nepotism can’t go on forever.

But in the meantime, what about the kids who didn’t make a certain AAA rep team because dad or mom wasn’t friends with the coach or the coach’s wife?

Like it or not, folks, all is far from fair when it comes to who makes a AAA rep hockey team and who doesn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against parents coaching their kids or the kids of their friends. As long as they truly deserve to be on the AAA rep team in question.

What is fair should be fair for all concerned.

What you think about “How to pick a rep team”

  1. I think its the same every where nowadays . Too much parent influence not only in aaa teams but regular league teams in all kids activities . The cost of playing on aaa teams is a big factor for some kids parents wanting to tryout .

  2. Some players have the skill level to be on the team but the coaching staff does’t want the “parent issues” to affect the teams year so that child is cut! This happens often and I don’t fault the team!

  3. OMG, Randy, I have been saying this for years and not just about AAA teams. It seems like it’s gotten worse through the years. How do we, as parents, instil honesty and integrity through hockey when some of the very people coaching are not being honest. Don’t you think the players see and understand what is going on. I think they sometimes invent coaching positions on teams just so that their child gets drafted by that team. Shame on you!
    Through the grapevine I heard of players being drafted who weren’t even present to try out. How is that fair? Just because their father was going to be a coach, this should not have been allowed.
    Another thing, Randy, the parents, who pay big bucks, are intimidated and fearful of ruffling feathers because they believe their child will pay for it in some manner. So they grind their teeth, present a false front, and accept what they can’t change. I can’t even sign this with my name, because my child will bear the repercussions.
    So, yes, change is definitely needed and hopefully imminent.

  4. Randy, you make some excellent points in your column. The system as it stands definitely could use improvement. Perhaps in the upcoming season some adjustments can be made.

    For the past two seasons I have been AAA Director for the Sault Major Hockey Association and have been tasked with picking AAA and AA coaches. The best qualified coaches have been picked, based on who have applied at each division. The key here is “ who have applied”. In my opinion if a father is the best coach available out of the candidates who have applied, then they deserve the job. Should a less qualified person get the job because they are not a father?

    I would also like to respond to hockey mom. Coaching minor hockey is a volunteer position. It is a ton of work and a real commitment. Coaching clinics, setting up practices, raising money etc. It goes from September to March. Do coaches at the house league level take their friends kids or their kids friends or even stay away from certain parents, in my opinion absolutely. Would you not want to spend 5 or 6 months surrounded with people you want. Just being honest here.

  5. The “Best Qualified” coach isn’t always the argument in my opinion (and the “Best Qualified” isn’t always the best choice as we have repeatedly seen here in the Soo)… it’s the coach’s son…or friend’s son…or a favour…etc.. some of the kids on the team are only on there because of WHO they are, not their talent level. Soo Hockey History has shown plenty of instances (and also with current rep teams) where the inferior kid was taken over the deserving kid only because of family/friendship. Not because of any issues or problems with the child or family. The best case scenario is the team should be selected with THE BEST 17 available at try-outs by a COMPLETELY neutral party. (That in and of itself would probably be impossible in the Soo) Then tell the coach here is your team. We do not have the luxury of 200 kids at tryouts and numerous Qualified coaches applying for those teams. Sadly, the case is that we are lucky to ice a team at all at various levels because of all the parents who are coach shopping and forcing Soo Major’s hand when everyone is getting together and (colluding) predetermining who they will try out for and not try out for.
    To Hockey Mom…Toots is 100% right coaches are tired of putting up with problem kids and over involved parents whose child is a lock for OHL/NHL stardom and will take a pass on these kids, happens at every level.

  6. Mr. Kovacs,
    Then why have kids try out for the team? Just pick who you like, who YOU want; not the most qualified, not the hardest working, not the better players.
    Just coach a fun team with all your buddies.
    Some players are devastated by not making the team and to make matters worse, some of the players the player(s) who make the team should not have.
    In a perfect world we should only have to be with people we like….at work, at school, in sports, etc. But that is not reality, Mr. Kovacs!

  7. Do people think good coaches just grow on trees??? How many good qualified coaches do you really think teams would end up with if the coach was told what the makeup of his/her team was going to be? People that have coached will attest that the best “team”, is not always made up of what others may perceive to be the best 15-18 players. There are a lot of factors that come in to play.

  8. Hockey mom, I am talking house league hockey, not AA or AAA hockey. I am talking picking kids in a draft. If a coach is going to donate his time ( an entire winter) for a house league hockey team they, in most cases take players they know, take players that want to learn and yes, avoid certain players for obvious reasons (yes, even the talented ones). Based on reputation. That is reality.

  9. Randy, it not only goes for AAA programs BUT AA teams as well. Kids picked because of who your dad is, was OR who you camp beside. It’s pathetic. True talent is being bypassed at all age groups to satisfy egos of many and it’s hurting the hockey system. At the end of the day, let’s face it, 1 MAYBE 2 kids in every age group may go ON to a HIGHER level OR semi pro career at some point while all others will end up playing beer league with Or against each other down the road. Parents are the architects of this toxicity and coaches applying for teams just so your kids can play a higher level is shameful! Organizations need to do a much better job of screening and selecting coaches that AREN’T a friend of a friend OR the relative of this hockey guy OR that hockey guy. Find the right coach, without ties to any kid… period….. you will then see how the ”REP” landscape will change. Another thing, take the RED helmets off of ALL kids at REP tryouts, a lot of coaches only see RED when picking teams and that right away puts black helmet kids at a disadvantage.Also, move tryouts to August for Rep systems…… this allows kids to physically grow and develop in that 5/6 months between seasons.” A little food for thought!!!!

  10. I’m with toots. Not exactly a ton of coaches knocking down the doors for these volunteer positions. Few appreciate the time and financial commitment just to to be trained/certified through the ranks as coach let alone what it actually means to truly run a team.

    Unless you’re ready pay even higher player fees, parent coaches will be the norm, and more often than not they get these positions by default. You would hope the coach recognizes his sons ability, or lack of and adjusts ice time accordingly but that doesn’t always happen and that’s another matter altogether.

    Everybody has the ability to create change, in this instance it starts by entering the Hockey Canada Coach Certification program. Once all trained up, throw your name in the hat to coach. If coaching ain’t your thing, don’t worry, you can still create change. AGM is right around the corner, get voted on to the board, every association can use more hands and ideas.

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