Kim McCullough

Passenger or driver

By Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS

When parents ask me which level their daughter should play, I ask them, “Do you want your daughter to be a PASSENGER or DRIVER?” Some parents think that having their daughter play at the highest level possible is the only way she’ll really improve and get better. Their theory is that their daughter will have no choice but to improve while skating with the best players in practice and games. It’s a little bit like survival of the fittest. 

It’s not a bad theory, but there is a big difference between being able to play at that level, and being able to make a significant impact at that level. I remember back when I went to my first Team Canada tryout. It was more than a little eye-opening. I could keep up with the play and even managed to score a “garbage” goal here and there. But I was merely along for the ride. I was surrounded by players who could pretty much dictate the pace of the game – and I was just trying to keep up. They were “drivers” and I was a “passenger.” I could hang in there and not embarrass myself, but I wasn’t having any significant impact on the game.

The flip side of this whole discussion is choosing to have your daughter be a strong impact player at the level below, instead of having her be at the bottom of the barrel at the level above. Some players and parents see playing for the lower level team as somehow being beneath them. That’s when I simply go back to the question of whether you want to be a passenger or driver.

By playing at the level below, you can be one of the better players on the ice. You can control and dictate the play. You will likely be a “go-to” player at critical points in big games and you’ll likely be in more of a leadership role on the team.

All of these things are critical in a player’s overall development as a player and person. We all know that confidence is critical for young female athletes after all.

So when you are considering which level to play at next season, make sure you take into account whether you want your daughter to be a passenger or driver.

To learn more about how to take your game to the next level with off-ice training this off-season, visit Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS, is an expert in the development of aspiring young hockey players. Kim’s player development websites give coaches and parents of young players access to programs, articles and advice on how to help their players take their game to the next level safely and effectively.