This year our local YMCA branch participated in the Street Jackets Tournament for the first time ever. The tournament had teams from all over central Ohio, mostly associated with Rec Centers and YMCAs. The Rec Center teams are mostly ice hockey teams, where as the YMCA league is purely street hockey (played on basketball courts like above). The teams were broken into age groups by grade: 4th and under, 5th & 6th, and 7th & 8th. They played round-robin and then finalists played final games. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all we knew in the final days before the tournament.
And our ignorance of the tournament made it a pretty frustrating experience for the kids, and somewhat irritating experience for the parents. More about that in a minute. First some pictures (full set here).
This goalie was in a lower age bracket than our team faced, but I thought it was a good example of the diversity of skill levels of the teams. This goalie literally sat like this the whole game–I didn’t catch him resting between periods. If anyone on the opposing teams could lift the puck, they had an easy shot.
Our YMCA team has three girls on the team, all named Emily. Its very challenging for the coach to give the directions on the court, especially since the younger two Emilys practically demand to be on the court at the same time. My Emily is holding a stick that she broke on another player’s shin. She’s quite proud.
One of the best moments of the tournament for me came shortly after a hard-fought battle like the one above (or like this one). Emily was taking a breather on the sidelines when one of the volunteer organizers of the tournament came up to her and told her that she was showing a lot of determination and drive and to keep up the good work. I think she has a lot of determination and isn’t intimidated at all playing against nearly all-boy teams, and it was great to hear that from someone else.
Now, back to the complaints. First about our team: there were eleven players from 4th to 8th grade on the team. This caused huge size and skill discrepancies between our team and the other teams who seemed to be more uniformly 7th & 8th graders. Check this out for comparison:
Our oldest and youngest players (in blue) side-by-side. The little guy is a tough player, and good for a fourth grader, but nowhere near the strength and skill of the player right behind him. The other impact of having 11 players was that no one played more than about 1/3 of the game except the goalie (who was also a 4th grader). We had enough players that we could have had one 7th & 8th team and one 5th & 6th team. They’d have gotten more play time and been better matched to the other teams.
The other challenge our team had is that the Y league limits the age of participants to 13, whereas the tournament allowed 8th graders at any age. As a result, our 3 oldest players had no more than two practices and zero games under their belts this year.
Now my complaints about the tournament itself. And they are manifold.
- The tournament was held in a single basketball court, divided lengthwise. The Y’s normal games take up the whole court, and I know the ice rinks are much bigger. There are bigger rec centers and Y’s in the city (one each within walking distance of our house) that have two full-sized basketball courts. I’m not sure why we had to be jammed into this small space.
- We didn’t learn that the tournament used pucks instead of balls until after our last practice. Number of times our players had touched a puck prior to the tournament: 0.
- Here’s a rule that didn’t make sense: any time the puck left the rink, no matter who hit it, play was restarted with a face-off at the point closest to where the puck left the rink. An example of how this was crazy stupid: team A is attacking, driving toward team B’s net, and the B goalie freezes the puck, then hands it off to a B defensive player. As team A is now backing off ready for an offensive move from B, the B player shoots the puck high over their heads, way above the A net and out of the rink. The face-off is now near the A net with almost no effort. We saw this play out a dozen or more times. The Y’s rules would dictate that since B clearly hit the puck out of play, then A would regain control.
- The referees were inconsistent in how they enforced the above out-of-bounds rule. Some would adhere to the rule as written, some would award puck control to the team who had not hit it out of play. Though the inconsistency bugged me, I wasn’t about to complain when our team got control after the puck sailed over our net.
- The referees were inconsistent in how they handled the stoppage of play after a puck was frozen by a goalie. Some would stop play, allow both teams to set up in their respective ends, then would start play again. Some referees would allow play to restart as soon as the goalie could push to puck to a teammate. This technique clearly caught our team and goalie off-guard a number of times because the Y uses the first technique.
- The face-off technique was significantly different than what the Y league uses. The Y places the ball on the court, then has players alternately tap their sticks to the floor and each other three teams before they can hit the ball. The tournament used the more ice-hockey-like “throw the puck at the floor”. This technique wasn’t mentioned in the rules distributed prior to the tournament.
- “rules distributed prior to the tournament” that’s a laugh. The 1 1/2 pages of rules were distributed Thursday night before the Saturday tournament. To say they were scant is a bit of an understatement. It was an explanation of “house rules”, e.g. “Y’all know how to play. Here’s how we’ll do things specific to the tournament.” For something that has been going on for years, this was the biggest blunder in my book. Yes, its “all about fun”, but if the structure of the fun isn’t clear then its just frustrating.
This one captures that frustration perfectly. The tournament was supposed to have been fun. But when you get beat every game by a 10+ point margin, “fun” is not how these players would describe this tournament.