Some clubs have so many players that they can group players with similar skill sets onto many teams across an age division. Yes there’s still some fall off between the shooting accuracy of your number 1 forward and your number 9, but for the most part they all shoot the puck about the same and so goes the same with all the other of their skills. Telluride won’t ever get to this degree of homogenous skill groupings because of our limited population.
In our practices where 80% of the time we’re playing small area games, we naturally get mismatches. When we magnify those mismatches we can bring attention to a skill that needs to be discovered.
In a practice scenario with a known stronger team(for whatever reason)a coach can have the stronger team defend the weaker goalie which is an offset that can create balance and fairness. More interesting than fairness is they can emphasize questions to the players that revolve around what to do on offense with and without the puck for the one team while organizing questions around team defense concepts on and off puck for the group that will likely be playing a lot of defense.
In games Telluride is known for it’s short benches and incredible scrappiness. Once we play a full ice game with 7 players, we break through and go beyond the perceived limits. We know the feeling of acceptance that goes along with the reality that we might not win this one. We know how to redefine success before the game. We can make the game all about learning something and getting better at this that or the other thing. Our goalies get ready to face 60 shots. And purely through the demand of the imbalance the kids learn something they never would have with a full bench. They learn how to be scrappy.
Small area games that are too evenly weighted still build ability, but around different objectives. Oftentimes the tempo in evenly matched games trends towards a back and forth fitness activity that while it does build comfort with that type of competition doesn’t have enough variability to drive nuanced improvement.
It all depends what we’re trying to solve for.
The games never have to be fair, but they do have to be intentional. Let’s take for example a skilled offensive player who doesn’t know how to play defense. He can learn by playing 3v3 against the 3 strongest offensive players on the team. And going back to exponential growth the player in search of defensive improvement can learn more quickly when the teams are clearly imbalanced. In a straight up evenly matched 3v3, this player can rely on the positioning of similar or better players to co-ordinate his own positioning. But when partnered with 2 weaker players he has to talk his teammates through the positions as he sees them, he has to back them up, he has to anticipate the offensive of strategy. And by seeing it from the defensive side he may just learn a bit about offense too. By forcing him to become a defensive game maker we lead him to leveling up his game. We’re supporting him and advocating on the player’s behalf, but not through the normal channels.
And sometimes we find out that this player doesn’t actually know how to play defense and that comes up to the surface. We can coach that up. And right there we have created a learning moment by rigging the small area game against the player of today, but in favor of the player of tomorrow.