The youth hockey site rethinks the ranking of children’s teams

A website that has shaped youth hockey in the United States and Canada, in part by ranking thousands of teams in both countries on a weekly basis, has announced that it will stop training at the younger levels of the competition.

Neil Lodin, the founder of MYHockey Rankings, said on its website Wednesday that the platform would no longer assign a numerical ranking to teams of children under 12, explaining that the rankings contributed to an unhealthy approach to the game by adults.

“Youth sports have become a rat race between parents, coaches and clubs,” Lodin wrote. “There’s this ‘If you don’t keep up with the Joneses, do you love your son too?’ mentality out there.

“The youth hockey community is not immune to these problems,” stated his message. “And let’s be honest, rankings are a contributing factor when used negatively and exclusively rather than as a coaching tool and planning resource.”

In December 2021, they were the subject of MYHockey Rankings and its influence to the article in the New York Times. Ken Martel, director of player development for USA Hockey, the sport’s governing body, said in the article that he feared the weight given to the rankings by some parents, coaches and youth hockey associations would have a detrimental effect on the development of players. players and on the cost of playing the games

The website’s ability to collect and nibble on a range of statistical data on thousands of teams between the ages of 9 and 18 has made it an indispensable resource for many in the youth hockey community.

At its core is a sophisticated algorithm that predicts a team’s “performance evaluation” and the goal difference of any game they might play against any opponent in the database. Tournament coaches and directors regularly use the website to identify teams that are expected to be equally matched and schedule matches accordingly.

But critics have argued that the website’s auxiliary practice of assigning a numerical rank to teams has fueled a primal instinct among too many youth hockey players to climb the ranks in a never-ending game of one-upmanship.

In an interview, Lodin said the website will continue to provide key data that helped make planning decisions, such as win and loss records, game results and other stats, while clearing the rankings for his teams. younger. The site ranked around 3,000 teams of children under the age of 12 during the last hockey season.

“We are taking actions that we believe make users more likely to use the site as intended, as a tool to help teams plan appropriate levels of competition at the expense of hockey,” Lodin said.

Tom Farrey, the executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program, to whom Lodin attributed the idea of ​​getting rid of the rankings while retaining data that helps teams find a well-matched competition, called the move “a step forward. in the right direction “.

“It sends the message that development is more important than comparing kids and teams that are still in the early stages of growth,” Farrey said.

Martel, of USA Hockey, applauded the development.

“Hopefully this will ease the pressure a bit,” he said. “We are a sport in a late development stage. The best kids aren’t the best guys afterwards. Nobody knows who is really good until after puberty. “