TRIPLE A—Does that mean attitude, athleticism, and academics?  A recent conversation with some hockey players who were playing “Triple A” hockey at the Bantam level led me to this next blog. 
The children were adamant about both their ability to get a DI scholarship, and the proper path to take to receive the scholarship.  They would continue to play at their current level, which included not playing for their high school team, missing days of school to go to different tournaments, and playing as much as possible.
Let’s break it down.  First and foremost, just because it is “Triple A”, does that mean it has to be elite?  The very fact that these kids (families) are paying money to play certainly limits the pool of players.  What about the region of the country they are in?  Also, what about the players’ age group?  What time of the year are they born, versus the age cut off?  Is this group of kids, like in a high school demographic, a group of above average students for their graduating year, or as in a professional league, maybe in an off draft year?  Next, what happens when you are no longer one of the better players as you leave your little myopic corner of the sports world and venture out into the big pond? 
Now let’s look carefully at the team you are playing on.  How many kids from that team have gone on to DI scholarships?  Do you know the true amount?  Take the amount of money they are paying to play and compare it to what most athletic scholarships give, and you will find they could have saved money by not playing and paid for more college tuition.  I was told by these players that the odds are better if they play Triple A, then Juniors, and then college to get the DI grant.   Although true, it leaves out the very important fact that it is very hard to play Juniors in the first place.  Also how many Junior players get full scholarships?  I was told by one parent her son played on a Junior team and tuition was $9,000 a year.  The average DI scholarship is $8,700 a year.  What if they don’t make it?  All these great high school memories that most of them would have are lost.  Angst over not achieving their dream comes instead of those memories.  What is the long term fall out when they don’t make it?
I am the father of a 16 year old daughter.  She is wonderful and I love her very much.  She seems to have no interest in attending a convent to ease her father’s woes and gray hairs.  During my last talk to a youth sports group I brought up the name Megan Fox.  She seems to be incredibly popular with the teenage boys.  I have to confess I know nothing about the girl, but if millions of teenage boys are interested in her I certainly would not want her as my daughter, owing to the fact that I like to sleep at night.  I offered the following story to the young boys in attendance as an analogy to their youth sport’s journey. 
Let’s say Megan Fox is a parallel to a DI scholarship. Everyone kept telling you that Megan Fox wanted to go out with you and she thought you were really cute and great and wanted to spend time with you.  When you finally got to meet her, she said, “Who the heck are you?” and walked away.  Now, do you really think that when you went back to your friends and to the others who had told you that Megan Fox was going to date you, and you ended up with nothing, that you wouldn’t be constantly reminded and aggravated about what had happened as you journeyed on in life?
After I saw the look on the young boys’ faces and some of their heads hanging low, I offered this solution to their unrealistic dreams and desires for what ultimately is an unattainable goal.  Get a group of kids together, rent the ice, and play a pickup game.  Play for fun.  No coaches or parents, just one adult for safety.  Players pick the teams, make the rules, and have at it.
When talent level was broached to me and the kids didn’t want to play with players that weren’t as good as them, I answered, “What happens when you’re not the best and players want to exclude you?”  In life, just like sports, you will meet, socialize, play, and work with all difficult levels of personalities and talent.  This is an excellent way to nurture the life skills you need for later in life. 
Now let’s look at status.  Believe me, it plays a huge role.  As much as we want to be individuals and find our own path, we want to belong to something.  We want to brag to people about the organization we belong to or the team we play on- a natural social phenomenon.  It becomes a problem when we put too much value on it, when in actuality it has little value to you at all.  If you play youth sports for fun, you will get better.  If you get better, and by that I mean good enough for college level sports, you will be found. 
Finally, be very aware that the people telling you how good you are are in fact the same people profiting from your participation on their team or in their organization.  They may also be paid to bring you to other teams, in which you still have to pay a fee to participate.
If we really want to find out who is the best through competition, then we have to play for free, so all can be evaluated and grow.