Transparency in Youth Hockey: Where Are We Now?

Transparency in Youth Hockey: Where Are We Now?

I'll cut to the chase: transparency in youth hockey is on life support as far as I can tell. Opaque. As shrouded in mystery as an Agatha Christy novel. You get the gist. 

What is transparency?

What is expected and what is delivered? What would a reasonable person expect in the family-club dynamic? Simply put, the customer (hockey families) would reasonably expect visibility and access to information about the key processes that relate to their experience with the service provided. To simplify further, the conducting of tryouts and associated events are a good example. There are other instances, of course, but for the sake of brevity I'll try to keep this post focused. 

How much do we know about what goes into the tryouts process?

Not a whole lot. There is typically no outline of the process on most clubs/associations' websites and the ones that do have it explained keep it incredibly high-level from what I've seen. E.g. "We'll have external evaluators," or "We'll evaluate players and make placements based on performance." Doesn't tell you much. What are the criteria? Does historical data play into the assessment? Which historical data? What the are the multiple factors and associated weights that contribute to the final placement decision. 

How did we get here?

While the world moved at incredible speed toward transparency in the last 20 years due to the proliferation of information (the Internet had a whole lot to do with this) and businesses were forced to keep up or risk losing customers, youth hockey seems to have been left behind. So we have this incredible conflict of what families have come to expect in what the institution of youth hockey is capable of providing. 

There is a simple mechanism behind this falling behind phenomenon - most of these associations are administered by volunteer parents. These volunteers take time out of their own busy lives to provide services that may well fall beyond their abilities, availability or both. To make it perfectly clear - I hold no bias or ill will toward these parents on an individual level. On the contrary, I admire their service and dedication. They are the little engine that could of youth hockey as we know it.  As, a whole, I think we need to rethink the system completely and decide what we're willing to sacrifice. Here comes the tradeoff. Conventional wisdom: Life is nothing but a series of tradeoffs. 

Show me the money 

Hockey is expensive, very expensive. Ice time is expensive; the equipment is expensive, the high degree of skills required necessitates expensive lessons. We all agree on this. Will we put enough value on a more transparent process administered by professionals or will we continue as is sporadically complaining under our breaths. Transparency in this case will come at a literal financial cost. In other words, the solution is incredibly simple but expensive. It's a red-pill/blue-pill kind of situation. 

I don't know the answer 

And even if an answer existed it'd probably be different for every person and even still different at various points of every family's journey. I already find our kids' annual fees incredibly high and scramble around this time of year to "make it work" financially. I can realistically expect to have these fees go up by 35%-45% if we were to change the model. It's just economics and we don't have to like it [shrug emoji].

I'd really like to know your thoughts. Share them in a comment. 

- Kristina 

Mindee Angell

Love this, wish the financials were transparent! In California, nobody actually tells you how much the season is going to cost until your kid is excited about making a team. Then they hit you with the financials and sometimes they spring really expensive travel on you a month into the season. My feeling is, look, if you are so worried about being undercut by other clubs, your prices are probably too high! If you are confident that people will pay for what you have to offer, leave your price where it is, but for crying out loud, why is pricing such a big secret!!!!

Mindee Angell
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