WMHA will have Mixed AE Teams (Combined Minor and Major) for the 2019/2020 season. The following information has been provided on this decision.
WMHA has historically had a mix of Minor, Major and Mixed (Minor and Major combined) AE teams. This past season, Novice, Atom, Midget were mixed teams, Peewee and Bantam were split. There was no Major Bantam AE team in the 2018/2019 season. The Minor and Major split was first introduced in Woolwich in 2014.
A motion was put forward at the March executive meeting (March 25th) to have all AE teams be Mixed (Minor/Major). The result of that decision would impact 2 teams. This vote passed in favor of Mixed AE teams.
A request was put forward to the Executive to allow for an opportunity for representatives to advocate for split teams. That request was granted and a meeting was held on April 7th.
The Executive then held a “Special” meeting April 8th to discuss the information presented and re-vote on the decision. This vote passed again in favor of Mixed AE teams.
Given the size of our Association, we are faced with competition from larger centres that is often unbalanced. Those larger centres, in some cases, have teams at the AAA, AA, A and AE levels. In other cases, a centre may AA and AE (no A level) thus making their AE team closer to an A team. The Minor age group has historically been overwhelmed with the level of competition from those centres which has been communicated through parent feedback/season evaluations. The AE program is broken down into AE1-AE5. Typically, the Major teams would play in AE2, the Minor Teams in AE1 hence the challenging competition at the Minor level. Given those facts, WMHA has decided that mixed AE teams would likely face more balanced and appropriately leveled competition (AE2) and that would provide the right mix of fun, player development, competition and team success for the season.
Are you saying it's all about winning?
No. It comes down to matching teams on equal playing fields. Teams that are mismatched from a competition perspective typically will have a lower winning percentage. While that percentage is not the primary driver, the impact that the experience has on players, parents, bench staff and referees is critical. Feedback has shown that players are more likely to be turned off of hockey when the competitive gap is large. This goes for teams on both the winning and losing sides. While this gap can occur at any level, the Minor AE (AE1) level tends to have a larger gap. We want kids to have fun and our experience has shown us that when we combine the age groups and play in a loop better suited to our Centre's Classification, we seem to have happier people.
What about Player Development?
"Our goal is to develop players who are technically proficient, tactically aware, physically athletic and mentally confident. This is a comprehensive approach to player development, and we believe that this approach will maximize every player’s enjoyment of the game and overall development." This snippet from the OMHA Long Term Player Development model reinforces the goals of WMHA. Player development is a challenging item to measure but as an Association, we feel that the right combination of coaching, opportunity, competition and confidence will set players up for success. The impact of this decision will be fewer spots on at the representative level but players have an opportunity for development to continue within our Local League program which will only be strengthened. When the Association offering isn’t enough, there are a variety of third-party options (The Grind, Woolwich Hockey Academy, Nexus, The Zone) available should parents/players want more.
But we have enough players to have split AE teams?
Based on OMHA guidance, teams should not be formed just because the numbers support it, enter the team because it will give your Members, the best hockey experience possible. And most importantly, it will give the players, the best hockey experience possible.