Out of Position

Playing a player out of position isn’t developing them it’s hurting them.

Playing a player out of position and giving them no support, instruction, or guidance could arguably be one of the biggest disservices a coach can do.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a hockey mom and dad about their child.

“Johnny is a natural center, I’m really pleased with his play and development,” I said.

“Funny you should say that, he was told last season that he wasn’t a center, they had him on the wing all year,” they replied.

The player in question played Atom AAA the year before.

Could you imagine telling a kid in Atom that they couldn’t play that position?

First of all, I’m all for experimentation and at early levels every kid should experience and be taught both forward and defensive positions. Obviously, there’s a feeling out process that goes along with that, but that’s a hell of a lot different than burying a kid in the lineup or typecasting a kid.

Shouldn’t each player experience success within their position. I’m not talking points here, I’m talking overall success and development.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from those hockey parents.

The stories are well documented throughout the hockey world and it’s history of players moving positions and having success, but those stories only happen under the right circumstances or environment. Perhaps we have to give some coaches a break, due in large part to being told where to play the the player. This happens more and more at the Major Junior ranks with NHL organizations dictating what they need from the player at the next level. Nevertheless, to bury a kid playing at the U-15 or U-18 level on the wing or through the middle, or on the left or right side for the sake of reinventing the wheel or trying to make them a “top scorer” or an offensive transitional defenceman is absurd really.

“Oh it’s what’s best for the team.”

What about the player?

What about the players development?

What’s best for the player, especially if they are being played out of position?

Sadly in many cases it all comes back wins and losses, not development.

Could you imagine playing a natural center on the wing or vice versa, I can’t, but it happens all the time.

When players play out of position they look lost and it’s not hard to tell they’re lost by their style of play.

“Oh by the way we want you to play this position this year, it’s the best option for you.”

No it’s not, it’s the best option for the coach and perhaps organization.

Converting a player’s position takes time, it takes support, it takes patience, it takes buy in, but more importantly it better be happening for all the right reasons.

Every coach is entitled to juggle

their lines, but to play a player out of position is just plain wrong on so many levels.

Experimentation is one thing, line juggling is fine as well, that’s the coaches discretion, but leaving the player in that situation and perhaps floundering in that position for the entire season is truly perplexing.

Over the course of my journey in scouting, I’ve witnessed players that are played out of position all of the time, it’s really unfortunate to see, because you don’t get to see the player in their true element, you see their potential, but that’s about it.

“We discussed it and for the sake of the player and their chances to play at the next level we thought a move to the position in question would be what’s best.”

Do you think that is being said to young players and their families?

I highly doubt it.

This is not about the versatility of the player or coaching genius, this is about setting up the player to have success, not failure.

For all the players out there playing out of position, try to make the best of it, work hard, talk to your teammates, but more importantly talk to your coaches. Ask them the tough questions, make sure they are providing the guidance, instruction and support you need.

You might be playing out of position and everyone knows it, keep working through it, hopefully you won’t be put in that situation for very much longer.

Keep the faith, hopefully someone will recognize where you should be playing and provide you with an opportunity:

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