The Ballad of Double Rostering
Having lived both sides of this topic as a parent, as well as navigating it briefly from a program's perspective before, I feel like I can share some insight from differing vantage points.
The first thing that comes to mind is always outwardly grumbled in the "cool dad" corner of the offensive zone when a part time player shows up...
"That kid is 'stealing' our ice time..."
Every single time.
And, sure, sometimes that's true.
We've all seen it -- some team brings in a ringer with the wrong pant shells or gloves and that kid puts up a hat trick in their first two shifts.
That happens...but it's rare.
And it's not always a double rostering situation.
And even if it were, well, I'll get to that later...
So, when it comes to dual rostering and alternate players, I categorize them two different ways.
There are dual rostered players that attend games and practices when they can...and then there are game-only players.
They're NOT the same.
You can argue that the "game only" players are stealing your ice time or are less committed than full time players are BUT, and this is only in my experience but I assume it's more common than you'd think, programs that offer game-only opportunities to players do it for one of two reasons.
One is recruiting for the following season.
Crooked, sure, but for some reason, our society encourages winning over anything else -- even for 8 year olds -- so aggressive recruiting tactics are important. Those kids kinda are stealing your ice time.
I mean, I'll be honest...my kids have skated for other teams before in a recruiting type of situation but I'll be the first to tell you that we had zero intention of playing for those teams in the future.
They offered, we accepted.
I suppose you could say we "stole" some kid's ice time. We did. And it was awkward.
And that's the thing with dual rostered players -- their parents are not in-experienced.
They know exactly what they're doing.
It's like how some people are perfectly comfortable walking all over people, or cutting lines, or assumming common courtesy doesn't apply to them. Selfish a-holes, really. And it's, sadly, true that a vast majority of game-only alternate players have parents that fall into that bucket.
That's exactly what causes dual rostered players to get the side eye.
It's not jealousy of the added opportunity at play -- it resentment towards the "I'm better than you" swagger that so often accompanies it.
Just so you know -- I'm not that guy.
For every situation I've put myself in (and my kids) like that, I've been side-eyeing myself!
It's very uncomfortable -- especially when you can sense your kid is getting preferential treatment.
I'm often told I'm too empathetic. Can't change it. I am what I am.
But...that's the thing. In my own personal experience of having my kids participate in this "game-only" routine, it's always been in a recruiting scenario but that's not the only reason this happens and I think the OTHER reason needs to have a spotlight shone on it...because it's anything but nefarious.
Post-Covid -- it's for program survival.
It doesn't take a microscope to notice that benches are shorter than they used to be.
I mean, playing iron man in mens league at 11pm on a Tuesday has always been a thing.
Playing iron man as a squirt has only recently become a thing.
Last season, we had a team from New Hampshire in our league (u14 bantams) just go completely dark, mid-season.
Not enough players. That messed up everyone's scheduling...
But you've seen it -- where you're not really sure if the opposing team is even in the building 5 minutes before game time and things start to feel a little squirrelly and disfunctional...only to realize they only have 8 players to begin with and 4 of them came in the same minivan.
The solution to that is dual rostering and having game only players available to ensure the games can be played.
EVeryone hears about the referee shortage -- great marketing on their part -- but there's a player shortage too. Sure, you can say it's due to an overabundance of teams but that's the same argument as six of one, half a dozen of the other.
Since Covid, I'm not sure we've gone a full season without a game where we've offered to let a team "borrow" some players. Or flopped goaltenders at the midway point or just turned the game slot into a loosely coached combined scrimmage.
It's not common...but it happens...and we're in New England where you'd never expect this to be an issue.
Look, there are youth hockey programs that have long histories but have recently found themselves with...8 skaters or, worse, 21 skaters.
Programs are proud -- they don't want to fold or tell half a team to go fly a kite...so they do what they can to survive.
I've seen a few programs join up and "merge" rosters at specific levels, which is great, but can get messy if players on the "same" team are paying "different" tuitions for the same product or some families are saddled with longer commutes than they'd anticipated.
The easiest solution -- reach out for game only players and use them to bolster the length of the bench.
Are those kids "stealing" your ice time?
No -- absolutely not.
They're the only reason you have ice time at all.
And if they're servicable players that keep your team competitive on the ice, that's a win.
Added bonus -- it greatly expands your player's hockey circle too. That's worth its weight in gold down the road.
Just something for those flat brimmed hat wearing dads in the corner to give some consideration before creating un-neccessary drama.
So that covers the game-only variation.
Up next, the fully dually rostered players that attend games and practices...but never all of them.
I'm knee deep in that situation now and, let me tell you, it's not all rainbows and unicorns.
Parents of girls hockey players -- where double or triple rostering is commonplace -- know all to well how it works...or, more appropriately, doesn't work...
Sure, on paper, I can pick and choose which program's practice or game I'll attend on a whim based on what's most convenient to my own personal schedule.
Except...I'm not aphathetic. I'm overly empathetic, remember?
Similar words with way different meanings.
aphathetic (adjective) - showing or feeling no interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
empathetic (adjective) - showing an ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
On the surface, being double rostered might appear that we just have two separate hockey bags with different color pants, gloves, helmets, and uniforms in them in the back of the car as we grab the correct one based on which team we're skating for.
And this is true -- it is.
One night it's the white helmet at this rink, the next it's the black helmet at that rink.
Sounds simple to manage but, even that, is pretty taxing when you're never really sure if you're coming or going as you're attempting to juggle two overlapping schedules.
It's not as carefree as choosing between McDonalds and Burger King -- schedule conflicts are daily.
Read that one more time, you know, if you think it's about convenience. Conflicts are daily.
I get it -- I made this bed, I should sleep in it.
That's fine -- but beyond just having two sets of equipment and schedules to account for both teams, the truth of it is, one team is our main squeeze.
I honestly believe that's true for nearly every single double rostered player out there -- one team takes precedence -- and they know who they are.
Team A's games and practices will ALWAYS rank above Team B's.
They just do.
And it's not that Team A is better or in a higher league than Team B or anything along those lines, either. Some find that shocking.
My kid plays for Team A. He also plays for Team B...when he can.
That's how it works. And there's solid and honest reasoning behind it that BOTH teams know.
It's not, "Oh, team B's game is local so we're gonna play for them this week..."
Some see it as an extra opportunity for the player that we're taking advantage of and, sure, maybe there's a little of that, but purposely overloading your schedule while also knowing people are side eyeing you because they think you're doing it for convenience woud be, well, perplexing.
I don't want that negative glare thrown my way...or my kid's way.
Double rostering is not easy.
Double rostering is hard. And stressful. And uncomfortable.
And it's certainly not "convenient" trying to sort out how to try to make 4 overlapping games in three venues on a Saturday.
(Across my three children -- we have a couple dates this season where we have 8 games scheduled within a 9 hour window across 4 states. Sounds super convenient, huh?)
I signed up for this so I'm not seeking pity but I would like to share what double rostering is actually like...
We are super fortunate that our practice schedules don't conflict -- my kid will attend every team practice.
This is important to me as I don't want to feel the glare of the parents thinking my kid isn't doing the work and shouldn't get the ice time their kids get.
I'll get that glare anyway, I'm aware of that...I just don't want it to be as justified.
Don't ever say my kid is NOT committed. Or that I'm not committed.
It's also important to me that my kid never feels like a third wheel.
He's on this team, he's gonna feel like he's on this team, and he's gonna practice like he's on this team.
In a perfect world -- none of his teammates on either team would know, or care, that he's got two sets of equipment in the car.
It's not a perfect world, though.
There's always that one parent that needs to complain about everything and project that negativity on their kid that, in turn, brings it into the locker room.
Already prepped my son for when that venom seeps in.
Don't deny it, it's not a secret, never was a secret, honesty is always the best approach, and hard work will always be rewarded.
It's jealousy at work...for all the wrong reasons.
Mmmm...adult animosity towards children.
The root of all hockey drama on any team can usually be traced to one or two parents.
So, that's it. That's what double rostering entails...besides thick skin.
In every case, game only or quasi-full time, you're asked to do it as a favor...and then raked over the coals by your peers for doing it.
Sounds fun, huh?
So why have we chosen to do it?
Frankly, that's none of anyone's business outside us and the teams we play for...but I'm an open book...
We double roster because my son has aspirations to play at a level that only one of the programs currently offers -- that's why Team A is Team A, our main squeeze. It's for an opportunity three or four years down the road.
If you've read more than an article or two on this website, you'll learn that wins and trophies at mite, squirt, peewee, or even bantam aren't important to us. We've always been playing the long game with sights set beyond next March.
Each kid is on the team they're on for a reason. The coaching and the future opportunities that the team or coach offer are what matter most.
Okay...time to look at how I'm going to make tomorrow work logistically...
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