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In what U-16 league do teams only play 6-8 different teams all season? I'd say if the goal is to play in college then bail on the sinking high school ship...The kicker is the cost and it's not like the pay-back (which no one should bank on) will ever come in D-III.
And too many people put stock into - "Play with your friends, in front of your classmates, for your town..." Hey, a bad high school coach, a bad high school team and an overall bad high school experience isn't worth being miserable about.
Avoid private school all together if the only reason you are going is to plat hockey that is unless you are given a full scholarship for senior year. The season is too short Nov- Feb and the coaches only care about winning and not developing players. U16 starts in Aug and goes to March. Coaches want to develop players so they get a good reputation which will attract and keep Talent. Private school hockey's time has come and gone.
It does look like the private school hockey is heading that way. It still has many good players and coaches but it appears to be fading due to the economics.
I watched a local guy take his kids out of a quality public school after their junior year and put them in a private school, repeat their junior year so it was 2 years times two at what $20k each year so that's $80k then they both played a year of juniors (another $20K) after prep with many of the same kids they played D-I public hockey with only for one to end-up on a club team and the other being the big man on a low level D-3 team up in the middle of no where. Academically it would be easy to claim it was pretty much a wash as neither one ended-up at a mid-tier university and many of their past classmates at the public school did better with their colleges.
Compared to going and joining a full season team at a fraction of the cost, play a bigger schedule against better competition with more people scouting and most likely coaches that have more of an interest in getting the kid a commit...maybe to a better school.
U16/U18 teams want your money, Prep wants your money, Everybody wants your money. At least with Prep you get an education. At the end of the day what do you get with a U16/U18 full season team?
If you child wants to get better Play for your HS (Free) and give him $10K-15K in private lessons, call it a day...
Education, Playing at high level ( at least Mass Div 1 Public as Frosh, Soph, Jr (maybe) ), development - good skills, commitment - take a month off or two ( rest) - is your kid skating all summer hoping to get better or at the beach with his buddies? Don't get me wrong, friends, beach, outside interests are important/essential, but what does the player want? Are you pushing them or are they pulling you?
Is your kid in a good public High School with good hockey or bad hockey?
Is your kid in a good private school with good hockey or bad hockey?
You need to take everything into account! A High School / Prep School coach is getting a player at 15-19 yrs old. Players develop by playing games, practicing, skills, off ice. It is all about how much time and resources you have and how important it is to the player.
U16/U18 programs are about developing players and making money. There is nothing wrong with that! If they don't make money they don't exist! If they don't develop players and win, then they don't attract players who are willing to pay to play. Works for me!
Plenty of talented players with less desire and commitment then other players with less talent and more desire and more commited. Enjoy the journey, Reach for the stars and maybe they only reach the moon, but at least they will have those memories and experiences that will last a lifetime and will be a better person because of it.
Determine which bucket your player is in, go for it and don't look back.