Captain perspective on leveling

by barbaragarn

Guest blog by [url=]Lee Kimsey

Leveling–not to be confused with leavening.
For those who don’t know the term, leavening is the process by which a baker introduces a material, like yeast, into dough to produce gas that lightens the bread or batter. It’s what makes bread a light, fluffy foodstuff, as opposed to hard indigestible mass.

Leveling is the process by which JMS captains monitor individual skill sets to produce parity. Stopping, starting, turning, transitioning, stick handling and passing are examples of these skill sets. The effect is to lighten the tenor of the game. It’s what makes JMS a light, fluffy experience… as opposed to a hard indigestible mass.

Some seem to perceive skating at Level 1 or 2 in JMS s as a punishment or a personal failure. It’s almost as if some folks feel that they are being fenced in, not allowed to run with the rest of the herd. But it is these levels that make JMS what it is, they are unique and perhaps the most important levels in so many ways. They are not a punishment, they are a privilege.

They create an opportunity for a skater to develop hockey skills and to have the time to do it at whatever pace they’re capable of and comfortable with. These levels allow each of us to participate in a meaningful way. This is the primary goal of JMS. It is not a race to get to the top. It is an effort to place the participants where they belong and compete against the toughest competitor . . . themselves.

Every rink in town has some “open hockey” session during the week that will allow anybody with $12 and a stick to lace up the blades and play. I live in Brooklyn Park and they are running three sessions of “Adult Open Hockey” each week. But it is only at JMS that there is a governing body that says to some skaters “Sorry, your skill sets are not appropriate to play this session.”

The privilege of Level 1 and 2 is that it allows you to be an active participant as opposed to a roving spectator. The “fence” is not there to keep you in, it’s there to keep others out. The barriers erected between levels are what make the game accessible to each skater.

A couple of years back I got involved with another pick-up group that had nothing to do with JMS. They were nice folks and as always, the hockey was fun. Several of the skaters were former high school players and one was even a former Division 1 college player. (On a side note, he and I collided at center ice one night and we both went flying . . . the “weeble” did not wobble that night, it fell down!) My point is that it was a struggle, if not an impossibility for me, to keep up with the flow of play within this group. I was a human pylon, all I needed was an orange jersey to make the scenario complete.

As a JMS captain, I don’t think a session goes by where I am not approached by a skater with the request, “Can you evaluate me for Level 3?” While I am never offended by such requests, the request itself is often a sign that they are not ready to move. I don’t say this to ward off future requests. I will always watch when asked.

But I think I can best explain with this illustration: Every morning a lion awakens with the knowledge that in order to survive, he must be faster than the slowest gazelle. Every morning each gazelle awakens with that same knowledge! I cannot watch 21 skaters–no one can, well maybe Barbara can with her notepad filled with sock and jersey colors! It is, however, very easy to spot the fastest lion or the slowest gazelle. Players who are incorrectly placed usually create their own flow. They are generally out of sync with the flow of the game around them.

I hate it when I see Level 1 and 2 referred to as “lower levels.” We have to call the levels something in order to distinguish them from each other and unfortunately those labels tend to create a quasi value system. Even if we called them red, blue, green, orange and purple, we would by our very nature assign a value to each of them that isn’t really what I believe JMS is about. Each skater is equally important and it is the goal and duty of the community leaders to place them in a game environment where they can best explore and exploit their potential.

When I talk with other captains I am always amazed at how often we agree on the relative abilities of skaters. I appreciate their opinions and often consult them when I am looking at a particular skater. We all work together to make this the best experience it can be. We are not trying to punish, restrain or fill sessions for financial purposes when we turn a skater down on a level change request.

It is my pleasure to recommend a skater for a move and I share that personal achievement with them because I got to see it. I participated in it.

We are not all of a piece. For a variety of reasons, each of us might spend more time at one level or another, some of us may never develop the skill set to make that next transition. Perhaps we’re out of shape, too old or eat way too much pasta (perhaps both!) to become lean, fast and maneuverable! I’ve been at Level 2 for well over a year myself and I’m not disappointed by that because I have a place to go where I can be successfully competitive. Like Coach Tony always told me, “You’re not sittin’ at home on the couch, you’re out there doin’ it . . . YOU’RE PLAYIN’ HOCKEY !!!”
And that’s A-OK with me.

BG note: Lee sent me this blog several weeks ago and it was after reading it that I decided people needed to know more about the leveling up process, so I wrote the [url=]Levels Demystified blog. Lee’s probably could have run first–he realized the need for explanation and I’m glad he did– but I figured the grand explanation was in order before we delved into perspectives on it. Hope this is useful.