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Playing Up and Playing Down

Playing Up

Hockey rules permit a player to ‘play up’, but players should not generally ‘play up’ more than one age classification.  For example, an 8 year old player may ‘play up’ one age group, so he/she could play for the “10 and under” team, if the coach and the association will allow it to occur. In some cases, based on the skill or size of a player, it may be desirable to utilize this option; in other cases, it may be best for the player to remain in the lower age group, even though the child or his/her parents want them to ‘play up.’ 

Nothing in USA Hockey’s rules requires an association to allow any player(s) to ‘play up.’ 

All such requests should be made in writing to the local association, by the parents or guardian, to help document any such requests and the parents/guardian’s desire to have it granted.  The written document can become important if the player becomes injured, as a result of the ‘play up’ request.  An impartial evaluation of the player’s skills {compared to others at the level requested} by a panel of neutral coaches, should be made before a decision is made on a ‘play up’ request. 

Refer to the Summary of Insurance Coverages for Members, FAQ.

Playing Down

In order for a player (of any age), regardless of physical size or skill level, to ‘play down’, it must be shown by the child’s physician that it is medically necessary for the child to do so.  The doctor must detail the specific medical condition that causes the child to incur this medical necessity of ‘playing down’.  Players who are granted permission to ‘play down’ should be limited to participation in house leagues and are not eligible to compete on a team bound for a National Championship Tournament. 

Additionally, an “Atypical Medical Condition” waiver and release form will be required to be completed and signed by the parents or guardian before any such ‘play down’ permission can be considered.  Most of the atypical medical conditions which have been permitted to ‘play down’ involve mental, physical or emotional impairments that create a handicapping situation for the player to have to overcome.  

Simply being “small for their age” or “not very skilled” are not considered to be adequate reasons for granting a ‘play down’ exception, since they do not rise to the level of a handicap under the definitions and current court decisions about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

Refer to the Summary of Insurance Coverages for Members, FAQ.