After spending a lot of time at the rinks assisting in tryout evaluations for a few organizations, I would like to give players and parents some tryout tips that might not be what you have already heard time and time again. Sure, eat right, get sleep, come early to the rink and get into your mental “happy place” to help with nerves is great, but here is some of the stuff you might not have been told previously.
Goalies: If there are an odd number of goalies, get to the end where you will get to take more shots. NEVER, ever lie down on the ice when it isn’t your turn—do some slides and show your stuff while drills are being explained to the shooters. Evaluators are looking at you when the drills are being explained too!
Stretch properly before the tryout and during breaks; an injury destroys your chances and is, in many cases, avoidable.
Skaters: If you know the drill, get to the head of the line, but don’t run over someone else to get there. Make sure to show off all of the edge work you learned at hockey camp, and those turns, pivots, and crossovers—do them both left and right. Evaluators can see when a player favours one side and it won’t score well.
Puck handling: don’t over stick handle. It’s slow and it doesn’t score well. Keep the puck in front of you. Too many girls carry the puck beside their skates, leaving them no options during one on one drills. Keep the puck in tight; anyone can stick handle three feet to either side of her body, but it will get her nowhere. True puck control is when you have control at high speed and the puck is moving no more than 12 inches to either side of your skates, leaving plenty of room for an evasive move on the D. (Space is dependant on the level and size of the player, so this can fluctuate, but you get the idea).
Shooting: Every tryout you attend will involve shooting. It can be tough to evaluate, as sometimes you don’t get a good shot off in a battle drill, while most players can take a good wrist shot given the time and space of a simple breakaway drill. So what impresses an evaluator? For starters, shot variance. Show them your slap shot, snap shot, wrist shot, and backhand. It’s tough to evaluate a girl who takes only wrist shots or big clappers. Show them you have perfected your craft and have an arsenal of shot variations. Keep your head up and hit the net—they don’t really care if you can hit the glass with every shot. Shoot to score every time and follow up your shot!
Do: All the basics mentioned at the beginning of this article. Make sure they bring fresh water in a bottle that has been sanitized since last season. Get the right fuel into your athlete. Chocolate bars or any empty calories that have a sugar rush and a crash are not a good idea before a try out.
Any reminders you want to suggest should be done the day before the tryout, and not right before bed.
On the day of the tryout get her moving prior to. Do something fun and not too strenuous: go for a family bike ride or a light jog. Something to release the stress. Make sure the smartphone or music player is charged and earbuds are packed if that is her way to mentally prepare in the room.
Don’t: Schedule a sleepover the night before a tryout. If there is a family function or a birthday party going on that night, excuse yourself with enough time to get your hockey player ample sleep, otherwise, be prepared to suffer the consequences. Coaches and evaluators won’t feel sorry for you if she shows up bagged because you had something else going on.
Don’t car coach on the way to the tryout, or even worse, bark a bunch of different reminders as she is about to walk into the dressing room. This is an incredibly stressful time and she needs her parents to keep her grounded and as relaxed as possible.
Don’t leave late. Five minutes early is on time. To be on time is to be late. Leave home with plenty of time—nothing causes extra stress like a construction tie up you were not expecting.
Don’t bother the coaches or evaluators. They are not here for you and have enough to do. Let them look at the kids impartially and give them the time to prepare as well. They want to make sure the right players are chosen.
Don’t just expect that the gear that was ok when summer camp ended is still ok a month later. Did she forget to tell you a helmet screw fell out? Her skates needed sharpening? She lost an elbow pad? This is no time to have that stress. Gear up with a “dry run“ days before the tryout and repair or replace anything broken or missing before the last minute.
Don’t make assumptions that she has, or has not, made the team. She will follow your lead and you might be wrong. Your body language and what you say to her means a lot right now—she needs you to be realistic, but also know that you are her biggest fan.
Tryouts are difficult. Nobody said the journey was going to be easy, but preparation is something you can control to give your girl the best chance for success. Good luck, manage the stress, and have a great season!
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