Trying out for a hockey team can be rough. The roster can only be so big, and eventually every player at every level is going to find himself or herself on the bubble.
When you’re new to the experience of tryouts, it can be especially difficult to know what coaches value most beyond the obvious playing skills. In the short window you have to catch a coach’s eye, here are some important points to remember that could move you off the bubble and onto the roster.
First Impressions Matter
Show up early. Have your gear in order — and that means everything from remembering your mouth guard to having your skates sharpened. Hit the ice on time — if you don’t, the coaches will notice you for something you don’t want to be noticed for. Keep your focus on the coaches, not on amusing your potential future teammates.
Skating is the Most Important Skill
If you start and stop quickly, if you excel at turning and crossovers, you’ll be ahead of the game. Good skaters get to the puck first and tend to arrive earlier to and occupy more frequently the best positions on the ice. The other fundamentals — handling the puck, shooting, sending and receiving passes — will all be evaluated. But good skaters get noticed.
Have a Good Attitude
Even if you’ve played on this team or for this coach previously, don’t assume a tryout is a perfunctory step. Nothing is guaranteed. Show your skills, yes, but also show hustle, respect for the coaches and support for your teammates. Don’t wait to be told to collect pucks after a drill, and if the next drill is one you hate, don’t let everybody know it.
When a player’s shift is up, it’s amazing how many of them coast back to the bench. While scrimmaging, if you’re skating hard from the moment you hit the ice until you hit the bench, coaches will notice. Maximum effort is always appreciated and is the kind of attribute that breaks ties.
Listen to the Coaches
It’s great to be able to demonstrate coachability, so if a coach gives you a pointer, try to incorporate the suggestion — and if it’s not an instant fix, indicate a willingness to keep trying. And when a coach is explaining a drill, listen. Not knowing what you’re supposed to do is far worse than not being able to do it. Focus and effort are often more important than flawless execution.
Be a Leader
You don’t need to have the loudest voice to lead. Help other players. Encourage those players who are on the ice when you’re not. When the coach is looking for a volunteer, volunteer — whether it’s leading a drill or letting the coach use you as a prop to demonstrate a technique. Simple things like making eye contact with the person you’re talking to or bumping fists with teammates can register with the guys choosing the roster.
Young players want to show passion about the game, but frequently do so with displays that indicate immaturity rather than competitiveness. Mistakes happen. Slamming your stick on the ice isn’t the right reaction. Learning from it and trying again with sincere effort is.
All the Small Things
- Everybody wants to score goals, but if you’re ever going to get the chance to do that, remember coaches want players who:
- Hustle to the puck
- Aren’t afraid to take contact that comes with attacking the net or digging the puck out of the corner in order to make the right place
- Get back on defense
- Are willing to block shots
- Finish their checks
- Are not careless or tentative with the puck when carrying or passing it
Stay focused, stay upbeat and stay teachable, and there’s a good chance you’ll be staying after the final cuts.