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Tryouts: 7 Factors Other than Talent

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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As many clubs enter the most stressful time of the year – tryouts – I wanted to share a few thoughts on factors coaches consider when making decisions.  The talent aspect is obvious – talented players are what coaches look for on the ice when it comes to performance, but there are other aspects coaches use to make their final decisions.  Here is a list of a few:

  1. Coachability – can the player take direction, or does the player think he/she “knows it all”? This is arguably the most important quality of a player – even above talent.
  2. Work Ethic – is the player inherently lazy, or do they give you full effort every time they’re on the ice? Lazy players make coaching more difficult and decreases the efficiency of the coach – he/she will need to focus more on getting an honest effort, rather than teaching.
  3. Accountability – does the player have a good track record to showing up to all the practices, games, and team functions…or is there always a reason they can’t make it? When players miss practices, coaches are forced to revisit old topics instead of being able to build off them.
  4. Club History – has the player been in the association for an extended period of time, or are they known for jumping from club to club every season? Coaches concerned about player development want players who will likely be with them for multiple years.
  5. Team Fit – does the player’s style of play fit in with what the team needs? Teams don’t need 20 players who have amazing hands but will never go into a corner or finish a check.  Good teams have players that fit different roles within the team. This is often where players with more talent can be passed by in favor of a player who possesses the skills needed to round out a team.
  6. Other Coaches Recommendations – hockey is a small world. Coaches often look to previous coaches for advice.  If a player was nothing but a pain for another coach, there’s a good chance the next coach down the road will know about it as well.
  7. Parents – believe it or not, this can factor in to decisions. Are the player’s parents known for being a bit “crazy”? Did they openly bash the club, team, or coaching staff when things were not going well? Coaches are humans – like it or not, most coaches will take a player with a bit less talent, but a family who is supportive over a player with more talent, but has crazy parents.
Good luck to all the coaches, players, and parents as we begin the process of another great hockey season! ….and remember, sometimes the most important team is the one you DON’T make – those can be the ones that push you to a new level and force you to re-evaluate where you’re at and why you didn’t make it!


Tryouts – Past Posts

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Cool Links

As many teams begin prepping for tryouts, I wanted to share some of the content we’ve posted in the past regarding the topic.  Tryouts are certainly a tense time – hopefully some of the tips and topics I’ve written about in the past will be helpful for you moving forward!  Best of luck!

Past Posts on Tryouts:  http://www.hockeyshare.com/blog/?s=tryouts


Qualities Coaches & Scouts Look For

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Resources
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Here’s an article from Minnesota Hockey outlining some key points coaches and scouts look for in hockey players:

Download the PDF from Minnesota Hockey

Certainly some great points for players to take into their tryouts!


5 Tryout Tips for Coaches (Part 3 of 3)

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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In part 3 of 3, we cover tips for coaches during tryouts.  It’s no secret tryouts can be one of the most stressful points of the season.  With a few well-planned parts to your sessions, you can eliminate a lot of the difficulty typically associated with this time of year.

Click to continue…


5 Tryout Tips for Parents (Part 2 of 3)

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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This post is part 2 of a three-part series revolving around tryouts.  These posts will cover tryout tips for players, parents, and coaches. This focus is on tips/thoughts for parents.  Parents have one of the most difficult parts of the process – they’re utterly helpless, everything is in the hands of the player and coaches.

Disclaimer:  These “tips” for parents come from a coaching perspective.  They’re not meant to be “scolding” in any way – instead, they’re simply to help give a coaches perspective on some common interactions during one of the most difficult times of the season.

Click to continue…


5 Tryout Tips for Players (Part 1 of 3)

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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During the tryout times, I get a lot of players who ask me about the tryout process.  Over the past year or so, I’ve written several pieces about tryouts (just search this blog for “tryouts”), but I wanted to give players (hopefully some of my own trying out as well) a couple quick tips for entering tryouts.

Click to continue…


Pins & Needles

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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Some may have been wondering where I’ve been for the past few weeks, and why the post consistency has decreased.  I’ve been heavily involved in taking the ice down and re-installing it at our local rink.  This weekend I’m actually up in Minnesota watching an NAHL tryout.  As I sit in the lobby observing about a hundred kids coming in (some I’ve coached, some I’ve coached against), one thing is very apparent….everyone is on pins & needles.  This is the final tryout camp for one of the teams in the North American Hockey League.  Players enter with the hopes of making a high-level US-based junior team.  Parents wait nervously in the stands and lobby, sometimes pacing back and forth, chain smoking, or just sitting there fidgeting.  It’s fun hockey to watch because every player on the ice is competing.  There are some obvious cuts and some obvious returning players, but the rest remains very close in talent.  Many perceptions of junior hockey tryouts are they serve primarily as a fundraiser for the organization.  I suppose if you broke it down, it’s easy to see how that would be an easy conclusion to jump to.  Just for fun, here are the numbers of the camp I’m watching:

100 players (approximately) x $250 each player = $25,000

Ice expense of approximately 25 hours at $150/hr = $5,250

Total approximate profit: $19,750 – not bad for a weekend’s work!  No matter what the dollar amount equals out to, my main hope is the players attending are being treated honestly and fairly.  Let me make it clear by saying I am NOT saying they aren’t being treated fairly/honestly.  I hope that when players attend ANY junior tryout (or any other level tryout for that matter), the coaching staff is having a completely honest conversation with the players as opposed to stringing them along to get more money out of them.  Good luck to all the skaters on the ice this weekend!


Tryout Overview [Part 2]

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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So, now you have taken the time to properly plan out your tryout sessions, and now find yourself with an evaluation sheet in hand. Many coaches get overwhelmed during this process – after all, there is a lot to watch. Assuming you’re breaking your tryout into three distinct drill categories – skill, competitive, scrimmage – we will take a look at what skills and subtleties to watch for in each of these three areas.

Skill Drills: In order to properly run skill drills, you need a good comprehension of the talent level you’re working with. At the younger and/or lower caliber levels, your skills should focus on the basics: forward skating, backward skating, cross overs, stopping, basic puck handling, basic shooting, and basic passing. The older and/or higher caliber the group, the more you should implement drills to force the performance of skills at a higher pace. Evaluators should watch for notable aspects (both good and bad) of each player’s ability in the following categories: skating, shooting, passing, puck handling. Each of these skills should be broken down into the appropriate drills for the level. For example, to work on cross-overs (skating), you could break it down as follows:

Beginner Groups: Basic cross-overs around the circles – watch for basic technique and balance

Intermediate Groups: Cross-overs around the tops & bottoms of the circles only (not all the way around) – watch for basic technique, balance, speed, and ability to transition between cross-over directions.

Advanced Groups: Have players skate down the ice performing one cross-over to the right, then one cross-over to the left (repeat the length of the ice) – watch for technique, speed, transition between directions, ability to maintain balance/strong body position, and generation of power with each push.

The most important skill to watch for during these drills is skating. If a player can skate well, the rest of the game gets a lot easier. Skating affects every aspect of the game – from a foot race to a loose puck, to maintaining balance in front of an opposing team’s net. Players who skate efficiently are often times easier to work with when it comes time for positioning. While evaluating skating abilities, be sure to include drills that force players to change directions and move laterally. It doesn’t do any good to be the fastest skater from end-to-end if you aren’t able to turn or change directions while maintaining your momentum.

Competitive Drills: During competitive drills is where you look for your work-horses. Small area games and in-tight competitive drills often expose strengths and weaknesses quicker than any other types of drills since the players have no place to hide or blend in. One of my favorite drills to run during tryouts is the Corner Battles drill. This simple one-on-one drill shows me right away who is willing to mix it up in the corners. I also recommend running 1 on 1 drills to allow you to isolate both forwards and defensemen. The 1 on 1 Full Ice drill is one of the oldest, most basic 1 on 1 drills there is – but it works great. You get to see how the defensemen handle the puck, shoot, set their gap, and handle the rush. You also get to see if your forwards are willing to get in front of the net, have the necessary speed, have creativity, and the desire to fight through a check. Coaches shouldn’t be afraid to adjust the lines to get a desired matchup on rushes or battle drills. It’s a tryout, and you’re looking to see the level each player can compete at.

Scrimmage Time: This is an evaluator’s time to see if the notes on a player thus far transfer into game-scenarios. It’s also the time to find out which players have the much-coveted “hockey sense.” Hockey sense is (simply put) the ability to see the ice, properly anticipate plays, and react accordingly. This portion of the tryouts often makes decisions for coaches even more difficult. Many times, you can run into a player who has a great core set of skills, but isn’t able to translate them into game scenarios. You may also run into the opposite – a player with a weak core set of skills, but seems to get the job done consistently. Which player you give preference to when choosing your team is your own personal decision. In my opinion, I would rather take a player who can perform during a game with a weaker core set of skills than one who has good skills but no game-time performance – with one HUGE caveat: the player MUST have a strong skating ability.

A couple final thoughts on the tryout process…

If you have multiple people evaluating, don’t be surprised if you have differing opinions on players. Different people look for different things while they’re evaluating. I always recommend having neutral hockey-knowledgable evaluators assist in picking your team. By neutral, I simply mean they do not have a child on the ice being evaluated, and have not coached the majority of the players in the past. Ideally, you get someone who has no connection with any of the players on the ice. This removes a level of emotion from decisions.

Finally, accept the fact that you most likely will not please everybody. Don’t give in to threats of “if my kid doesn’t make the top team, we’re taking him/her somewhere else.” To those situations, my typical response is “do what you have to do.” While it may come off as terse, I firmly believe coaches need to evaluate as fairly and impartially as possible. Coaches will often be put in tough personal and political situations during tryouts. Personally, I’ve had to cut board member’s players, cut friend’s players, and have had people stop talking to me because of my decisions. Make your decisions with integrity and stick to your guns.

Good luck to all the players and coaches going through the tryout process!


My Thoughts on Tryouts

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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Every year I get countless questions about what I look for during tryouts. I thought I’d summarize some of my thoughts on tryouts for everyone. Hopefully players, coaches and parents can get some value in these ideas.

So…what am I looking for at tryouts?

Character – This tells me more about you than any skill you may demonstrate on the ice. There are a lot of different pieces to this – I’ll cover just a few here:

Drive – are you continuously pushing yourself and giving it your best effort? If you’re not going to do that at tryouts, why would I think you’re going to do it in the State Championship game???

Mental toughness – if you make a mistake, how do you react to it? Guess what – every single player that’s ever played the game makes mistakes!

Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” – John Maxwell
When you make a mistake, do you give up? grab another puck in the drill? slam your stick on the boards/ice (I categorize this as “pouting”…this is a pet peeve of mine)? When you make a mistake, brush yourself off, learn from it, and keep playing! Realize you WILL make mistakes, don’t hold yourself to the impossible standard of being perfect, or you’ll never live up to your own expectations and you’ll always be frustrated! Frustrated players seldom perform well!

Physical toughness – are you soft on the puck, or do you finish every check? Are you willing to take a hit to make a play, or will you bail out? Hockey is a physical game – I want players who are willing to be tough and put it all on the line in key situations.

Leadership – will you step up and lead a drill? Help other players out? Or will you sneak to the back of the line so that the coaches won’t notice your mistakes? Everyone is a leader, but in different ways. If you’re a talker – talk. If you’re a worker – work. If you’re enthusiastic – be enthusiastic.

Hockey Sense – Players who can see and read the ice well will make plays for you – even if their skill level isn’t at the same level as others. Hockey Sense is one of the more difficult aspects of our game to teach. I believe it can be taught, but not nearly as easily as skills.

Skill– the primary skill I look at is skating. If you can skate well, the rest of the game is easy. Good skaters will consistently win races to pucks, win battles in the corner, and put themselves in the better positions. I can’t think of a single hockey skill more important than skating.

Positional Play – if you’re in position, you’ve got a much better chance at making the proper play and/or decisions. Do I prefer players with skill over positioning? Absolutely! Don Lucia summarized it quite well by saying: “If you can’t do it technically, you can’t do it tactically.” If you’ve got the core skills down, teaching the proper positions shouldn’t be difficult.

The “Little Things” – this is also quite a large category. When I refer to “little things” I’m not referring to them being insignificant. To me, it’s the “little things” that make “big things” possible (such as championships). Many of these tie in closely with “Character”, but I’ll list a few of the “little things” that I look for.

Preparedness – did you come to the rink ready to go, or did your skates need to be sharpened…or did you forget your jerseys….or are you missing a piece of equipment. Those distractions before a game or tryout will be enough to drive any coach crazy. Make sure you’re ready to go when you get to the rink anytime – not just at tryouts.

Drill Wreckers – pay attention when coaches are explaining drills. There’s nothing more frustrating that a player who is fourth in line and messes the drill up after the first 3 executed it without problem. That’s a lack of focus!

Skate Hard to the Bench – if you’re scrimmaging, don’t slowly wander your way to the bench. Skate your butt off from the time you set foot on the ice until you’re back on the bench. The vast majority of players DON’T do this…so if you’re one of the few that does, coaches will notice!

Shooting Pucks After the Coach’s Whistle – as a coach, few things annoy me more than when players waste valuable ice time shooting pucks after the whistle has blown. If the coach blows the whistle, skate hard to the huddle (or next station).

Final Thoughts to Players….
I’ve got just a few final thoughts for any player going into tryouts. Don’t be an invisible player – if you’re afraid to make mistakes, most likely nobody will even realize you’re on the ice. You’ll just sort of blend in with every other player on the ice. During tryouts, it’s good to stand out – even if sometimes it’s for the wrong reasons. Here’s a scenario I see every year……

we’re running a full ice 1 on 1 drill…the forward makes a move, the defenseman catches an edge and falls over. The forward walks in (now on a breakaway) and finishes the drill. 99% of the time, what does the defenseman do – gives up on the play.

Don’t be that player – now you’ve got 2 things working against you. First, you fell over in a 1 on 1 drill…which is never a good thing, but more importantly, you just QUIT. Next time something like that happens to you, get up and chase down that forward – no matter how far ahead he/she is. I guarantee you if you do that, most coaches will put much more merit into that extra effort and character you showed than the fact that you fell over.

Good luck to everyone!

Keep your skates sharp, skate hard, and keep your head up. See you around the rinks.



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