Excitement, nerves, anticipation. Hockey season is on the horizon and for many players so are tryouts.
After a long offseason, will you be ready?
Josh Storm, middle school phy-ed teacher and head coach of the Owatonna boys’ varsity squad, recommends these tactics to prepare for the upcoming season and your best tryout.
Ease Into It
It’s easy to go full throttle when kids have been playing sports all spring and summer long. With a lack of multisport activities this offseason and limited ice time, young bodies will need time to adjust to being physically active again.
“Players need time to get their bodies back just to avoid injury,” said Storm. “And you want kids to be enjoying themselves when they come back to hockey for the first time in a long time.
“It’s important your fitness level is where it should be.”
Socially distanced and fun activities are a must to keep up the physical element of returning to play. Storm suggests bike riding, playing tag, jumping rope or even just running through the backyard sprinkler as good cardio activities for younger players. For the upper level kids, sprints and increasing that cardio element will be important.
“Any non-structured type of play is great,” said Storm. “Soccer, football, whatever you are able to play, keep playing that. Rollerblading is another one for kids of all ages. There’s that direct correlation to what you can do on the ice on a pair of rollerblades, so it’s another way to get into shape, and really hockey shape. And if you have access to ice, use it. Find your legs.
“If you’re out there trying to find your legs during tryouts, it’s going to be a rough start to tryouts, so make sure you can work ahead when you can.”
For a list of age-appropriate off-ice exercises your kids can do at home, click here.
We’ve loved witnessing all the creative and innovative ways teammates and friends have worked together safely to continuing honing their hockey skills at home – don’t stop now.
“Once you’ve started picking up things physically, then you can start working on some of those skill-specific things like stickhandling and even puck battles,” said Storm. “Go out there and compete for pucks with a friend, or mom and dad or big brother or sister, or even the dog.”
Keep-away is a simple and fun game that will help improve your battle position at home. Working in some puck battles is just as, if not more, important as shooting and stickhandling ahead of tryouts.
“If you can get yourself comfortable in those battle situations, you can start to feel your confidence build up,” Storm said. “I am a firm believer that if you win more puck battles, you can start to look at the little victories. Especially at tryouts, those little victories like, ‘I won this battle’ or ‘I took the puck away from this person’ those can really make a player feel good about themselves. Tryouts can be very stressful for young people, and you have to be proud of your successes.”
Trust the Process & Remember Why You Play
Tryouts are one time of year when it’s easy to worry about the outcome, which can increase stress and negatively impact performance on the ice. The best recipe for success is usually to focus on giving it your best each day and trust the process.
“Stay calm and just relax,” said Storm. “Understand that you will be placed on the exact right team for you. Know that you worked hard and you’re going to give it your all, no matter what team you make.”
A coach doesn’t want to put a B-player on an A-team where they might not find lots of success and development. Evaluators and coaches are doing their best to find the right fit for every player each season.
At the end of the day, no matter what happens at tryouts, remember why we play.
“It’s about the love of the game,” said Storm. “If you’re not having fun every time you step onto the ice – even during tryouts – then you’re missing something. Refocus and remember that.
“In youth sports, no one is going to tell you that you can’t play this game anymore. There’s always a team for you. That day will come when there’s not another avenue, so soak it up and enjoy it while you can. Remember it’s all a bit crazy, but enjoy it now for what it is: friends and fun.”