A 10U or 12U tryout isn’t quite on the same level as a State Tournament championship game in an 18,000-seat National Hockey League arena, but it’s not lacking in pressure either.
In some cases, especially for younger kids who don’t have as much tryout experience, the stress may contribute to a disappointing performance. At times, the build-up of butterflies in the stomach can be overwhelming.
As the head coach of Edina High School’s girls hockey team, Sami Reber has guided players through many tension-filled moments — namely, four straight Class AA State Title games, three of which culminated with championships. And as a former Edina and Harvard player, she has tryout experience through the eyes of a player, coach and evaluator.
With youth hockey tryout season officially upon us, Reber suggests players prepare for evaluations just as they would for any other game.
“It’s important not to overthink it too much because then you will start to get in your own head,” said Reber, who’s served as an assistant coach at Harvard and the University of Minnesota Duluth. “I try to remind players to go out there and have fun, stay loose and trust yourself.”
Parents aren’t immune to the anxiety and some find themselves riding an emotional rollercoaster of their own during the week of tryouts. Sometimes, moms and dads inadvertently project their own nervousness or expectations on to their kids.
“It is so important to show endless amounts of support to your children during tryout week,” said Reber. “These kids already put so much pressure on themselves that the last thing they need is more pressure from their parents. Encourage them to work hard and have fun and that no matter what happens in the end, you will be there for them.”
Reber shared the following tips to help kids (and their parents) succeed at their hockey tryouts:
- Set smart sleeping habits: During tryouts your body is running off of a lot of adrenaline, so it is imperative to get plenty of sleep leading up to tryouts in order to prevent your body from "crashing" at the completion of tryouts. It will also benefit you to perform and compete at your best ability being well-rested throughout the tryout week.
- Stick with your nutrition routine: Every person and what works for their bodies to perform at the highest level is different, so I recommend sticking to your normal routine. If players change up their nutrition right before a nerve-wracking week, it could have negative effects on their performance. Do what you have always done and trust it.
- Get organized the night before: Make sure to have your times and locations all squared away, double check all equipment is packed, drink lots of water, eat a good dinner and get some sleep!
- Be ready for the basics: A lot of tryouts consist of basic skill work such as skating, shooting and passing. I also incorporate quite a bit of scrimmaging so that we can get a sense of how kids compare in game-like situations.
- Know what coaches look for: Good attitude and body language, hard-working, taking it seriously and not goofing around, and having fun while also competing to the best of their ability.
- Listen up: Listening is very important as this is extremely telling of the type of player both on and off the ice that someone is.
- Stay positive no matter what: Hockey is so important to the kids and parents, and that’s great to see. We can’t lose sight that it is just a sport though and tryouts are just a snapshot in time. If players don't make the team they had hoped for, they need to try and stay positive and not give up on their dreams.
- Look for learning opportunities: I always encourage kids to focus on the certain lessons these situations have taught them and to continue to work hard for future opportunities that may come in hockey and in life.
- Celebrate success: (If they have a good tryout and make the team) players should absolutely be proud of this accomplishment, and they should use this goal as a stepping-stone to strive to achieve their next goals.