“Tryouts.” A word that for many triggers a visceral reaction, complete with anxiety and nervousness, that can last for weeks as the few days of intense on-ice activity loom. But it doesn’t need to be so stressful. In fact, with a little advanced physical and mental preparation and a lot of perspective, tryouts can actually be a fun experience to get your new season off to a positive start.
Edina girls’ hockey head coach Sami Cowger once shared with us some great tryout-related advice for players: “It’s important not to overthink it too much because then you will start to get in your own head,” she said. “I try to remind players to go out there and have fun, stay loose and trust yourself.”
Following are some tips to make the most of your upcoming tryouts.
- Get your equipment ready – Prior to tryouts, get your skates sharpened and make sure your other equipment is in good shape and still fits. The last thing you want is to show up at tryouts and realize your stick is cracked, skates are dull or breezers are too short.
- Be prepared – You don’t want your tryout to be the first time you’ve stickhandled a puck or exercised in months. If you haven’t been played in the summer, take some time before tryouts to stickhandle a ball in your driveway (solo or with a friend), or get on the ice if ice time in your area is available. Do a dynamic warmup each day to get your blood pumping in the morning. It’s important to arrive physically ready to go.
- Fuel your body the right way – The last thing you want is to show up at tryouts sluggish or running out of gas before everyone else. Setting a plan for proper sleeping, nutrition and hydration will go a long way toward making sure you’ve got all the energy you need.
- Maintain proper perspective – Tryouts are merely an opportunity for coaches to pick teams and for you to show where you’re currently at in your hockey journey. Don’t view this tryout as the end-all-be-all and put added pressure on yourself. There are countless examples of players who didn’t make the top team when they were younger but kept working hard and advanced as they aged, as well as the opposite scenario. Development is a process. Take a deep breath, go out there and do your best.
- Bring positive energy – Getting to tryouts early shows dedication. Having a bounce in your step and vocally supporting other kids (“nice pass,” “great save,” etc.) shows your passion for the game and leadership potential. Coaches want players on their team that will make a positive impact on their culture. They tend to shy away from players who criticize teammates or let anger and frustration affect their play.
- Stay focused and LISTEN – When coaches provide instructions, pay attention, make eye contact and try to avoid little distractions. You want to be seen as coachable – don’t be the one who gets called out for doing a drill incorrectly after a demonstration or for goofing around with a buddy while the coach is talking.
- Control what you can control – Players certainly control not only how they perform, but also their attitude, energy level, effort and body language. Bring your best in those areas, and the rest will take care of itself. You can’t control what other players on the ice do or what coaches think about you, so it’s wasted energy to worry about.
- Be you – If you’re a strong skater, look for moments to showcase that skill. If fancy stickhandling isn’t your forte, get the puck to someone who is and work to get open for a pass. If defense is your game, show your poise under pressure and work hard in the corners. It’s also an opportunity to show your personality. Players can and should stretch themselves, but trying to be something you’re not on the ice can sometimes backfire.
- Keep a growth mindset – You probably won’t have a perfect tryout. Few will. So, if you shoot one wide or miss a pass or trip over the blue line, don’t let that define you or impact your performance later. See mistakes as opportunities to improve and show others your ability to be resilient and pick yourself up if you fall.
- Have fun! – Tryouts can be nerve-wracking. But most every player plays better when they’re relaxed and enjoying themselves. Remember, you’ve waited all summer for this moment. You’re out there playing the sport you love, and the fun is just getting started! Work hard, have fun, and whatever happens, happens.