The excitement of the coming hockey season can sometimes be tempered by the anxiety and tension that surrounds tryouts. It doesn’t have to be that way though. Whether you’re going out for the varsity squad or hoping to make that squirt team, there are subtle things you can do to make sure you get noticed by the coaches during tryouts.
We sat down with Minnesota Hockey Coach-In-Chief, Christian Koelling, to gain his insight on how players can make tryouts a less stressful and more enjoyable time of year.
Release the pressure – There’s no question, stepping out on to that ice to be evaluated can be nerve-racking for anyone. But try your best to relax. Listen to some of your favorites tunes while getting ready to ease the mood. Once you hit the ice, concentrate on executing each specific skill and drill the way you know how. Showing you’re comfortable with your skills set will be noticed by the coaches. Focusing too much on the outcome of performance, such as making a certain team, often leads to more mistakes even for the best athletes in the world.
“The most common mistake is getting noticed in the wrong way,” says Koelling, who is also the Director of Hockey Operations for University of Minnesota-Duluth. “Trying to do too much and be something you’re not just because it’s tryouts isn’t the way to go. Play the game the way it should be played, do all the little things right and be solid. Coaches and evaluators will notice and appreciate those things.”
Work hard – Koelling reminds players to not take any shortcuts and “hustle on and off the ice every time.” Nothing leaves a better impression than hard work and effort. Even if you aren’t the best at crossing over to the right side or need a little help with your stickhandling, putting your best effort forward always speaks volumes. A coach looks for players that he can trust to put out on the ice and will give everything on every shift – no matter how long or short.
Be a team player – Hockey is a team sport, not just about one person. Help make yourself look good by making others around you look good. Pass the puck, compliment other players and communicate with your linemates. They could be your future teammates so show the coach you are able to work with them – and anyone for that matter.
Listen up – When the coach is explaining the next drill or giving you tips, keep quiet and listen intently because the coach is giving you the keys to success by telling you exactly what he or she is looking for during that next drill. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t understand something either. Just make sure you let the coach to finish the instructions first.
Don’t beat yourself up – So maybe you didn’t score on that shooting drill or maybe you got beat on defense. Whatever it was, let it go. Mistakes happen in practice and in games. Committing an error doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes to make the team. How you rebound from making a mistake may be even important and coaches will be watching how you react. Don’t hang your head or slam your stick, instead make up for it at the next drill.
Get there early – Be the first one on the ice. It will give you a chance to get in a good warm up, shake out the nerves and focus on the drills.
Have fun! – It’s the No. 1 reason we play this great game of hockey, because we have fun doing it. A-team, B-team or C-team, enjoy the game and your teammates. Don’t forget to show how much you love the game.
“The objective of tryouts at the youth level is to put yourself where you’re going to be a good fit and where you belong as a player,” said Koelling. “It’s not about a win-loss thing or being better, but what will help you as a player going forward. Do the best job you can as a player and trust wherever you end up that it’s the right fit.”