Another year of tryouts is in the books. You prepared, worked hard and put forth your best effort. Regardless of the result, that is all you can do.
Steve Morse, girls’ varsity coach at Park High School, believes too much fuss can be made about which team a child makes.
“A team that someone makes in hockey or any sport doesn’t define who they are or what they are capable of, hockey-related or otherwise,” says Morse, who is also the Hockey Education Program Coordinator for Minnesota Hockey.
It’s a misconception that playing with the best players in your association is the only way to improve. Skill doesn’t just rub off the surrounding players. Getting better comes from focusing on your individual skills so it won’t do you much good to play on the top team if you never touch the puck.
“Playing at your skill level and caliber will allow you to get touches and ice time and improve as a player more so than playing at a different level that might be above your current ability,” says Morse.
With that in mind, here are four tips that can help you shift your focus to the coming season.
Work Hard, Set Goals: Work hard and set goals to become a better player. Some players develop quicker than others. Don’t get frustrated. The sport science behind long-term athlete development tells us hockey is especially subject to “late bloomers.”
“We know the late bloomers are some of the best players,” says Morse. “If a kid played C-team hockey as a Squirt, he can very well eventually play A Bantams later on. And vice versa, if you’re playing A Squirts, that doesn’t always mean you’re going to be a varsity player.”
New Friends, New Memories: If your best friends and linemates for the past two seasons made one team while you’re on a different one, keep in mind this is a chance to make new friends and expand your social circle.
“We hear a lot from kids who say, ‘Now I won’t know anyone on my new team,’” says Morse. “I promise you, getting to know new people is a great thing.”
Just like you became friends with Scotty or Susie the first year you laced up the skates, you have a whole new group of people to bond with this season. You already have one thing in common: you love to play hockey. Use that and enjoy hanging out with kids that you might not have met otherwise.
Support Your Entire Association: Congratulate your friends that did make the A team. It’s exciting for them, so be a good sport. The same goes for A-squad members to support B-team players and so on. With our community based system, all of the teams from the same association are really on the same team. Plus, down the road, a lot of these players could end up being on your team as you get older.
“When kids get the results and go to school, they all need to remember they are part of the same community, no matter the team,” says Morse. “It’s important to support each other and the teams in their community.”
Parents Should Be Supportive, Too: Morse stressed that parents should remember to support their children, too. Sometimes parents might not realize how showing their own disappointment can affect their child.
“When parents show disappointment in what hockey or basketball team their kid made, the kids take that as disappointment in them,” says Morse. “It affects how they perceive themselves in sports. The best thing a parent can do is tell their kid they’re awesome either way and that you love them and love to watch them play.”
Avoid confronting the coach or blaming politics. Remember, these coaches do not get any pleasure out of cutting a player. It’s a difficult position to be in, and it doesn’t help your child to blame the coach.
Even if you made the team you set out to, your work is not done. The beginning of the season is just that – the beginning. Regardless of the team you’re on, you need to keep getting better by working hard and listening to your coaches. Other kids are working hard and developing too, so make sure you’re doing what it takes to improve and be a great team player.
And always remember why you signed up to play hockey – to have fun!
“One year doesn’t define your hockey career or your life,” says Morse. “So chin up and enjoy the game that you love to play.”