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Tryout Survival Guide

By Aaron Paitich, Touchpoint Media, 09/29/14, 2:00PM CDT

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Eric Scheid knows what it’s like to grind it out. He didn’t make the varsity team as a 10th grader and it took him a while to grow into his body before he started seeing results on the ice.

Scheid is a former Blaine High School teammate of rising NHL talent and former Minnesota Gopher Nick Bjugstad. Both Scheid and Bjugstad are the same age, but have taken different paths.

“Not everyone’s going to grow up and be a 15-year-old prodigy and get drafted in the first round,” says Scheid, who played two years in the USHL after graduating high school. “It’s just all about keeping your head up and working hard. Stay positive and work for it.”

As a redshirt sophomore last season, Scheid led Penn State in goals and points. He was also invited to the Minnesota Wild’s Development Camp this summer. Scheid’s experience can provide a great lesson to players as they prepare for tryouts. He urges kids to remember that no matter what team you end up on this season, there is still plenty of room – and opportunity – to grow and mature into a complete hockey player.

One tryout – good, bad or average – won’t make or break a youth hockey player.

“The biggest thing I would say is just play your game,” Scheid says. “Stay confident. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not. Don’t think you have to go out there and score a goal every game or shift if that’s not the way you play. Be yourself. Do what makes you good.”

Here are some tips for players and parents as we head into tryouts.

  • Battle any anxiety with preparation. Parents or coaches might want to say “just relax,” or “calm down,” but for the most part, that does nothing for the player. Preparation is key. Before you step onto the ice, have you done everything you possibly could to achieve your goals? The rest will take care of itself.
  • Get the equipment ready. Make sure every piece of equipment is functional, fitting and accounted for. Equipment problems are the last thing a kid wants to be worried about before they hit the ice.
  • Show up early. Better early than late. Allow ample time to get dressed and focus.
  • Get in a good warm up.  Whether it is a short jog, a few minutes stick handling or blasting pucks at net, taking the time to warmed up and focused on playing well is definitely worth it.
  • Mistakes will happen. Accept them, learn from them and move on.
  • Pay attention to details. When the margin between players is small, it is often the little things that separate players. Details such as body language, attitude, desire to learn and finishing a drill can all leave an impact on evaluators.
  • Listen intently to the coaches on the ice and in the locker room. If you do not understand a drill, game or any other instruction, ask questions. There’s no shame in asking questions. In fact, it shows coaches you’re taking initiative and responsibility – and that’s a very admirable and valuable tool.
  • Finish every drill hard. Skate hard all the way to the bench and to the coaches when they call players over. Coaches will watch how you handle yourself on and off the ice.
  • Mix in other activities or projects during the week of tryouts. Focusing on tryouts every minute of the day can be draining on a child. Make sure there are mental and physical breaks and activities outside of hockey to keep them fresh.
  • Sleep is essential. Sleep has a direct impact on energy levels, concentration and performance. Without adequate sleep, you’re setting yourself up for a less-than-stellar showing. Read more about how sleep affects performance and what you can do to improve habits.
  • Don’t talk about it at dinner or during the car ride. Talk about school, movies, baseball playoffs – use it as a time to bond outside of their hockey-playing experience. Kids already know if they played well or not. They don’t need a reminder.

Remember that Ryan McDonagh, a 2014 U.S. Olympian and newly named New York Rangers captain, didn’t make the A-team as a Squirt. He said it ended up being one of the most fun years of his youth career.

Be prepared and give it your best effort. If you don’t make the team you’re shooting for, that’s OK. It’s how you respond after that – staying positive, setting goals and playing your heart out for whichever team you play for.

“Keep your head up,” Scheid says. “If you don’t make it, it’s not the end of the road. There are a lot of people that have gotten cut from a lot of teams that are now playing at the highest levels. It’s all about staying positive.”

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