For many players, tryouts are just around the corner. Some players find tryouts to be a nerve-wracking time, but if you take the time to properly prepare yourself, you will give yourself the best chance of making the team.
You don’t need to be the most gifted player on the ice to excel in a tryout, and excelling in a tryout has as much to do with mental preparation as it does physical.
Here are some simple tips to help you approach your tryout, stand out in the eyes of the evaluators and maximize your chances of making the team.
Prepare to Succeed
Confidence and feeling good about one’s self is a byproduct of success. Success is achieved through preparation. Make sure you have done all you can do both on and off the ice to prepare yourself for tryouts.
Control What You Can Control
Tryouts, like life, aren’t always fair. Accept this fact. Eliminate it as a mental distraction and play free because your feet and hands will not work unless your head is clear. It is important to realize the only thing you fully control as a player is your attitude and work ethic. This basic fact applies to all aspects of life as well as hockey.
Evaluators are not as interested in finding you as they are in you finding them. You can’t always score a goal or make a great play. There will be some shifts where you won’t even touch the puck. But there are things you can do on every shift to be noticed. Be willing to block shots, finish checks, take hits to make plays and communicate with teammates. Most importantly, compete hard and out-hustle everyone on the ice. Be first to the puck, be first back on the backcheck, be first in line for drills and be first in everything.
Make the Play that Presents Itself
When you have the puck on your stick, there is always a right play to be made. It may be a pass, a shot, a chip out or a chip in. Maybe it’s a situation where you have time and space to carry the puck. Regardless, don’t force plays that aren’t there and don’t over-think it. The right play is usually the first play that enters your mind. Always attempt to make the play that presents itself. It shows the evaluators you are a smart and unselfish player.
Go for It
Play to make the team as opposed to playing to avoid being cut. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes as long as they are aggressive and unselfish. Evaluators are more interested in seeing what you can do as opposed to what you maybe can’t do. If you play it too safe, you will likely blend in with the group, not get much done and not get noticed by the evaluators.
Body Language Matters
Successful teams are built with unselfish people who are willing to put individual accomplishments aside in order to achieve team goals. Coaches are looking for good players who are even better people, individuals who will become great teammates and contributors to a winning team culture. Your body language tells a lot about your make-up as a person. Make sure your body language is sending a positive message.
In the end, it’s up to you to earn a roster spot, and not blame anyone else if you don’t succeed. Hopefully you’ll make the team you are trying out for, but if things don’t work out, learn from the experience, use it as a motivator and move on.
The development of an elite hockey player is a marathon and not a sprint. Everyone develops at different rates. Most of the greatest players in the world failed to make a team at some point in their life. The most important thing is to maintain your passion for the game and continue playing. Ultimately, if you are talented enough and determined enough, you will eventually maximize your potential and play at the highest possible level.
Frank Serratore is the head coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.