Advice for Players and Goaltenders during the Tryout Process
It’s hard to believe that summer 2012 is more then half over. Given the on set of shorter days and cooler evenings, hockey families are well aware that competitive female hockey tryouts are fast approaching. Tryouts can be an extremely stressful time for many, so I felt it was appropriate to take some time to put together some words of advice to those hoping to impress their potential coaches and be named to a top caliber team for the upcoming season.
The mistake that many young players make is that they don’t completely understand that they are in a tryout situation. This means, that evaluators and coaches are watching each player and constantly evaluating a variety of skill sets. Personally, as an evaluator I am constantly looking for habits. Specifically, I like to focus on the work ethic, effort, personality, the drive, and the attention to details of the athletes. Of course, the basic skills such as skating, shooting, puck control and passing are skills that are evaluated first, often it is the habits of the players that makes the difference of making the team or being released.
Evaluators are always going to look for the strongest skaters, the hardest and most accurate shots, those who pass the puck hard, the players who are consistent, and those who battle from start to finish. For the most part, those who do that are usually identified to be in the top group of players on the ice and those who will make the team.
At any given tryout, the top three of four players on the ice are easily identified, and usually the three or four less skilled players are easy to find. It is the middle of the group where coaches really have to make the decisions. Most players fall within this group of players, ‘the bubble players’. All of the players demonstrate the skill sets described above however they are simply lacking in certain areas. For these players, it is what they do during the tryout sessions that will determine their fate. I believe that those with good ‘habits’ on the ice will impress the coach, be successful and most of the time becomes the most skilled players by the end of the season because they demonstrate such great habits.
9 Good Habits for Players
1. Shooting the puck on net as much as possible: Those who wait too long to shoot will miss scoring opportunities. If you miss the net on a regular basis, you don’t put your team in a position to score. Hitting the net, even with a weaker shot that doesn’t go directly in the net can create rebounds and scoring opportunities for your team.
2. Hustle to the back of the line after a shot in a flow drill: Players who understand that their rest time should only happen when they are standing in line or listening to a drill explanation will demonstrate great work ethic. In every flow drill, make it habit to skate hard to the back of the line. This is a skill used in games when you need to back check, so it’s a great opportunity to practice every time a shot has been taken.
3. Listen to the coaches when they are explaining a drill: Often young players lose focus when they are kneeling at the rink board. Drinking water, talking to a friend, or looking in the stands to see who is watching, sometimes preoccupies younger players! Every player should be able to be the first in line for every drill. Think to yourself, “I might be the first player to go”. If you know that you’re going to be the first person in line, often this will help to keep you focused during the explanation.
4. Always use the same puck: The idea for every drill should be to make it as game like as possible. In a game there is only one puck. If you miss the puck,you need to go back to get that puck, so in practice when there are many pucks scattered along the ice it is easy to pick up a new puck and avoid stopping, turning back to get the original one. A good habit is to always keep the original puck, if you lose it, miss it or bobble it, stop, focus, regain control and continue.
5. Play the rebound: After a shot, whenever possible, make sure to take the rebound. Another game specific skill to make a habit. It’s easy to take a shot, turn back and go to the back of the line, but in reality this never happens in a game. In a game, you take a shot, then you should crash the net looking for a loss puck or rebound, if it is their you do everything you can to put it behind the goalie. Make sure to do this in your tryouts.
6. Communicate: Tryout settings are often stressful. A lot of the time, stress creates a sense of nervousness and the normal reaction to nervousness and stress is to tighten up, quiet down, and lose focus. It is important to stay loud on the ice! Coaches LOVE to see players (especially young players) who communicate on the ice. Call for the puck, talk to your teammates, communicate with your goaltender are all key elements of game play and should be reinforced in tryout and practice situations.
7. Top Players; stay focused: A common mistake a lot of top players make when they are in tryout situations when they know they will be on the team is that they become less focused, make mistakes, and don’t perform to their potential. They aren’t usually stressed because they know they will make the team and performance levels are decreased. Top players, should use tryout scenarios as great opportunities to develop leadership skills. They should think to themselves such phrases as “Push the pace” “Go hard” “Set the Tone”. Great players work hard to become great leaders, and tryout settings provide a great opportunity for skilled players to continue to develop. You can also help the less experienced players feel comfortable on the ice which contributes to strong leadership.
8. Be Prepared: Often players have not been on the ice a lot during the summer months with the exception of a few camps or clinics. This means that you need to make sure that your body is prepared physically, and mentally to perform at the highest possible level. You should make sure to arrive early to the arena, complete a dynamic warmup, don’t rush to get ready, think about what you need to do on the ice. Some of you are only given a few chances; therefore you need to make the best of it! If you’re not prepared, rushing, and not focused, you will struggle to perform under pressure.
9. Live in the moment: Sometimes during pressure situations, players make mistakes. During tryouts, it is crucial that you live in the moment! If you make a mistake, move on, stay in the moment and keep working hard. Don’t think about the past. Mistakes happen in sport all the time, what is important is that you learn from your mistake, and move forward. Coaches and evaluators are looking to see how you react after you turn over the puck, or miss a shot, or fail to score on a breakaway. Keep moving forward, stay positive and don’t dwell on the past.
Goaltenders are often in a fierce battle during the tryout process. With only 2 spots available on most minor hockey teams, sometimes the decisions that coaches must make to select their top two goalies are extremely difficult. The obvious skill set of lateral movement, skating, balance, coordination and ability to stop the puck are the first things coaches and evaluators will look for, I believe that there are 5 other important components for goaltenders to have at the elite level. It is critical to display these skills during all tryout sessions.
6 Good Habits for Goalies
1. Quick Recovery on saves and after goals: Goalies who are able to recover to their basic stance quickly and efficiently exhibit confidence to their coaches. After a save regardless of where the rebound ends up, I believe coaches like to see goalies back to their feet and ready for the next shot as quickly as possible. The same goes for when a goal goes in the net during game type situations. Coaches don’t want to see a goalie hanging their head, banging their stick or looking discouraged after a goal. Routines are so important for all athletes, but I think they are crucial for goaltenders at the elite level. After a goal, get up quick, take a drink of water, challenge and get ready for the next shot. It is important to make the next save with confidence.
2. Rebound Control: Most goalies at the elite level are going to stop the puck on a first shot, it is how they control the rebounds of these shots, and move to position themselves for the second shot that is important. A goalie who is able to control rebounds into the corners, with elevation and out of any danger areas, gives their team the ability to recover the puck and transition to offense.
3. Playing the Puck: Coaches love when their goalie can play the puck and act as a third defenseman on the ice. I have said it before but I do believe that goaltenders often lack this skill simply because they do not practice it enough. Goalies should work hard every time they are on the ice at puck handling and shooting. During the tryout process, using this skill could prove to move you up the rankings during the tryouts.
4. Communicate: Talking to your teammates, controlling the play are skills that many goalies forget to use. In fact, many goalies get in their bubble and don’t talk at all. Take the time to talk to your teammates, help them out with where pressure is coming from, tell them to wheel, play it, move it, up quick etc.. during as much of the tryout process as possible.
5. Never Give Up: A coach’s dream is a goaltender that is always in position, always able to be square to the puck and makes every save look easy. In reality, this doesn’t always happen. A goalie who doesn’t give up on any shot, regardless if it is during a flow drill, a warm up drill or during a scrimmage will turn the heads of almost every coach and evaluator. Never giving up shows character, and that kind of characteristic is critical for goalies to demonstrate during their tryouts.
6. Consistency: Goalies must be consistent. Making one great save, or having one good tryout doesn’t guarantee that you will make the team. A common mistake many goaltenders make is that they make some huge saves, but then allow weak goals to get by them. In tryout situations, you need to be focused from the start to the finish, and work hard to stop every puck. It is important to prepare for each session and use your routines and skills to keep you consistent from start to finish.
The tryout process is often a stressful experience for everyone involved. Regardless if you’re a player, goaltender, parent, coach or evaluator decisions that must be made to finalize a competitive roster are difficult. Above are some key habits that I personally believe will benefit the athletes to reduce stress and help them to demonstrate their top level skills when it counts.
I congratulate those of you who will make it through the tryout process successfully and are named to a competitive team. I wish you all the best with your upcoming season. To those of you who come up a little shy of making the team, I hope that you will use the disappointment as motivation to continue to work hard and improve throughout your season. Good habits and a positive attitude are critical for development, and the only way to make something a habit is to practice. In other words, although my advice is to utilize these habits during the tryout process, I believe they are habits that should be reinforced all year long!