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Thoughts On High School Tryouts ...

High school hockey tryouts are a multifaceted evaluation that extends beyond individual skills. Coaches face the intricate task of not only assessing talent but also considering various factors when building a varsity roster. One pivotal aspect is the composition of returning players. A roster with numerous graduates provides ample openings, making it easier for new talent to secure a spot. Conversely, a team with a significant number of returning players creates fierce competition for limited positions.

Age and physical maturity further complicate the selection process. Younger players, especially freshmen and sophomores aged 14 to 15, may find themselves competing against 17 to 18-year-old, physically more mature counterparts. Despite possessing high skill levels, coaches might opt for these players to spend a season on the junior varsity (JV) team to enhance physical development and better prepare them for the demands of varsity play.

The dynamics of playing time also come into play. If available roster spots are in the

Coaches want players with a high "compete level."

lower-level lines, where playing time is limited, coaches may choose to place certain players on JV. This strategic decision allows individuals to play more significant roles, fostering continuous skill development and providing valuable experience.

In essence, not making the preferred team is not necessarily an indictment of a player's talent. Coaches make decisions based on a holistic view, considering factors such as development, playing time, and the physical readiness needed to navigate the challenges of varsity competition. Understanding the broader context can help players maintain perspective and focus on continual growth, acknowledging that the journey in the sport involves both challenges and opportunities for improvement.

What varsity coaches are looking for beyond the requisite, skating, puckhandling, and shooting skills:

  • Work Hard and Give 110% Every Drill, Every Shift: Commit to giving your best on every drill and play; coaches take note of consistent effort. During tryouts, always keep your feet moving to avoid appearing lazy or disengaged.

  • Be a dog on the puck: Embrace battles for pucks and play with intensity. Coaches highly value a strong "compete level." For many coaches, it is their top attribute when selecting a player. If it comes down to two players and one is slightly better skilled but doesn't battle for pucks, avoids contact, or doesn't give 100% all the time, the coach will take the slightly less talented player with the higher "compete level". This is especially crucial for smaller players, who need to convince coaches they can handle the physicality of playing with older, stronger players and that their size doesn't hinder their ability to compete fiercely.

  • Display HockeyIQ and Don't Be The One-Man Show Guy: Prioritize Communication: Foster a team-oriented environment by actively talking to teammates on the ice. Vocalize your position, call for the puck, and alert others to potential threats. In hockey, effective communication is essential for improved gameplay and seizing opportunities. Additionally, showcase team play by emphasizing passing over solo endeavors, understanding that teamwork is paramount, especially at the high school level where skill levels are more evenly matched. Do not be the player who tries to skate through the whole opposing team that never passes - it is your quickest way to JV or limited playing time. Coaches want players who make smart decisions and play with and off their teammates,

  • Coachability: Pay close attention to the coach's instructions and promptly apply feedback. Coaches appreciate players who are receptive to coaching, valuing the ability to adapt and grow.

  • Maintain Positive Attitude and Body Language: Stay optimistic, even in the face of mistakes. Coaches value players who can bounce back from setbacks, recognizing the importance of a positive mindset in contributing to the team's overall success. Additionally, always make sure you are presenting positive body language, stand tall and attentive during drills, don't slouch over or bend at the waist (even if you're tired), and don't sulk or bang your stick if a play goes awry.

  • No, I in Team: Avoid selfish play and actively contribute to the team's goals. Coaches appreciate players who prioritize teamwork over individual achievements.

  • Stay Focused: Avoid distractions during tryouts by staying attentive and refraining from excessive chatting. Coaches view attentiveness as a crucial aspect of a player's commitment and dedication.

Ultimately, standing out goes beyond raw skill; coaches often prioritize qualities like a work ethic, teamwork, and coachability. Strive to be the player that coaches desire not only for their skill but also for their character and HockeyIQ.

Good luck to everyone in tryouts!!

Postscript: In the event that you don't secure a spot on the desired team, don't be disheartened; instead, channel it into motivation for self-improvement and a triumphant return the following year. Take the initiative to consult with the coach, seeking guidance on areas for enhancement. Whether it's hitting the weight room, refining your passing skills, or evolving from a solo performer, dedicate yourself to the necessary improvements. Return the next year, demonstrating to the coach that you've diligently applied their feedback, showcasing tangible progress in the identified areas of your game.


Coach Kevin

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