With another season on the horizon, players will be riding the physical and emotional rollercoaster that is evaluations and tryouts. This is an important time for not only players, but for coaches and parents as well.
So how can all three invested parties make the correct decisions in the short-term and long-term?
Players often arrive to tryouts and evaluations in one of two mindsets – confident or apprehensive.
It is important for players to acknowledge their anxiety during evaluations, but not to let it dictate their demeanour. For the apprehensive player, it is
important to find a neutral mentality.
This is achieved by focusing on the basics, taking advantage of the opportunities to showcase skills they are confident in and using the opportunities to
learn and gain comfort with the skills and situations they are less confident in. Examples include taking responsibility for proper nutrition, getting
enough sleep and following proper warm-up and cool-down procedures.
Comfort is a large factor in the performance of a player during evaluations. It can become very clear who is comfortable and who is not. Players who are
uncomfortable tend to overthink or force decisions too quickly, whereas players who are comfortable tend to execute effectively and without having to think
about their options.
Again, going back to the basics and making the simple plays is going to help in most situations. There will be opportunities to be bold but ultimately
showcasing your ability to play a simple game will endear yourself better to evaluators and coaches, as comfort is always high on the wish lists of
Leave every session on a positive note, understand what you want to do better and begin to set yourself up to do so immediately following each session.
Stay focused and learn to enjoy the process.
During evaluations there can be a lot of information to collect and decipher. It is important to prioritize that information to help make more informed
decisions and give better feedback to the players and parents.
It is important to gauge the skill level of the players you are evaluating – what they can and can’t do. Technical skills are important to understand and
evaluate as they will be the best way for you to improve your team once it has been selected. It is also an effective way to differentiate potential
between players of equal consideration.
One evaluation technique that is often overlooked but is often the most telling about a player’s capabilities at a given level or situation is not what a
player does with the puck, but what decisions and skills they display away from the puck. Evaluating a player’s skills, decisions and abilities away from the
puck is crucial to determining their overall capabilities.
Goaltenders are often overlooked or passed off by coaches during the evaluation process. It is very important for coaches to include goaltenders in all
When evaluating goaltenders it is important to consider angles (deep to aggressive), rebound control, footwork (ability to slide, shuffle, t-push), ability
to track pucks from different distances, recovery ability and save selection, as well as use of stick/puck control.
Make sure every player, whether they make the teams they want to or not, is better from the process and is equipped for the positive growth and enjoyment
Parents can often feel helpless during tryouts and evaluations, which can lead to anxiety, frustration and other negative responses. This is not always
unfounded, but it is crucial that coaches and evaluators be given the benefit of the doubt during this process and the players are removed as much as
possible from any negativity.
The parent’s role during the evaluation process is to be positive and supportive of the player. Providing guidance and making sure the player is put into
the best possible position to succeed should be the only focus during the evaluation process.
This is done by ensuring proper habits and routines before sessions, and helping the player understand and decipher what is going on as they decompress or
prepare. Examples include enforcing proper sleep and rest patterns, providing appropriate nutrition to fuel and aid recovery and helping manage and reduce
players cortisol levels (stress and frustration which can lead to reduced performance and increase fatigue).
All players want to reach the highest levels they can and parents often want to support this. The most beneficial way to do this is to reinforce a growth
mindset, be the best you can be at whatever level you end up at and continue to learn how to be better.
The players, parents and coaches who can make the most of their situation, no matter what it is, will ultimately find the most joy, learn the most and have
the best possible experience they can.
Ultimately, enjoyment in the sport and the skills a player can build on and off the ice are the most important outcomes of this process. If the parent can
support and amplify these concepts, the player will gain the optimal benefit, regardless of where they are evaluated at or which level of team they are
So to recap, what’s important?
-- Acknowledge anxiety but do not let it dictate play on the ice.
-- Increase comfort by maintaining pregame routines.
-- Focus on your game only, believe in your ability.
-- Do not stress over what you cannot control.
-- Transparent communication with players and parents.
-- Evaluate players based on their technical skill set.
-- Do not forget to watch players away from the puck.
-- Become familiar with basic goaltender movements and technical skills.
-- Trust the role coaches and evaluators play in tryouts.
-- Support and nurture your player mentally and physically.
-- Keep long-term development and a growth mindset at the forefront.
-- Encourage your player to be the best they can be and enjoy the experience as much as they can.
For more information on the evaluation process, check out the Hockey Canada Network.