As tryout time approaches for many, I was inspired by a recent piece that renowned hockey trainer Maria Mountain published about one little thing that can make a difference in the way a coach perceives players at tryouts. She was spot on with that advice. Although I won’t do her piece justice, I’ll paraphrase her advice: Look interested. When the coach speaks, don’t sit there like a bump on a log with a blank look on your face. It can be misinterpreted as apathy or lack of respect, and it reflects poorly upon you.
Maria’s piece made me think about other “little things” that can make a big difference in the tryout process. Of course, talent is a no-brainer. Every coach is on the ice looking for the most talented goalie that can help his team win the most games. But there’s a lot more to what coaches are seeking in their players. Given equal talent, it is often the little things that will sway a coach to pick one player over another. How you represent yourself on AND OFF the ice during tryouts can play an unspoken, but BIG part in how selections are made. Here’s a list of little things (that really aren’t that little) that you can do to show the coaching staff that you’re the goalie they want, and the positive message that each will portray.
1. Be Early. Get there on time. Be in the locker room early. Get yourself dressed and ready to hit the ice as soon as the door opens. Coaches are looking for players they can count on. They don’t want the player who always comes rushing in at the last minute, dressing in a hurry, and loping onto the ice just as practice starts.
- MESSAGE: You can count on me. I’m reliable!
2. Assume They’re Watching. From the moment you set foot on the rink property until the moment you drive away, assume that a representative from the coaching staff has his/her eyes on you. In the waiting area, in the locker room, in the hallway…assume you’re being watched. Chances are, you are. Coaches often have eyes and ears in many places around the rink (including the stands…Parents, take note!). Behave in a respectful and professional manner at all times.
- MESSAGE: I’m an upstanding person, no matter where I am and will represent you and the team well.
3. Stand Up. Do not sit or kneel on the ice between reps. Unless specifically told to take a knee, you should be on your feet AT ALL TIMES during tryouts. Sitting or kneeling on the ice while other goalies are in the net portrays laziness.
- MESSAGE: I’m a hard worker.
4. Avoid Overconfidence. Think you have this tryout in the bag? Are you going through the motions of tryouts as a formality because you already know you have a spot on the team? Think again. Even if you’re the “obvious choice” or the “heir apparent”…never underestimate the power of another hard working goalie. Many an incumbent goalie has been edged out by another player who is of equal, or sometimes even lesser, talent that shows up to tryouts and knocks the socks off the coaching staff with her work ethic.
- MESSAGE: I’m willing to work hard to keep my spot on the team.
5. Take Direction. During tryouts, the coaching staff may make suggestions about ways to improve your technique. It may be completely different advice than you’ve been given before by your goalie coach or past coaches. DON’T ARGUE. Never say something like, “That’s not how my goalie coach taught me.” Take the advice, do your best to incorporate it into your play, and keep working hard. Once you’re on the team, you can work out differences between coaching and playing styles, but save that for after you’ve secured a spot. No coach wants to hear a player point out that they’re wrong, especially when they’re deciding whether or not to put you on their team.
- MESSAGE: I’m coachable.
6. Don’t Horse Around. Don’t mess around during tryouts. If others are doing it, remove yourself from the area. Horsing around during tryouts suggests that you’re not taking it seriously. It also indicates that you will likely horse around during practices, too. Ice time is expensive. Coaches want to make the most efficient use of the time they have. When players are goofing off, it slows down practices and renders them ineffective.
- MESSAGE: I’m serious about winning.
7. Be a Team Player. It is important that you work hard during tryouts. Often that takes the form of being first in line for drills and other actions that show your work ethic. But don’t forget to take the opportunity to show your sportsmanship, too. If two players race to be first for that drill, don’t be a jerk and edge the other person out. Step aside and say “It’s ok, you go this time, I’ll go first next time.” Be nice to everyone on the ice, even if it seems they have no business trying out at your level. Show respect in all of your interactions.
- MESSAGE: I am not a threat to the cohesiveness and dynamic of the team.
8. Help Out. Is the coach pulling the nets onto the ice and pegging them as tryouts start? Help him out. Did the staff ask for a few players to pick up pucks and cones after tryouts are complete? HELP THEM OUT. This shows that you’re aware of your surroundings and are willing to do some of the less glamorous jobs, because those jobs need to be done, too. The coaches put a lot of time and effort into their jobs. The least you can do is help them out.
- MESSAGE: I’m humble. No job is ‘beneath me’.
9. Say Thanks. Thank the coaches, staff and other support personnel who put time into running the tryout. Everyone is there to make sure the process works smoothly. They should be thanked for their hard work. Thanking the coaches acknowledges that their job is difficult. Selecting a team is harder work than most people realize, and despite what some may think, making cuts is one of the hardest things a coach will do all year.
- MESSAGE: I am appreciative of the opportunities given to me and for the work of others.
10. Be Gracious. Uh oh.... you didn’t make the team. Ugh. It’s one of the hardest things to go through. Rejection, disappointment, disbelief, anger, hurt….all of those emotions are swirling around in the perfect storm of negativity. Do not….I repeat….DO NOT take the low road. Rise above it. Don’t take to social media to spout off. Don’t badmouth the coaches or the players who DID make the team. The hockey world is generally a very small community. You never know when you will encounter the same coaches or players down the road. Never burn a bridge. It will most certainly come back to haunt you in the future. Give yourself some time to mourn in private, but then move forward with a brave face. Take the opportunity to reflect on the lessons you can learn from the experience and make the best of the other avenues open to you.
- MESSAGE: I’m classy like that.
Here is the link to Maria's original post: