With Team Tryouts fast approaching we hope all clubs will run a thorough and fair selection process. This can be a time of happiness or complete disappointment for families. There is stress, pressure and even politics with some unsavory clubs. Will mistakes be made? Only time will tell – but if a process is in place then the mistakes should be minimized. Of course, there are players & parents who may not be happy with some of the choices but that goes with the territory. Believe it or not, there are a lot of coaches who also dread this time of year, knowing they will break a young persons heart and that from time to time they will get it wrong.
The write up below was mostly from John Verdon, President of the Oakville Rangers in 2016. I believe most of these points are all relative today and I have tweaked parts of the write up and updated age levels and wording where relative to USAH and Hockey Canada. The majority of the tryout process is completed before on-ice tryouts begin. This shouldn’t be some dirty secret. It is not a negative. It makes sense. If you are a coach and you are going to rely solely on a few 1 hour sessions to decide who is on your team, then you are a poor coach. Most coaches will/should have a number of ‘for sure’ kids in mind and 3 or 4 kids in mind for each remaining spot before on-ice tryouts begin. How? Because…
- Tryouts officially started the day each coach was announced. Next year’s coaches should now be out watching games all over the place; they should be taking and placing phone calls; they should be responding to and sending emails; they should be talking with current and incoming coaches to establish depth charts, etc. Next year’s coaches should be highly visible around the rinks and ready to talk to parents.
- AAA tryouts should become “invite only”. This change will not make AAA tryouts highly restricted. It is just meant to prevent 50-100 kids from being on the ice for the 1st couple of tryouts which is ridiculous and a waste of time/money. All players who the AAA coaches believe are candidates for the team should only be accepted or invited. Those players from the AA, A teams who they currently think may become candidates should simply be told they need additional development time.
- Coaches may not pick who YOU think are the best 17-20 players. That is because coaches have to build TEAMS and that involves a mix of left and right shots; offensive and defensive kids; fast kids and grinders; creative/flashy players and steady/dependable players. They also may have to keep body checking in mind, work ethic, which way a kid is trending and coachability. Finally, AAA/AA teams generally have between 110 and 180 events over the course of an 8-9 month season with team chemistry being an important component for success, so if you don’t think parent behavior/attitude and player behavior/attitude have a role in selections then you are mistaken. Don’t be the reason your kid doesn’t make a team. If you suspect that you may be a crazy hockey parent, please read this and calm down and just enjoy.
- Coaches/Clubs should develop local talent. Most programs should have stated objectives to transform their clubs into an Elite AAA or AA program with highly competitive, successful teams at every level- every year. I believe the preference should be to accomplish this with local residents whenever possible. Most clubs will not become an Elite AA or AAA program overnight just by saying so and changing the uniforms. Of course not, but they should make the decision to create the environment and programs by which that can happen. The alternative is just stupid. Keep losing your top players every year after having subsidized time and resources into their development. No thanks!
- Picking teams is not an exact science – coaches will make mistakes. They are not doing it on purpose – they want to win. But maybe they see some potential in a kid vs. a kid who may have plateaued. Maybe they think they can improve the decision making of a kid who can skate and shoot like lightening. Maybe it doesn’t work out. It doesn’t mean the coach is an incompetent idiot who should be publicly or anonymously insulted. He/she was taking a chance to improve the team and it didn’t work out. Oh well, get over it.
So, with all of this in mind, what should you do to maximize your chances of achieving your goals?
- If you are a player – work hard in games and practices – do the little things – be a great teammate who is easy to coach. You never know who is watching.
- If you are a parent, be realistic. If your child is in B or A hockey then the chances of them making AAA or strong AA teams right away are very low. Target the appropriate level and contact the coach via email or if you see him around the rinks. Make sure they know who your child is and why you think your child is a strong candidate for the team. Also, behave yourself – everyone is watching.
- If your child is coming over from another club, understand that they will usually have to be clearly, noticeably better than incumbents in order to make the team. That is not ‘not fair’ that is just human nature.