How to Run a Successful Youth Hockey Tryout

“Hockey is a unique sport in the sense that you need each and every guy helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful.” – Wayne Gretzky

Per Gretzky’s point, forming a hockey team is about more than putting six individually talented players together on the ice at the same time. It’s about finding athletes who can play well together. That task can be much harder. You need to find players who complement each other, who have enough individual talent to be effective on the ice, and yet have chemistry with their teammates to carry out plays successfully.

The quest to find such players begins at tryouts. These evaluation sessions are important as it gives coaches and directors a chance to watch athletes perform specific skills, see how they interact with other players, as well as how they carry themselves both on and off the ice.

To make the most of your league’s evaluation session, get tips on how to run a successful hockey tryout.

Communicate early and often

When holding hockey tryouts, it’s important to communicate the dates and information with parents and players as soon as possible. This will allow the registration process to begin on time, and will allow players ample time to prepare for the evaluations. Including information such as dates and times, fees, roster information, equipment requirements and skills tested will help ensure there are no surprises on tryouts day.

secure staffing and facilities

Securing staffing and facilities

As soon as tryouts dates are set, ensure rink time and other needed facilities – like a weight room and locker room – are secured. Also make sure you’ve notified all staff, coaches, evaluators, and volunteers of the dates and times you will need them. To ensure tryouts run smoothly, each person should have an assigned task to make sure all responsibilities are accounted for.

Determine roster size

Prior to tryouts, determine how many players you can keep on each roster, and what types of players you are looking for. Determine if you are looking to take the top-ranked players, or if you’re looking for a mixture of skilled players and those with potential whom you can coach to get to the next level. It’s also important to determine what kinds of attitudes you’re looking for on your team. This can define if you’re looking to add players to the roster whose leadership and personality can help boost team morale and overall chemistry.

Set agenda

Leading up to tryouts, set an agenda for the entire day. To keep the sessions running smoothly and on time, an organized schedule should be followed. The schedule would include: registration and check-in time, warm-up, skills and drills, cool down and dismissal. Also account for any time before or after the session when you plan on addressing players or their parents.

Drills should also be determined ahead of time. Have staff members go through each drill to see how long it takes to complete. This will help determine how large tryout groups should be, and how much time should be allotted for each individual drill.

It’s important for coaches and directors to keep the drills moving to ensure the day runs on schedule.

It’s important for coaches and directors to keep drills moving to ensure tryout day runs on schedule. Have the staff go through each drill to see how it long it takes to complete and plan accordingly! #tryouts #youthhockey [Click to Tweet!]

Set evaluation criteria

Before tryouts begin, it’s important to determine what scoring scale will be used during the evaluation sessions. It is essential to communicate this to each evaluator and coach. This way everyone is scoring players on the same scale. For example, if the scale is 1 to 5, then everyone should know if 1 or 5 is the highest.

Evaluators should also be trained on what demonstrated skills correlate to each score. Each evaluator should be looking for the same criteria in each scoring range to ensure each player is being scored fairly.

For leagues that use evaluation apps, like the TeamGenius software, evaluators should be instructed on how to use the software.

Setting expectations

Set guidelines for spectators

While the action on the ice is important during tryouts, so is what happens in the stands. To make sure there is no confusion on the day of evaluation sessions, make sure parents and spectators know in advance if they are allowed to watch tryouts.

If spectators are not allowed, this should be included in the pre-tryout communication so that parents can make arrangements to pick kids up at a specific time, and so there are no surprises on evaluation day.

If parents and other onlookers are allowed, then make sure to communicate expectations for what kinds of behavior and interactions are expected from spectators.

Take precautions to eliminate biases

The evaluation process is hard, and it’s never enjoyable to have to cut young athletes from a roster. Because emotions are high, parents and athletes might accuse evaluators, coaches, directors and the league of showing biases during tryouts.

There are certain steps that can help eliminate some risks of biases. One thing leagues can do is to only list player registration numbers and not their names on evaluation forms. This can remove the risk of an evaluator scoring an athlete higher based on who he or she is.

TeamGenius’ evaluation app gives leagues an easy option to hide player names and only display their assigned numbers. This not only removes names for the evaluators but also allows coaches to share the results and final rosters since the players’ names are unlisted.

“Since the software doesn’t list names, only tryout numbers, we can show all of the scores to parents, and show them where their child ranked. We have only had positive reactions after these meetings because they truly see everything and know that we weren’t hiding anything,” said Ryan Wuotila, President of the Forest Lake Hockey Association.

Determine how to share results

One of the hardest parts of tryouts is communicating the results. It’s important for leagues to have a plan for how to relay rosters to players who make the team, and how to inform the other athletes they didn’t make the squad.

Each league might opt to relay results in a different way. Some post the roster to the league website, while others might call or email each athlete. If posting the roster on the website, ensure player names are not revealed to protect their privacy.

To establish a level of transparency between the league and the players, the Forest Lake Hockey Association uses the TeamGenius hockey evaluation app to send results directly to each athlete.

“We do not allow any spectators in the arena during tryouts, so parents used to always have this idea that we were basically picking whatever teams we wanted,” Wuotila said. “Now we use the software to send out emails to each player’s family with data for each session to show their player’s score, the top score of their peers, the average score of their peers and the lowest score. Parents have absolutely loved this. They finally get some data that shows where their player excelled or what they may need to work on.”

Some leagues might choose to discuss the results with athletes in person or on the phone to go over strengths and weaknesses and what the player can improve on.

No matter how results are communicated, coaches and directors should make themselves available to answer questions from players and athletes. These conversations can help the player improve for next season, and can also help clear up any confusion they might have over the results or team placement.

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