While the goal of hockey tryouts might be simple – to form a team – getting there requires a lot of planning and organization.
Without a plan in place, minor hockey evaluations can be chaotic. It can result in long lines at the check-in table, inconsistent scoring, and complicated roster formation processes.
This can lead to anxious players, frustrated parents, and stressed-out club administrators and volunteers.
Instead, use these tips that we use at Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) to keep evaluations organized and stress-free.
Set a Schedule
First, it’s important to set a schedule and distribute it to all parents, players, and club staff. This way everyone is notified of what clinics are coming up, when tryouts are, and other important dates.
The schedule at OMHA includes information on what dates on-ice activities can begin, and when sanctioned tournaments are allowed to start. It also includes dates for the Prep Phase, Evaluation Phase, and Development Phase per age group.
Organize the Check-in Process
We’ve all been stuck waiting in a long line at the player check-in table before tryouts. It’s not fun for anyone. To avoid this, it requires proper planning.
It’s important to start with a robust registration form that allows you to capture all necessary information from players before tryouts. This should include basic information like age and contact information, but it should also include the player’s position, past teams, and current level. Have participants return the form by a set deadline to allow your association’s administrators to get the information entered into the system before evaluations.
Having the information entered into an app, like TeamGenius, before tryouts allow your association to assign players to groups before evaluations, and it also ensures players will have an easy check-in process. Instead of sorting through paperwork at the table, players can easily check-in, grab their number, and have their photo taken so it can be added to their evaluation profile.
One of the most important aspects of running an organized minor hockey tryout is setting evaluation criteria.
Some criteria your association might evaluate players on include:
- Skills: One of the most important skills athletes need to demonstrate at tryouts is skating. Players should be able to show they can start, stop, turn, and crossover. Other skills athletes will need to execute are puck control, passing, receiving, and shooting. Performing offensive and defensive tactics should also be tested. Each association will weigh various skills differently – but the key is to have a consistent scoring system in place, so each player is being evaluated on the same criteria.
- Goalie Skills: Goalies will be evaluated through targeted drills to test how they handle different situations and how well they protect the net. Because goalies need to be evaluated separately, some clubs might hold tryout times specific for goalies. However, goalies should also participate in scrimmages with other players during general evaluation sessions to see how they perform during in-game situations.
- Defense: While the focus might be on offensive skills, don’t overlook the importance of defense. It’s important to add athletes to the team who play hard on the defensive end as well.
- Attitude: It’s not all about skills during tryouts. Players also need to work hard, treat others with respect, show that they are coachable and are a good teammate.
- Character: Players are evaluated on the skills they demonstrate, as well as how they perform them. Did they get frustrated when something went wrong, or did they learn from it and use it as motivation to work harder?
- Leadership: Teams need leaders. This is a skill that can’t be taught, so coaches should look to see if an athlete shows leadership by volunteering to lead a drill or helps other players.
- Preparedness: Athletes need to demonstrate they came to tryouts ready to go. This can include showing up on time with the right equipment.
- Following directions: Coaches need players who can follow instructions. Athletes need to demonstrate they can perform the drill by paying attention and executing it correctly.
Using player evaluation software like the TeamGenius app, you can set scoring criteria in the platform to ensure each evaluator is using the same scale and looking for the same attributes. The app provides real-time rankings and scores, so you always know who the top players are. It also lets you compare athletes, so if you’re between a couple of bubble players, you can do a side-by-side comparison of their results. You can also shuffle players between groups after each skate to ensure they are competing against players with an equal skill level. This lets your club ditch the stacks of paperwork and long debates when forming teams, and instead makes roster formation a quick and easy process.
Communicate With Parents
Tryouts are a stressful time for parents, as well as players. To keep parents calm, it’s important to keep them informed of the process and provide tips for how to get their children prepared for evaluations – physically and mentally. Some tips to consider are:
- Send regular communications: Make sure parents are informed of events surrounding the club and tryouts. Share all dates and requirements as soon as they are finalized so they can plan accordingly. This will keep them in the loop and prevent them from calling the club to ask questions.
- Share the importance of staying positive: If a parent is stressed or negative during tryouts, that is going to affect the way their child performs. This can put more pressure on the player. Instead, help parents be a support system for their child. Encourage them to give positive reinforcement during evaluations and to avoid critiquing them. Most importantly, help parents understand the importance of making sure their child has fun.
- Give them tasks: A nervous parent wants to find a way to help their child perform well during tryouts. Provide parents with a list of items they can do to help their child, such as a list of equipment to pack, and ideas for snacks to bring.
- Share feedback: Parents want to know why their child was placed on a specific team. Have a plan in place for how to communicate evaluation results with parents and players after tryouts. An easy way to do this is by using evaluation software. Through an app like TeamGenius, your club can easily pull up evaluation results for a curious player or parent. This shows players how they scored on each skill to help parents and players understand roster decisions. If parents have follow-up questions, designate times they can talk to club administrators to learn more about their child’s performance.
- Have a plan if their child doesn’t make the team: When a player doesn’t make a team, it can seem like the end of the world. It’s important to help parents provide perspective to their children. Encourage parents to talk to their child about the next steps, whether that’s working on skills before next year’s tryouts, looking for another team to join, or even considering another sport that the child has shown interest in.
How to Communicate Results
After evaluations, it is important to notify players and parents of the results in a timely manner. There are several ways to share this information with players:
- Post rosters on a wall at the arena.
- Post the rosters online.
- Schedule an exit interview with each athlete.
OMHA recommends sharing results in a private setting. This lets administrators provide positive feedback for players to build on and gives the athletes and their parents the opportunity to ask questions. You can schedule a meeting for each player, or you can also print/electronically send individual results via TeamGenius and then schedule a follow-up meeting with each athlete to further review their evaluation.
Whatever option you choose to reveal team rosters, it’s important to do it as soon as possible after evaluations. Telling players as soon as possible will relieve any anxiety and help build trust with players and parents.
While tryouts can be a stressful time, being organized, having a plan, and using the latest technology can help your association’s evaluations run smoothly. This will give you confidence that you have the right players on your teams.
TeamGenius is a hockey tryout app. A mobile app for coaches to evaluate players and a website for administrative tasks such as player check-in and viewing evaluation results after each skate, TeamGenius will replace the paper and spreadsheets to help your association run stress-free tryouts.
Learn more at teamgenius.com