It can be hard sometimes to get noticed by coaches at hockey tryouts. They’re evaluating several players all at once, so you really have to give your all to stand out.
Be prepared. You have to know what’s expected of you: what kind of equipment you need, when to show up, etc. Also, be confident and hard-working. Show that you play hard, skate hard, and move to the front in drills when you can. These are things you can do at hockey tryouts that will get you noticed.
In this article, you’ll learn about what kind of equipment you need, what kind of drills to master, and, most importantly, how to act during tryouts. See what’s below to help you get prepared.
Coaches look for players who are hard-working most of all, but they also look at how you interact with other players and how you respond to failure or setbacks.
It’s impossible to be perfect on the ice. Still, it’s possible to get in a “game mindset” where imperfections don’t matter.
What matters to most coaches is completing every drill the best you can and having a positive but respectful attitude.
Before showing up to tryouts, you’ll want to make sure that you know everything about the tryouts.
If you were in the team the year before, don’t expect everything to be the same.
Sometimes coaches will give out information before tryouts either on paper or online. If your prospective coach has taken time to do this, you should:
- Read the information carefully
- Follow any, and all, instructions they might give
- Pay attention to special equipment requirements
- Make sure you notice if there are different tryout times and locations for various teams
If you’re going to be new to the team, you should be especially sure to look out for info on the tryouts from coaches or team members.
It can be beneficial to ask a team member from the previous year; they can tell you what to expect when you’re on the ice.
The equipment you’ll need depends on what level you’re at, but most coaches expect players to have their own equipment already.
Elementary level players may be provided with sticks and pucks, but all other levels should at least bring one stick and one puck with their hockey bag.
All levels should be sized for ice skates. Improperly sized skates can impair your ability to play correctly. Most skates fit a size or two smaller than typical shoes or boots do. Read our article about why hockey skates are so uncomfortable to find out how to find the best pair of skates for your feet.
Hockey pads and pants should also be sized appropriately. If they’re too tight, they can be uncomfortable. If they’re too loose, they won’t protect you enough.
You should also have some extra stick tape and “shin guard tape“ if you use it (Source).
You should stick with white or black tape, rather than neon tape. You want to stand out, but not in the wrong way. After all, uniforms are called “uniform” for a reason.
Check to see what colour jersey you should bring if they’re not provided as part of the participation fee.
Coaches take note when you have everything you need. That means that they won’t have to check who has what every practice.
Being prepared means:
- You’re self-reliant
- You’re proactive
- You care enough about hockey to invest your time and money
Coaches also like to see when players take care of their own equipment.
You should keep things in your bag when you’re not using them and hold your hockey stick calmly at your side when you’re not using it. It’s not safe to leave things out or flail your hockey stick around. That’s how items get lost or broken.
Coaches sometimes have special brand requirements for skates or sticks, so watch out for any information regarding these. If you make the team, you should also make sure that you pay for jerseys or uniforms in a prompt and timely manner. Don’t make your coach bug you for payment. Give them the money if that’s what they ask or send it in an envelope ASAP.
Properly handling your equipment is a sign of maturity and responsibility.
Just as you wouldn’t show up to class without a pencil, don’t show up to practice or tryouts without pads or tape. Your teammates may be nice about letting you borrow something once, but it’s impolite to expect it every time.
Also, carry your own equipment. Don’t expect your parents to hold it for you.
It’s all about being the person the coaches want to see. The coaches can either see someone who’s ready and composed or someone who looks like they don’t want to be there at all.
Believe it or not, one way they make these types of judgments is based on how you handle your equipment.
Most likely, you won’t know the exact drills or lineups your coach will want to see. They may stick with the basics, or they may try to keep you on your toes.
Even if there’s an element of surprise, though, there are some simple things you can do to keep your skills sharp.
The first and most important thing you can do to prepare is practice, practice, practice.
Tryouts aren’t practice. They’re the real deal.
So make sure you’re not rusty and are ready to play your best when the day comes. Or at least know that you’re at the level you’re expected to be at.
Even at an elementary level, coaches expect their players to be good skaters.
Skating is the basic framework from which they can build their playbook. So you should know how to skate fast and start and stop on a dime.
Work on both your backward and forward skating, as well as your sidestep.
The best way to build your skating skills is to spend as much time in the rink as possible.
Even when you’re not holding a stick, you can build valuable skating skills. Work on your weave so you can skate as fast as you can (just watch out for slower skaters while you practice).
Don’t worry about being the fastest player, but make sure you can get the puck when it’s free or breakaway when you have it.
Don’t be a bender, “a badly skating player whose ankles bend beneath him”. (Source)
Skating should be as natural to you as breathing so that you can focus on the actual gameplay. This comes easier to skaters with more skating experience.
Don’t get discouraged if you’re just starting out, though.
It’s challenging to coordinate your top and bottom half at first. Just know that it gets easier the more you work at it.
Once you nail down your skating, try out your puck handling.
You can work on weaving the puck criss-cross along the rink or deking (tricking) opponents if you have anyone to play against. Working on your passing is also more effective when you have another person to pass to.
If you have enough room in the rink, play with the puck like you would play a game of catch.
Try to pass as quickly and straight as you can.
When you receive the puck, make sure you have control of it as soon as possible. You should also work on stopping it quickly and skating away with it as if there’s an opponent close to you.
It may be hard to get a whole rink to yourself, so try to make the most of the space that you have.
You can play against a wall, or you can pick two points and take your puck back and forth.
If you have access to a goal, work on shooting. Try to pick a corner or a specific spot to shoot to. Avoid shooting ground level or hitting the crossbar.
Of course, the best way to practice play drills is actually to play hockey. This can be hard to organize sometimes, but a game is a fun way to practice all of the skills you’ll need when you get to tryouts.
You could even play a game of field hockey to practice your stickhandling differently.
You may not want to be the goalie, but you could prepare your goalie skills as another possible way to get on the team.
Sometimes there aren’t enough goalies, or coaches want extra goalies in case someone has to miss a game. You don’t necessarily need the equipment, but you could work some goalie skills if you are interested in this position.
Once you have all your equipment bought and your skills ready, you have to get your body and mind prepared. In other words, you have to get yourself “in the zone”.
All athletes have different ways of getting in the zone, but there are a few common factors when it comes to being physically prepared:
- Your body should be healthy from practicing, but you should also watch your nutrition.
- Get enough protein and carbs.
- Avoid too much sugar or processed foods.
- A common way to get your energy up before game day or tryouts is eating a carb-heavy meal the day before. Lots of athletes like to eat pasta for this purpose.
- Avoid too many the day of tryouts, though; your body needs time to process them.
Eat a good breakfast on tryout day as well.
Skipping breakfast could lead to grogginess or annoying hunger pains.
- Have some eggs or milk for protein
- Cereals and fruits both have a lot of essential vitamins and minerals
Depending on when your tryouts are, you should also have a good lunch.
The bottom line is that you should try to stick to your routine, but don’t overeat if you know it will make you feel tired or sick.
Lots of athletes try out energy bars or energy drinks on the day of tryouts. This can be a big mistake, though. They can mess with the way your body metabolizes them and make you jittery, cause your heart to race, or even cause an energy crash.
Also, avoid specialty nutrient or energy supplements unless you’re already taking them.
Many of these products are packed with chemicals or sugars that could upset your stomach or amp up the stress you might already be feeling.
The best way to avoid stress is to get a good night’s sleep.
Well-rested athletes perform better; their mind is sharper, and their body can react more quickly. Being well-rested might mean gradually adjusting your sleep schedule, particularly if you’re used to getting by with only 6 or 7 hours of sleep during school.
The reality is that 8-10 hours is ideal for developing humans (i.e., elementary school-aged through college-aged students).
Finish up any homework or projects that you might have so you can focus all of your energy on the tryout.
Ensure that your driving route is planned out or that your parent can drive you there on time. Just like it looks terrible to show up without equipment, it also looks awful to show up late.
Plan on arriving at least 15 minutes early. This gives you time to put on your skates and warm up a little before drills start.
When you arrive at the place where tryouts are held, you should act like tryouts have already started. Because, in reality, they have.
Coaches aren’t only looking at how players play on the ice. They’re looking at:
- How they interact with other team members
- How they interact with their parents
- Your level of preparation
- Generally, how you conduct yourself
A good team is made up of players who get along and respect one another. So make sure you’re friendly with other players (without being too goofy).
If you don’t know any other players, make introductions. Introduce yourself to the coach if you haven’t already met or greet them if you have.
Of course, tryouts are ultimately about how you do at drills, but you should also make a positive first impression.
Don’t give the coach reason to be biased against you from the get-go.
You should already be there early, but that doesn’t mean you should take your time preparing your gear.
Quickly get on the ice if players are already out there. Or get out there as soon as it seems appropriate.
Show up with a pre-game attitude; focus and get ready to show your skills as best you can.
With the right attitude, you can go a long way.
Frequently, coaches will prefer less experienced players who show a willingness to learn and work hard to experienced players who act as if they have already made the team.
Simply put, players who play for the team are preferable to players that play for themselves.
After introductions have been made and everyone is on the ice, the coach will usually start with drills.
These are basic skating and passing exercises that demonstrate how well players maneuver on the ice and interact with the puck.
These drills usually aren’t too tricky if you’ve kept up with practicing.
The first kind of drills that are important to consider are skating drills.
Skating drills test how well you skate. A basic skating drill will test you on:
- Your turns
- Your stops
- Your sidesteps
Usually, the coach will line up players and have them skate backward and pivot around a circle on the rink. Then players will have to sidestep in both directions along the lines across the rink.
If you’re at a lower level, it may only be necessary to know how to skate forward, and you may not need to know how to sidestep.
As always, make sure you know what’s expected before you’re at the tryouts.
When you run any skating drill, you should make sure that you complete the entire exercise, as well as you can.
Don’t skate slower when you think the coach isn’t looking or skip a part of the drill.
You never truly know when the coach is looking at you, and any slacking moment may be the deciding factor for them.
This is why it’s important to listen when they’re giving instructions, so you know what to do.
Anytime you’re skating, treat it like a drill. Coaches can get an impression of what kind of player you are by how well you skate, so treat all skating as an opportunity to show your skills.
The following kinds of drills you should focus on are the passing and shooting drills.
A passing drill might require you to skate past a cone and pass or receive a puck from the line opposite. Then you’ll have to skate backward to accept or pass the puck in turn.
Try to stop the puck quickly and pass it quickly as well. It’s essential to keep the puck in your “zone” and keep control of it whenever it’s passed to you.
A shooting drill might require two or three players to shoot against one goalie.
If you’re shooting, you should try to be vocal and call out for the puck frequently. This shows coaches that you know how to communicate with team members.
Take a shot if you can, but don’t be afraid to pass the puck to a team member if they have a better shot.
This drill shows coaches how well players can shoot and how well they work together to get a shot.
If you’re the goaltender, you should, of course, try to block the puck.
There may be separate drills for goalies, so make sure you know what’s required if you want to be a goalie.
In addition to defending against players, some drills might be passing exercises from your goal or defending practices with multiple pucks.
Drills test individual skills, but scrimmages can display how well you combine your skills and how well you might play in an actual game.
There are many different kinds of scrimmage arrangements, but most likely, your coach won’t divide the team in half, at least at first.
At first, your coach will probably arrange one-on-one or two-on-two scrimmages. (Source)
This allows the coach to see how you play up close.
Don’t underestimate your opponent. In all likelihood, some players are going to be better than you. You shouldn’t overestimate them either, though.
Play assertively and confidently, but also in a spirit of good sportsmanship.
Fighting may be enshrined in the NHL, but your coaches don’t want to see any while they’re trying to make up a team.
A one-on-one scrimmage may be an opportunity for you to show off any fancy footwork or dekes you may have learned. Still, everything should serve the goal of being an effective player.
If you “lost” your scrimmage, don’t get frustrated or lose hope. Putting up a strong effort is enough in most coaches’ eyes.
This means that you skate well and try your best to block your opponent. The more time you have with the puck, the better.
For two-on-two scrimmages, teamwork comes into play.
As with shooting drills, you should frequently call out for the puck and cooperate well with your teammate. Pass to them when you need to and defend their shots.
As you would with an actual game, it’s best to strategize beforehand if you can: who’s blocking whom, who’s on which side of the ice.
Your coach may also set up an all-player scrimmage with everyone playing on the whole rink.
This gameplay gives the coaches a chance to see who works well at which position. It also gives them an idea of their potential team makeup. (Source)
Make yourself known by being vocal and trying out plays.
An important thing for you to remember is you need to skate back to defence when the opposing side gets the puck.
It may be tiring, but it’s a chance to show that you’re hard-working and care about your team.
If you linger in one spot, you’re leaving other players to pick up your slack. It’s better to be a player who needs to improve than a lazy player.
As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Hopefully, you shine as an individual player, but if you feel like you weren’t the strongest in the drills or one-on-one, then this is probably your last chance to show what you’ve got.
Skate your heart out.
Take as many shots as you can.
Loudly and frequently call out for the puck.
And generally give your best.
Even if you aren’t the best player, coaches like to see players who add a positive presence to their team.
When you’re finished with drills and scrimmages, keep your focus and listen to the coach or coaches.
They might even give you some advice. This advice is golden and is critical to follow, so you know what’s expected of you if you make the team.
It’s easy to get discouraged if you feel like you could have done better, but you can hold your head high if you know you gave your all.
Thank the coaches for their time and try to get contact information from other players.
It’s essential to stay informed about the team, so you know when to start or what to expect from practice.
Maintain your positive attitude on your way out of the rink and listen for any news regarding your status.
If you made the team, great! If you didn’t, make sure you know what to work on for next year.
Now that you know how to stand out at hockey tryouts, here are a few additional hockey tips to keep in mind.
These are important to remember when you’re preparing for when you’re at tryouts, or whenever you play hockey.
Work on handling your hockey stick. After all, moving your stick is practically half of the game. You should keep it loose, so you have a full range of motion and let your top hand do most of the work. Sometimes novice players will use their lower hand more than they should. It’s easier to guide with your top hand because you can get more leverage from the top of your stick.
Work on handling the puck. It’s good practice to “dribble” the hockey puck as fast as you can. If you keep it moving, it’s harder for opponents to get to it. (Source) You should also work on moving it around your whole body, not just your front. In games, you’ll often have to move the puck behind or beside you to get it away from opponents. If you practice with a puck enough, you’ll get a feel for where it is.
Keep your head up. It’s all too easy to look down when the puck’s on the ground. But you should practice getting a feel for where the puck is, so you’re able to focus on more important things. When you keep your head up, you’re able to see where other players are going before they get there, and you can read signals from your teammates, so you know who they’re going to pass it to or what they’re planning. Keeping your head up keeps you aware of the larger game and teaches you how to play more naturally.
Watch the pros. Whether by turning on the TV or going to the stadium, observing professional players will give you some great ideas about improving your own game. You may notice that professional players change things up quite a bit for their opponents. They change angles or speeds to keep the other team on their toes. Pick a favourite player or follow the winning team. What is the team doing right or wrong? Why are they winning or losing? Picking up pro moves will impress your coach and make you a better hockey player.