As we enter the final stretch of the regular season for youth and high school programs, it is a good time for any player to ask themselves, “how is my tryout going?” A major misconception is that tryouts are simply a week-long process which occurs in the fall. That is false. Tryouts never end. Every game, practice, team get together, and study session for a tough exam is, in a sense, a tryout. These tryouts may not be as structured or intently watched as those in the fall, but they are incredibly important – for some players, more so than the real tryouts.
Because tryouts are flawed, coaches use as much information as they can to make decisions. They’ll often talk to previous coaches to get a sense of their in-season play and impact in the locker room, for example. Below are several reasons why tryouts alone are often not enough for coaches to make decisions:
Tryouts often don’t show a player’s character, ability to work with teammates, and leadership skills. You can’t easily determine what a player will do when his teammates are bullying a friend on the squad during tryouts. Will he stand up for his friend or join the bullies? It’s hard to see from a tryout if a given player will negatively impact the locker room or how a player will deal with adversity when the team is down by a goal during playoffs. The list goes on.
Will players that work hard in September do the same in mid-February when it matters most? Tryouts can be a bit artificial. Whatever percentage of players work hard during a tryout, that percentage is certainly lower in January.
Tryout hockey is different from regular season team play. The puck goes from scrum to scrum up and down the ice. Some players are great at this game, but lack the hockey IQ and skills necessary to play a style of hockey that emphasizes passing and movement without the puck. Most youth coaches can probably name a few players that didn’t look great in tryouts, yet played very well once team play started.
This isn’t to say tryouts are a waste of time! They are useful and needed. Players just need to keep in mind that they never really end.