By Matt Schoepflin
What can I say about hockey tryouts other than they suck.
They suck for players, they suck for coaches… really, they suck for anyone who has a vested interest in the team or player.
While hockey tryouts are exciting because they signify the fresh start of the season, the actual tryout portion has always been a pain.
As a player, they are stressful. There’s always that thought in the back of your mind of wondering what the coaches are thinking and also trying to wonder where you fit in, if at all, with a team.
While I used to think hockey tryouts were stressful as a player, they are even more stressful as a coach. Regardless of what you think or what some people say, it’s never easy to cut players.
Building a Good Team
There’s so much more that goes into tryouts besides judging someone’s ability or talent. For me, it’s a constant battle to find the right players to fill the roles needed to create a successful team.
There really is no better way to say it than to quote the late, great Herb Brooks: “It’s not about picking the best players. It’s about picking the right ones.”
In other words, you don’t build a good hockey team with 20 players that can score goals. You need all facets of the game covered. Obviously you need skilled players, but you also need those who can play defense, kill penalties, be physical… the list goes on.
Importantly, there also needs to be the team dynamic. Successful teams have formed a bond that is often hard to explain. It’s not that they always get along with each other; the difference is that there’s a mutual respect among the players and a commitment to the same end goal. And that each player is truly genuine in those feelings.
We all know it’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to say it, believe it, and actually do it.
Keep it in Perspective
In light of everything mentioned here, I’ve always tried to keep the same perspective. Put the needs of the team ahead of the individual and don’t stress about trying to please everyone. That’s just a recipe for disaster. Any which way you cut it, someone’s always going to be unhappy.
So for players, my advice for tryouts is to go in with the attitude of controlling what you can actually control. These include things like your work ethic, attention to detail, and playing with a little sense of desperation in your game. Also, remember that everything happens for a reason. Whether you make a team or not, learn something from the process and become a better person because of it.
For coaches, go into tryouts with an open mind and a plan of action. Think of what you need to build a successful team for the long haul. Taking extra top-end talent might look good in the short term. But is that really the best thing for your team to be peaking and playing its best at the playoffs?
At the end of the day, always trust your gut. It’s crazy when I think about it, but nearly every time I have trusted my gut I feel like I made the right decision. The ones that have come back to bite me are the times I went against what my instincts were telling me.
Play hard and have fun.