Disclaimers: I’m a hockey mom. I’m not a hockey coach or a scout. These are based on my experiences over my son’s hockey career. Also know that not every coach will take every one of these things into consideration, but it is my belief that from Bantams (U14) on if not earlier, players should assume that there is nearly always a scout or higher level coach watching them, even if they’re not playing at the highest possible level for their age group. Whether they actually are or not doesn’t matter because from this point on, every shift counts.
Your tryout doesn’t begin when you step onto the ice. Of course, your performance on the ice matters because after all, the coaches are trying to build a hockey team. However, good coaches know that being on the ice isn’t where players are spending the majority of their time. They know that players go to school, have jobs, and socialize in the community, and when their players are out in the community, they represent the team and represent them. They know they are going to be stuck on bus rides and in hotels with these players. They want players who make a good impression. The older you are and the higher the level you play, the more important these little things are because there is always another player who could take your spot. You don’t want to give them any reason not to take you.
What little things, you ask? You need to be “on” as soon as you pull into the rink parking lot every single time, whether it’s for practice, a game, or a tryout camp. It means coming to the rink fully prepared. You have all your gear, and you look presentable. You don’t look like you just rolled out of bed with crazy hair that makes you look homeless, your hat isn’t backwards if you are wearing one, and you are dressed neatly. I’m not saying your hair must be military spec. Embrace the flow if you have it. Show off that beautiful head of lettuce, but make sure it looks like you take care of it. I’m not telling you to show up in a suit and tie to every practice, but don’t show up with a ratty old t-shirt and shorts with paint stains on them, either. Players should show up looking like they shower on a regular basis and have done so recently with their hair neatly done and dressed in clean clothes that match. As far as hats, I always advised my son not to wear one because if the guys making the decisions are old school, it’s technically considered impolite for a man to wear a hat indoors. If you insist on wearing a hat, at least make sure it isn’t on backwards, or remove it when you step inside. Trust me, there are indeed guys out there for whom this still matters.
When you approach the check in table, use your manners and show respect. Wait patiently for your turn, and state your name clearly with confidence, spelling it if necessary. If you shake the coach’s hand when introducing yourself, make it firm and confident. When you interact with any coaches, arena staff, or really, any adult, do so with respect, and handle yourself this way at all times including at school or out in the community. Hockey is a small world, even though at times it doesn’t seem that way, but these guys come together at various events on a regular basis, or they may have played or coached together at one time.
No stick handling in the arena lobby, no horsing around, no loading up on junk food at the concession stand. Stick handle in the designated area in the arena only, and go through your warmup out of the way of spectators. No trash talking other players and no gossip, even if you think you are doing so quietly. You aren’t being as quiet as you think you are, and you don’t always know who might be standing behind you or next to you. Show them you are ready to take care of business and that you can do so with class.
For parents, same rules, and no critiques. Allow the player to check him or herself in. If you must bring the player’s younger siblings, make sure they aren’t running around the arena screaming like banshees. Uncontrolled brats create a distraction and attract the wrong kind of attention. Every coach out there has been the victim of a crazy parent at some point, so this kind of behavior can be a red flag to them and make them wonder if they will have to put up with this or worse all season. They’ll want to avoid it if they can. Also, don’t scream like a psycho in the stands if you’re allowed to watch. It’s not a professional playoff game, and you don’t want the coach to assume they might be the next victim of one of your tirades.
Lastly, don’t neglect your behavior in the locker room. No shenanigans, no gossip, no trash talk. Keep your area neat and your behavior and attitude positive. Be respectful of the other players and listen actively when the coach is giving instructions. Basically, remember that your attitude is contagious, so keep it positive.
Players trying to move up the ladder are always trying out with every shift, every game, every practice. You want to start on the right foot and stay there, so even if these things don’t prevent you from making a team, they could prevent you from moving up.
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