How Should Parents Prepare For Hockey Tryouts?
1. Coaching, Coaching, Coaching! Obviously the most important factor, since you’re entrusting your son/daughter in this person’s care for an entire season. Make sure you know who the coach is and what his/her credentials are. Have they coached before? Have they worked with kids before? Do they have a son daughter on the team? What is their history with winning/losing and with allocating playing time for each kid? [As you know, many coaches’ kids get the benefit of the doubt]. How do they communicate with the kids/parents/other coaches? Is he a positive or negative person, a screamer? Will he instill confidence in your athlete? These are very important years in your kid’s life, and I strongly believe that confidence and feeling good about yourself are most important. Do the kids have fun in practice? Do they respect the coach?
2. Do your homework: This will require both checking out a practice this year [before tryouts] to see what your are getting yourself into, and using the contacts you have to learn what kind of person this coach is. Ask questions of current teammates, and other hockey families.
3. Don’t be afraid to call a coach. Ask as many questions as necessary to get a good feel for his style and coaching techniques. A coach who is a caring, legitimate person will take time to talk with you and share perspectives.
4. Selecting a league: Will it be too challenging or not challenging enough? What is the general consensus of how the league is run? Is it well organized? Is ice available on a routine basis? Do games get canceled because of scheduling snafus? Can we afford it? How far will we have to travel?
5. Development: Absolutely a necessity with the kids. How many practices and skill sessions will the kids receive? Are they full ice, half ice, or shared practices?
6. Skill sessions: This is a great time for the kids to work on individual areas to improve their game. Whether it be the skating stride, quickness, passing, shooting, or conditioning. Does the program offer this? I believe kids should have 3 practices to every 2 games.
7. Practices: If run properly, practices are the most important tool to get your player to the next level. In a game kids touch the puck maybe 2 minutes total.
8. Does the organization offer a curriculum for the coaches to follow? Is it overseen by anyone? Are the officers listed and available? Do coaches have to answer to anyone? It’s nice to have an independent person to give perspective once in a while.
9. Cost: What is the cost and what am I getting for my money? Many organizations have hidden costs. How many games, practices, skill sessions, accessories (bags, sweats, jerseys), tournaments, and summer camps are included in the season fee? Will there be additional charges for tournaments or playoffs? Are you expected or required to participate in fund raising events? What will be the cost of travel?
10. Location: Where does your player want to play for the next 6-7 months. Have a thorough conversation with your player to see if he/she wants to make the hour commute 3 days/week, or if he/she wants to play on a friend’s team or with school buddies. Let them express their feelings, because if they’re not committed or happy, it’s a waste of time, money, and precious opportunity.
11. Do you have to sign a contract? Many organizations make you sign a commitment letter. This is fine - but make sure you have an ‘out clause’ in case things that are promised do not become reality. Often, if you sign a contract and then don’t adhere to it, you jeopardize your child’s future eligibility with that league. You can ask your director these questions.
12. Set your player up for success! Last but not least, what is it about a particular program which will have your hockey player smiling every day as they tug off their skates. This is most important. They need to have fun and feel good about themselves. Be careful not to subconsciously push your player too hard. A few parents don’t get it. They live through their kids, sadly putting them into more demanding situations than they can handle.
Editor’s Note: A special thank you to Pro Ambitions Hockey for this article.
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