Like it or not, evaluations are a part of every hockey season once a player reaches age 8 or 9 – sometimes sooner!
Here are some tips & observations from the viewpoint of an evaluator which might be helpful in making it a less stressful time of year.
1) Look like you want to play. This seems simple enough but I’m always surprised at how many kids don’t appear that they want to be there. Skate all the way through the drill and compete until the whistle blows. Attitude is everything!
2) Don’t use brand new equipment at tryouts. No matter how excited about you are about your new gear – the 1st day of tryouts is not the time to break it in. Take an inventory a month before tryouts to see if you need to replace any gear which will leave time to get comfortable using it.
3) Don’t get too high or low. No matter how talented and prepared you are mistakes are inevitable. Good news is evaluators are not looking for perfect hockey players. They are looking for players they’d want on their team if they were the coach. The ability to keep your focus and work ethic after a mistake doesn’t take physical talent but it does take mental toughness – a characteristic just as important for successful hockey players (and people!).
4) Hide your weaknesses. If you’re lining up to do a drill you are less than confident in…make sure you are not at the very front or back of the line. Evaluators will inevitably miss watching some players in the middle because they are scribbling notes ABOUT someone ahead of you.
5) Show your strengths. Maybe backwards crossovers are not your strong suit but you can shoot like a cannon. Show that shot off whenever you get the opportunity!
6) Show your hockey sense. Be active without the puck. This will easily set your apart from many of your peers. Coaches love players they can trust and being active and disciplined without the puck is a sure way to be noticed in a positive way. Plus, if you back check or fore check aggressively you are giving the players competing with you for a spot less chance to be successful!
7) Win 1 on 1 battles. Evaluators have dozens of players they are trying to sort into groups. The difference between the last 5 players at a higher level and the best 5 players at the next lowest level may not be that significant. If you can beat one of those players out of the corner with the puck, or in a battle for a loose puck it’s much easier for the evaluator to justify ranking you higher than that player in this ‘bubble group’.
Evaluators try their best and do a very good job….but sometimes they do get it wrong. Control the things you can control and know you get to have a blast playing hockey regardless of what team it’s on. Often it might even work out to your benefit in the long term by getting cut and being one of the best players on a lower level team…but that’s a topic for another post!