I was talking to one of the AAA players I train earlier this week and he told me that his team was doing spring try-outs this year, so that will be in the next month or two. I wrote this article a while ago, but was saving it for later in July, however with these spring tryouts on the doorstep, I figure some of you will be looking for ways to stand out to the coach. Maybe you are fighting to move up to (or stay on) the AAA squad. Maybe you are trying to move up onto the first line, either way you need to do all you can do to stand out to the coach.
If you have ever had the chance to stand up and teach to a group or coach a group, you will appreciate what I am about to say… the coach (this goes for your teachers too) sees EVERYTHING! I remember the first time I was invited back to my alma mater the University of Western Ontario as a guest lecturer – I could see the guy sleeping in the third from last row, I could see the girl reading her Harry Potter novel during the lecture, I could also see the students who were listening, paying attention and taking notes. If one of those students was late to hand in an assignment, who do you think would get the benefit of the doubt?
I see the same thing as a strength coach and I know your hockey coaches see it too. I remember the first year I ran an off-ice hockey training program through Revolution Conditioning, I was not in my full studio yet, so I ran it at an off-site facility. This facility was shaped like an ‘L’, but it had mirrors everywhere, so I could actually see around the right angle corner. This was a new group of kids that I had never trained before, but on the first day I saw the kid who I thought was going to be the best of the bunch – he was by far the biggest kid who I knew I could pack on about 12lbs of muscle mass at least, he was quick too! Wow – I thought this kid who was drafted into the OHL would be unstoppable. Then we started training!
This player would literally stand there pretending to lift weights when he thought I wasn’t looking, then when I came into his line of sight he would put on the big grimacing face and start actually doing the exercise. What he did not realize is that I could easily see him from anywhere in the gym because of all the mirrors. I even told him that I could see him – even that did not stop him.
Out of that group of four players, three of them went on to have full careers in the OHL, two of them were drafted into the NHL and guess where the other guy ended up – no where. You see as you play at higher levels it gets tougher for the coach to decide who he is going to select based on play alone. Coaches are looking at the overall quality of the player – who is going to battle, who wants to be there, who is ready to work hard and become better. Here are a few tips that may help you stand out during this year’s tryouts:
√ If the coach is talking, you are looking right at him, listening to their words. Even if you are paying attention, but looking away from the coach – the coach will assume you are not interested in what he or she has to say.
√ Never be the last one on the ice or the first one off. If you have the opportunity to get on the ice early or stay a little longer, take it – you always have things to work on. Show the coach you are a self-directed learner who is willing to put in extra effort without being asked or told.
√ When it comes time to do conditioning drills, go hard right from the start. I hate it when I run conditioning drills and one kid is in the bottom half of the group for the first 8 reps and then on the last rep they are 15 meters ahead of everyone. To me that screams, “I was doggin’ it for the first 8 reps so I could look good on the last one!” Don’t do that, work hard every rep!
√ Encourage your fellow players – that shows you have character and that you are interested in making the entire group better.
√ Ask questions. If you are not sure what to do or how to play your position better, do not be shy to ask the coach. Again this shows you are trying to be better every day and that you respect the coach’s opinion.
I hope those tips help remind you what every player who wants to be their best should be doing during tryouts, the off-season and the in-season.