It’s a nerve-wracking time for players and parents as we gather at the rink again in hopes of catching the coaches’ attention.
It can be a stressful time but it doesn’t have to be. First of all, no matter what, the sun will come up tomorrow and life will go on. Making that team is not life or death! So, with that in mind, here are the things that I, as a coach with 20 years’ experience, look for in a player for my team.
- Skating– It cannot be emphasized enough but skating is the basis of every hockey player. A player needs a good foundation from which to build. The less time a coach needs to spend on building the basics, the better.
Is the skating smooth and effortless or is the player expending a lot of energy to get from point A to point B? Figure skaters are the best example of efficient skating and hockey players would do themselves a service to work with a power skating or figure skating coach early on in their development.
- Attitude– Many times I’ll ask myself, “Can I see myself working with this player all season?” If not, there’s a good chance that I’ll take a pass and move on to players with a great attitude. Players can bring joy to the rink or misery. A negative attitude is cancer in the locker room and brings down the winning environment I want to create.
Hockey is fun! I want players that see it, feel it and share it!
- Leadership– One of the factors that some overlook is the leadership ability of certain players. I’m looking to see if a player steps up and leads drills or are they content to stay in the back of the line. Do they engage and encourage other players or are they quiet and withdrawn? Being quiet isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as some players will lead by example, so I watch for the verbal leaders and the ‘watch me’ leaders and judge accordingly.
- Potential– It’s not where you start but where you finish. If you combine attitude with work ethic, then I’ve got a real prospect! After years of developing players, I still get excited to see an individual succeed where once they struggled. Coaching is teaching and I’ve learned to spot players that I feel I can turn into stud performers.
- Other Skills– Finally, after looking at a player’s skating and mindset, I can focus on the other skills like stickhandling, shooting, passing, checking, etc. In my mind, these skills are able to be upgraded in the team environment. All skills are best learned in a private or small group setting; however, puck skills sometimes require teammates to be included for personal improvement.
- Intangibles– How do you describe an intangible? It’s just a gut feel or something that you can’t grasp but you know that this player has ‘it’. Maybe it’s when you combine all the other factors with an all-out desire to win; a win-at-all-cost player. We’ve seen the examples; maybe not the best players but they’re always on the winning team because they bring something that makes it right.
Parents – you may think that you aren’t part of the selection process but you are. Your demeanor is being watched. My suggestion is to let the child go with a simple message of “Have fun!”. Whatever happens is out of your control so learn to leave it be and just enjoy watching your kids play. After all, it is just a game.