5 tips you need to know before hitting the ice for tryouts


Tryouts are an incredibly important time of the year … the problem is, they’re right after a long tough season … maybe you won it all and are feeling great but not ready to get back on the ice at the moment.

Maybe your season didn't go as well as you'd hoped and you're not ready to get back on the ice at the moment ... Maybe the bumps and bruises from the season are finally healed and you're not ready to get back on the ice at the moment ... don’t feel bad .. we all feel the same way … but we all also know that tryouts set the tone for next season … so if we want to move up – if we want to play for that team rather than this team or for that coach rather than this coach … tryouts are where you create your new path …

so here are 5 tips to make sure you have a good tryout…

1 – make sure you’re fit … nothing is worse than having the right attitude, the right mindset, the right opportunity, and then not be up for the challenge from a physical standpoint … so hopefully, you’re legs are strong, your core is strong … you’ve been shooting the puck so your hands feel strong but soft …

there are no quick fixes to get you fit overnight so hopefully you’re already there … but if you did take a little more time off than you thought you would and you’re nervous about where your fitness level is … then be ready to manage your energy on the ice … be smart about where you exert effort … give yourself time to recover … hydrate like crazy … get great sleep the week of tryouts … be smart with your food intake … remember, we want you to use food as fuel … stay away from the fast foods and tongue food … we want smart carbs, smart proteins, and smart fats … if you need a refresher on smart hockey eating habits, go download my free hockey nutrition guidelines – TheHealthyPlayer at TheCompletePlayer.com website

2 – make sure you’re gear is ready – this one would seem obvious but I can’t tell you how many times I see kids in the locker room getting ready for tryouts and just now realizing that they never fixed their skate or replaced the broken shin pad, or tightened the cage on their helmet!

again it’s normal to be done with hockey at the end of a long season but getting ready for tryouts needs to start before you arrive at the rink to get dressed … so pull out all that gear and make sure you’re ready to go before you arrive at the rink … knowing your gear is ready will give you a boost of confidence to help you show well … which leads me to my next tip

3 – make sure your confidence is there – when I say confidence, I’m talking about your self-confidence to play hockey at the level you know you can. Too many times I see players let their confidence be dictated by what happens on the ice. They tell me “I’ll feel confident when I get my first big hit in” or “As soon as I score I start to feel confident” … The problem with this approach is, for one thing, what about all the time on the ice before that “one thing” happens? … are you just going to be quasi-confident, or un-confident, or neutral? … what are you while you’re waiting to be confident? … the second problem with this approach is, what if that “one thing” doesn’t happen? .. does that mean that for that session of tryouts you’ll just mail it in and wait for the next session to be confident?

My point is, confidence is something you bring with you to the rink … you don’t wait to find it when you get there … I talk about a lot of confidence-building strategies in the workbook TheConfidentPlayer, but some of the quickest confidence builders are:

remember how far you’ve come in hockey – how good you’ve gotten over the past seasons – give yourself credit for your successes and know you’re on a journey that takes years to get to your ultimate goal but along the way, you’re a pretty dog-gone good player!

use imagery to visualize how you’ll perform during tryouts – picture yourself flying around the ice feeling strong and fast and powerful and confident – let your mind convince your body that’s it’s frickin ready to rock when you hit the ice. Picture yourself battling for the puck and coming off the boards to get a quick shot on net … picture yourself putting a wrister under the bar, or riding a charging forward into the boards with a stinging hip check, or using your glove to snare a snipe from point-blank range. In other words, have a great practice in your head before you hit the ice and your mind and body will think it’s already revved up and ready to go

4 – make sure your intensity is there – when I talk about intensity I’m talking about your physical energy, your mental energy, and your emotional energy. I use the analogy of getting a high-powered race car tuned for the big race. It needs to be warmed up so it's humming on all cylinders when the flag waves. All the electronics need to be fine-tuned and ready to weather a long hard race. It has to be built to withstand unexpected and unforeseen circumstances that are sure to come up during the race.

The thing is, unlike a race car, you don’t have a pit crew on the bench ready to tweak you between shifts … you have to do that yourself. So that means you need to pay attention to where you’re head is at, how you feel physically, and where you are emotionally (i.e. if you’re mad or frustrated, or pumped, or bored). You have to be ready to dial your intensity up if you’re feeling blah or dial it back if you’re feeling anxious or angry or overly hyped.

The best players know how to dial in their intensity so they can play at a level that lets them be their best. We all have a level of energy and intensity that lets us rock the ice. Make sure you know what yours is, and more importantly, make sure you can dial it in for each night of tryouts.

5 – have a plan for frustration – the last thing I want to mention about being ready for tryouts is to make sure you have a plan for what you’re going to do if and when you get frustrated. I’m sure this isn’t you’re first tryouts. And if you’re like the other players I coach and work with, sometimes hockey can be frustrating. Especially tryouts when so much is on the line.

You want to have a mental plan for what you’re going to do when you start to get frustrated or angry or anxious during tryouts. If you wait until it happens to figure out how you’re going to handle it, then your emotions can get the better of you and not only let the coaches see them, but they can interfere with your play on the ice and ruin those precious short shifts you get during the scrimmage at the end of one of the tryouts sessions.

Face it, tryouts go by fast and there are a lot of kids all wanting the best team and best coach and best teammates (just like you do) … you can’t afford to waste a single shift stewing over an unfair line matchup, or a trip or hook right when you were getting ready to take a shot, or a guy being a jerk on the ice trying to get under your skin.

You need to be a fine-tuned hockey robot and the only emotion you show is passion, excitement, enthusiasm, and sportsmanship. So that means if you want to nip all the other disruptive emotions in the bud before they have a chance to screw with your head, then you need to have a plan in advance, of how you’re going to handle it.

That means having a plan for:

what are you going to think about or focus on when you start to feel frustrated or mad?

how will you manage your body and facial expressions when you start to lose it?

trust me, coaches can read body language and just because you may not say anything, doesn’t mean they can tell when you’re out of sync

what will you focus on with your play to prevent negative emotions to derail your on-ice performance?

I have several workbooks on staying composed (TheComposedPlayer), being tough (TheToughPlayer), and playing with a relentless attitude

(TheRelentlessPlayer) over that TheCompletePlayer.com website. These are all part of the Complete Player Workbook Series. If you haven’t already, head over and check them out. You can test drive them before you buy them and there are a bunch that is free anyway, so head over and download one today.

Like I said at the outset … tryouts are an important time in your hockey development and they come at a time when you may not be feeling optimally primed to be your best. Since you don’t have a pit crew, it’s your job to get yourself ready, so use some of the tips in this post, as well as head over to TheCompletePlayer.com website to download the right workbook to get you ready to go beast mode during tryouts!

Leave a comment below and share how you get ready for tryouts.

Now go tear it up!

Kevin L. Willis, PhD
Sport Psychologist
Level 5 USA Hockey Coach

Practice Pre-Season Tryouts Compete-Level