Some day I’ll write a book.
People have been harping on me to write a book about hockey for years. As a writer/hockey coach, I fit into a unique niche, I suppose. Mild-mannered writer by day, tracksuited coaching crusader by knight, I guess I have a unique perspective in addition to a job allowing me to capture said perspective.
There’s a lot to watch during hockey tryouts. It’s crucial to follow the process, define what you’re looking for in projected players, and then make decisions that let you sleep at night.
It’s a lot to consider. Enough to get a headstart on the book.
Here’s a couple key things coaches would love to discover during the tryout process.
It’s going to happen.
Players are going to be hooked, slashed, and pushed around. The team is going to fall behind, sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot. Sure, coaches are looking for speed, skill, tenacity, work ethic, and the ability to change the complexion of a game, but what about the complexion of a team?
No one places as much value on intangibles as the coach of a hockey team. Why? Because the ability to act and push forward during a challenging situation is contagious. Players who thrive on adversity transmit that determination to their teammates by some sort of hockey-style osmosis. Think about it - who among us can fight the urge to compete just a little harder when we see a teammate stare adversity in the face, and then defeat it?
The situations that demand additional energy or determination are a blank canvas for the potential of leadership. You don’t have to say anything to inspire your teammates - after all, actions speak so much louder than words.
This point is a double-edged sword. In tryouts, most coaches aren’t privy to the conversations between players. This can represent a challenge because you’re missing a valuable tool when it comes to character evaluation and assessment. It would be nice if we could learn more about an individual’s approach to hockey, to school, and to their families, but the short window we’re given to construct a team doesn’t leave a lot of room for conversations.
Which is why a player’s reactions to events on the ice are more important than ever.
Every year I build the November Dip into my season plan. The November Dip is the most challenging stretch of the year. Halloween has come and gone and it’s as though every player, parent, and coach is riding a hellacious sugar crash straight downwards into a fiery pit of angst and impatience. If the hockey season is like a commute to the office, mid November is the view of the Second Narrows Bridge from the top of Keith Road at 5pm on a Friday.
I suppose I’ve answered my own question - no, November won’t feel the same as September. Coaches, be warned: parents will find something irritating about your process in November. Players will forget their equipment. You’ll probably break a stick or worse: your whistle will die on you.
If we could see into the future during tryouts, we’d know who we could count on to lead us through the November Dip, because it’s probably the same person or persons who lead without saying much. These are the players who raise their game when adversity strikes.
Building a hockey team is about so much more than the on-ice product. A successful team is one that builds on their accomplishments every day. Every day is an opportunity to get better whether you’re at the rink, at school, or at work.
Success isn’t a destination, it’s the road on which we travel.
So who’s going to lead us?