Minor Hockey Tryouts Now Emphasize Enrolment Over Development

There was a time when minor hockey was all about development. Finding the best players for your team, allowing them to grow and strengthen. That was during the time of Fall tryouts.

Now, with tryouts occurring only days after the season ends, it seems modern tryouts are all about enrolment, ensuring numbers for a team and organization, rather than giving kids a summer to be kids, to grow, to learn, and ideally, to improve.

It’s hard to fathom that every 12-, 13-, 14-, or 15-year-old picked for a team can’t have an incredible change to their physical stature, athleticism, and skill base over a 4-month offseason.

Imagine a kid who has always been skilled, but was outsized, and they hit a 2-inch growth spurt over the summer. Or a kid who decides to finally fine tune their body through off ice strength and conditioning. Or that player who spends a summer doing power skating.

For most organizations, spring tryouts happen so they can lock in a specific number, ensure enrolment is at the level needed, and avoid the post-summer battle for players trying out for multiple teams.

Although the superstars don’t need to worry about this, that determined group of late bloomers, underdogs, or just those who were tired of being overlooked, will continue to be passed over, and their potential left untapped because of our unwillingness to give kids time to grow.

It is after all, minor sports. To say the full potential of next year, is defined only by how well you finish this year is asinine.

The NHL doesn’t do this. Players win and lose jobs every year because of the work they do in the offseason. And for a lot of NHL players, that’s a shorter offseason than minor hockey players.

Minor hockey is supposed to be about fun and development. Perhaps in Canada, if we switched our model, and mandated tryouts to be later in the year at all levels, kids would have that chance to grow, and work, and learn the value of training.

I do understand that most people would say skills are sharpest immediately following a season, but for youth, these levels are still climbing exponentially. As for their strength and conditioning, well, I think any trainer or coach will tell you the difference a summer can make.

This of course is only an opinion. Our top lines will likely be the same regardless of when we pick a team, but the middle and bottom half of a roster, which inevitably is the group that will dictate the long term success of a team, I’d wager this group would change significantly if we gave kids the time they need, and deserve, to grow and develop.

For developments sake, let’s put away Spring tryouts, and return to Fall selection camps.

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