Award Winning Tryouts

Spring tryouts. The season is just ending, everyone is in fine form…

Just when volunteers need a break, the big event occurs and challenges the fragile volunteer cadre to the limit.

The most stressful event of the season – not nationals, not provincials, not playoffs, not buying a new ringette stick, but tryouts.

Overhead in the lobby:

• “She does not like practicing, but she is a great game player.”

• “My daughter should play up, she is better than anyone on the ice in this age group.”

• “Why have the evaluators watched forward cross overs for three practices in a row. When do they watch them play ringette?”

• “My daughter is a goalie – why is she doing the same thing as all the other skaters?”

• “I want my daughter to play for this coach, that is why we are at this tryout!”

If a local ringette association or region can run a good tryout with great communication, an efficient process, sport specific validity, and good decision criteria, then they have just won a gold medal in ringette.

It is not easy.

Here are some tips to help the frazzled front-line volunteer organizers and coaches run “award winning” tryouts.

Like many things in Ringette, it starts and ends with the player. You want the athlete to have a good experience and to keep enjoying the sport. Core values for tryouts: respect and dignity.

Gather the good folks (executives, coaches, junior and belle players) and make a plan. Determine the selection criteria, on-ice drills and game situations and the delicate process of release notification.

Plan for at least four hours of ice per team.

Determine the role of the coach. For parent coaches, pick the player first, then the coach. For non-parent coaches pick them following a criteria based coaching selection process.

Assign a tryout coordinator who will gather coaches and work out the selection criteria, grading scale and the on-ice and off-ice activities required to grade the players.

Use Junior and Belle players to assist with drill demonstrations and to provide female leadership to the nervous athletes.

Educate your coaches and potential coaches by asking them to be evaluators. It will improve their appreciation of what comprises a good playing performance, and how to focus on game patterns instead of simply watching the ring.

Tell the players going on the ice what to expect, and what assessment criteria is being used. If you expect a given free pass or break-out, tell them and give them a chance to practice it before being assessed.

Try this general format to achieve a valid score for each player: 20 % history (level played last 2 seasons), 30 % timed drills and game simulations (e.g. 1 v 1), and 50 % game play scores. This is a balance of past and present, with a an emphasis on game play. Rate the players based on the weighted scores (e.g. history score out of 20 points, plus the drill score out of 30 points, plus the game play score out of 50 points for a maximum total of 100 points). 

Limit the number of players on the ice to 25, and permit special ice areas and a different assessment grid for goalies.

Provide numbered pinnies to each player so that evaluators, watching with clipboards can score players based on colour coded jerseys and numbers. Line up the players in order of their numbers and keep like colours together. The on-ice activities are not for the team to have a “workout” but rather to collect as much assessment data as possible to support decision making.

Use a rating scale such as the 1 to 5: 1 means low and 5 means high compared to all others on the ice.

Gather evaluators and assessments and review the assessment criteria what constitutes a 1 and a 5 in a given drill.

Keep the criteria to a minimum so that time is permitted for evaluators to assess the player.

Take video of the tryout as a second opinion, and review it later to support decisions.

Assign someone to manage the intake process so that people are greeted warmly when they arrive and assigned to dressing rooms and provided with the right pinnie. Use on-line registration to know in advance how many will come and to collect contact information. Ask players what position they would like to play and what level caliber they played last season. Provide handouts to tell people the process and how decisions are made. Be available for questions.

For a group of 24 skaters have 4 evaluators; two for each colour group. Each player will get two opinions.

Provide recording sheets for each evaluator, showing drill description and any assessment criteria. Evaluators should not know the names of the players in order to reduce bias. The recording sheet will show Red # 2, 4, 5 and so forth.

Give all the recording sheets to a spreadsheet computer person, who will tally the scores for each players across the four tryouts. Use the spreadsheet to sort and rank the players in each test.

Do not make any cuts until all players have had a chance to play in a game situation. Do not cut just based on a few skating drills. Let the players play the game. After all, you want to know how effective they can be in a real game situation.

For goalies, consider the following assessment criteria: mobility, such as shuffle step, t-step, telescope forward and backward, hug the post; follow ring carrier; lie on back and recover to basic stance; sliding butterfly, and blocking shots with pads, blocker and catching glove; stick saves; ability to pass ring with stick and distribute the ring to an open player. Watch them in game situation such as a 3 v 2. Watch them focus and maintain angles and focus during gameplay.

Try this 4 tryout agenda:

1 Warm-up skating and ring carry, followed by 4 timed and scored drills (click here to download the Drill Assessement spreadsheet file) shooting, ring handling, shuttle skate, and backward skating; goalies are assessed in a special section of the ice with a separate evaluation team of two people. Time permitting, begin a scrimmage of play team with randomly assigned teams.

2 – Scrimmage game with players divided into two equal teams based on positions noted on registration forms. Gameplay criteria is different than basic skills which have been assessed in Practice 1 and includes decision-making, movement of ring, picking up passes, checking, and setting up plays and performing patterns that the tryout coordinator may have requested, such as the breakout. Evaluators can watch only a few players during the course of game; set the limit at 8 per evaluator. Release enough to have no more than 20 at the exhibition game.

3 –Exhibition game versus a team from in the same region. Release enough players that you carry an extra 4 or 5 to the last session.

4 –Isolated game simulation drills – break-out, 1 v 1, ring carry in a small space with 2 checkers to decide who is stronger than who, and watch only the 4 to 5 players under consideration and rate players in a depth chart by position.

For release notifications, use the phone to ensure a warm relationship and to address any questions from the player. When making the call, have access to the spreadsheet with the scores and rationale for the cut. Share the notifications with the selection committee so everyone is on the same page. As an alternative, post the names of players on a common website who will be invited back to subsequent tryouts in order to respect disclosure. Avoid the hall of shame in which released players walk through the heavily populated arena lobby.

As an alternative, use the tryout as an development training camp, and do it over a weekend, and share the good coaches with more players and expose players to the best drills in your region.  Once several training sessions and classroom sessions have concluded, run the selection process for the tryouts. Click here to read about how the Ontario AAA program could look with more of a development emphasis.

When it is over, gather the gang, get cold, frosty beverages, and talk about what worked and could be done better next time.

For more insight on tryouts, submit your questions (click here) to the Youldon Group.

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