The game of hockey has a raw edge that sometimes extends beyond the confines of the rink. This is especially apparent when a player is cut from a team.
As a player’s skill level advances during the teenage years, expectations (on all sides) rise as well. Players must make many sacrifices along the way if they hope to reach the Junior or college level. The player’s family also makes a large investment of time, money and effort. The stakes can be high indeed.
The sad truth is that desire, dedication, determination and even talent aren’t always enough to prevent a player from being let go. There are larger forces at play, and there may be factors over which the player has little or no control. The team may have a surplus of players at a particular position, or the coach may want to take the team in a different direction, perhaps emphasizing speed, skill, physicality, youth or experience.
When the coach informs you that you’ve been cut, you may be given specific reasons for being let go, or you may be told nothing at all. The way in which you’re given the news is less important than the news itself.
When faced with disappointing news, there are two options. You can withdraw into yourself (“turtling,” in hockey lingo), or you can open up to a friend or family member. Turtling doesn’t work very well because it leaves the wounds to fester.
When you open up to a friend or family member, the wounds don’t go away, but they do stop getting worse. Good friends and family are strong medicine for tough times.
One of the worst things about getting cut is that it can deal a blow to your ego. What can you do to get back on track? Here’s some advice:
Talk it over.
Call your best friend and tell him or her what you’re going through. Among other things, this can help restore your perspective, because your friend will be able to think more clearly than you can. If possible, make plans to meet at a ballgame, restaurant or elsewhere so you can talk face to face.
Write it down.
Write down what you’re thinking and feeling. Keep a journal. This is a surprisingly effective way to help you deal with the stress of the situation. It will also provide a record that you can refer to after the crisis passes, reminding you of the lessons you learned from the experience.
Work it out.
Continuing your usual skating and workout regimen (preferably with a partner) can bolster your self-esteem and help maintain a sense of normalcy during this turbulent time. It also helps you keep in shape in case another opportunity arises on short notice.
Keep it real.
Don’t dwell on thoughts of “What if...” or “If only...” Focus your energies on the present instead.
When the dust settles, you and your family will have decisions to make about what comes next. Will you work on developing your skills? Try out for another team? Find some other way to be a part of the game? Or move on to some other endeavor? Regardless, the physical toughness, mental discipline and work ethic you’ve developed by playing hockey are valuable assets that you’ll carry with you throughout your life.
How to Stand Out at Tryouts
For many players, tryouts are just around the corner. Some players find tryouts to be a nerve-wracking time, but if you take the time to prepare yourself there’s no reason you won’t hear your name called when it comes time to pick the team.
You don’t need to be the best player on the ice to get noticed.
Here are some simple tips you can use to stand out in the eyes of the coaches and give yourself the best chance to make the team.
1. Go to the front of the line. This seems simple enough, but it can also be really scary for players. Coaches notice little details like this. Show some initiative and confidence in yourself and your ability to do the drill right and set the example.
2. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes coaches don't always do a great job of explaining the drills perfectly. If you have a question as the coach is explaining the drill on the board, don’t be afraid to ask. Odds are you’re not the only one who doesn’t understand.
3. Out-hustle everybody. Every coach is looking for players who are willing to compete hard in every drill and will push themselves and their teammates to be the best. Be first to the puck, be the first player back on the backcheck, be first in everything. Remember that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
4. Be ready when you hit the ice. You want to be in shape when you show up at tryouts. Don’t let tryouts be the first time you’ve stepped on the ice since last season. Get on the ice a few times before tryouts so you can regain the feel of the puck and condition the muscles needed for skating. It’s also a great chance to make sure your equipment is in good condition and still fits.
5. Play your game. Do what you do well and don’t be distracted by who’s evaluating or what other players are doing on the ice. Be assertive, be hungry and be at the front of the line for every drill. Pay attention and listen to the coaches’ instructions. Show them that you’re excited to be there and you’re ready to do whatever it takes to make the team.
It’s up to you to earn a spot on the team. Don’t look to blame anyone else if you don’t succeed. Hopefully you’ll make the team you’re trying out for. If things don’t work out, it’s important to learn from the experience and continue to work hard on all aspects of your game.