I saw a comment on social media recently about how junior tryouts aren’t fair. All I could picture was a petulant child throwing a fit because his brother got a blue gumball, and he got a red one. Fair doesn’t mean equal. Besides, what’s not fair in the gumball situation? Both kids got a gumball. It’s just that one child was upset about the color of gumball they received.
Junior hockey tryouts are as fair as they can be. The leagues set rules for their teams about how many imports each team may have and the ages of the players. They set rules for when players can be signed and how they may be recruited. They set rules for trades, dates for roster freezes, and refunds to tuition if the league charges tuition. Beyond that, though, it is left up to the teams, and it has to be that way.
In my opinion, most of these “it’s not fair” comments come from feelings of inadequacy or disappointment or the realization of what it means to go from being a big fish in a little pond to a small fish in a big pond. It can be overwhelming and eye opening. You might think getting an inbox full of camp invitations means you’re a lock only to get to camp and realize there are a bunch of players who are better. You might think you’re going to be able to keep doing what you are doing to stay at the top only to realize there are a bunch of other players doing more, and they’re already way ahead of where you are. Some of those players might even be younger than you. That’s a blow to the ego.
The tryout process is also not just what happens on the ice. Coaches and scouts are watching all the time. In junior hockey, teams know that next year is coming, so they will try to be as prepared as possible. They know that not every player who is eligible to return will. They know that if they have 100 kids coming to a camp or event, it will be impossible to watch all of them all the time, so they prepare as much as possible so when camp day comes, they will already have a few players in mind. In fact, the majority of the tryout process happens before players ever set foot on the ice. Teams have made phone calls, responded to emails, watched film, and talked to other coaches. They will have done as much as possible to research potential players before tryouts officially start.
This time of year is uncomfortable because offers keep coming in, and it’s hard to balance your ego and reality. It’s hard to make choices about which events to attend and which ones to skip. It’s hard not to second guess every decision. It’s hard to have your heart set on one thing only to be offered something else. It’s hard to realize that achieving your goals will be harder than you thought it would be. It’s hard to have a plan worked out only to find out that plan might need to be adjusted over and over again.
However, complaining about fairness isn’t going to change anything, and in fact, it might get you crossed off someone’s list because no one likes a complainer. Everyone has to go through the process in junior hockey, so in that way, it is, indeed, fair. The bottom line is spending time on whether or not you think tryouts are fair is counterproductive. You can’t control outcomes. Teams may not pick who you think are the best players on the ice that day. It isn’t about the “best” players anyway. It’s about the right players. You CAN control your efforts, though.
Author: Michelle Anderson
from Behind the Champ
Hello! I am a Minnesota hockey mom of 15 years with a son currently playing junior hockey. My son was 2 ½ when he saw his first hockey game, and he became obsessed with playing hockey himself. I thought, “He’s 2. It will pass.” It didn’t. I have to admit that I knew absolutely nothing about hockey when we first started this journey, but I learned quickly along the way thanks to all the other hockey parents out there. I also saw how much fun he was having so I joined a women’s league and learned how to play myself. The kids make it look a lot easier than it is, but it’s a beautiful game and tons of fun both to watch and to play, even badly in my case. I look forward to bringing you a hockey mom’s point of view to these shenanigans in the world of junior hockey.
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