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How To Run A Successful Hockey Tryout: Evaluating Youth Hockey Players

How To Run A Successful Hockey Tryout: Evaluating Youth Hockey Players

Youth Sports •

How do you evaluate minor hockey players while ensuring your evaluation process is efficient?
Every year, minor hockey associations undertake “what is considered” a fairly challenging evaluation process. This can be tension-filled, and laborious, along with hours of data entry after the evaluation is complete.

In this article, we’re going to talk about how to evaluate players more efficiently, some of the biggest challenges coaches often face, and what you can do to streamline and improve your evaluation process today.

Ensuring evaluations are fair and accurate is a crucial part of your player development. We’ve listed some tips below that should help.

The Problems With Minor Hockey Evaluations

As a coach, the 3 biggest areas that I saw with the evaluation process of young athletes are:

  • Athletes almost never received any formal feedback on their performance after an evaluation
  • Coaches spend countless hours doing data entry into spreadsheets to try and make sense of the data.
  • Parents are often unsatisfied with the justification for the placement decision of their kids and very seldom receive information to help understand what their child needs to work on to develop

It all comes down to information. A coach’s time is already spread thinly, and they rarely have the time to re-format information into spreadsheets, not to mention provide a reasonable amount of feedback for each athlete. As a result, athletes and parents never understand WHY they didn’t make the top team.

Today’s technology offers solutions to streamline even the most intricate tasks. When evaluators gather information using the SkillShark App, it simplifies the entire evaluation process for the coach. This modern approach means that young athletes can receive their performance report cards before they even have their skates off. Instead of spending days on data entry, coaches can invest their time in in-depth analysis.

Moreover, parents can now clearly indicate what their child needs to work on to be considered for the top team next year. It’s a win-win situation, made possible through the use of cutting-edge hockey apps and ice hockey apps, alongside sports team management apps and sports team communication apps like SkillShark, designed to optimize sports communication and player assessment.

What Is the Best Way to Deal With Common Evaluation Issues?

Evaluations can be complex, and come with many hurdles: We’ve discovered a large amount of these complexities can be solved, simply by eliminating the use of paper and spreadsheets during evaluations. Not only do pen-and-paper evaluations waste hours of time, but at the end of it all, very little is done with data, and very little feedback is provided to athletes.

For the past 10 years, we’ve developed evaluation software to take away the pains that many coaches experience during evaluations. It’s amazing to think that coaches can now view instant rankings, compare players, and even track their player’s progression over time.

Having the right system in place is extremely important when it comes to measuring players accurately. There are a number of variables that need to be considered when conducting an evaluation.

The Link Between Software and Player Evaluations

Player evaluations play an indispensable role in sports, and today’s technology has transformed how we approach them. Firstly, utilizing tools like hockey apps and ice hockey apps, such as the SkillShark App, can significantly simplify the player evaluation process, making team selection more efficient.

Secondly, these advanced apps provide coaches with numerous opportunities to implement skill development strategies, enhancing their coaching capabilities.

Lastly, evaluations, facilitated by sports communication apps and sports team management apps, can serve as the foundation for players to concentrate on their individual development. This holistic approach benefits the team and empowers each player to grow and thrive.

Evaluation Tips:

  • The more game-like situations, the better the hockey evaluation.
  • Ensure data is collected at the evaluation itself, not through memory later on.
  • Use a mobile evaluation app as opposed to pen and paper. This ensures easy and accurate evaluations of athletes.
  • Ensure skills being assessed are clear to evaluators. For example “agility” could mean different things to different people.
  • Have a solid check-in process. Using the right team management software and evaluation software together can help ensure things are smooth and organized for evaluators, players, and volunteers.
  • Make sure you understand how many stations will be required.
  • Know how much time each evaluator will need to measure athletes at each station.
  • Use evaluation software or ice hockey apps to help eliminate the evaluator bias. Evaluator bias can often have a negative effect on players. Having software like “SkillShark” will help eliminate evaluator bias by using normalized data and automatically calculate scores.
  • Ensure you architect an evaluation that will test the right skills while finding efficient ways to provide feedback to your athletes.
  • Use the player data that you collect. The data from your evaluations will provide invaluable insights, that can be used to strategize at every practice and game.

Evaluation Template

The template is one of the most important pieces to get right during an evaluation. You will generally have two main categories (Positional and Goalie) to identify your players. Under each category, decide exactly what skills will be measured (this is fully customizable by your organization). Shown here are Passing, Skating, Character, Vision and

Below, is a pre-built template taken from SkillShark Software. Coaches can easily edit this to measure any skill and metric, paired with any desired unit of measurement with built-in stopwatches for timed skates. When the template is built from the software, the coach would then evaluate players using a mobile phone or tablet through the app.

Within each skill, determine exactly what metrics will be measured. Many MHAs may have just a single metric under each skill to keep things simple.

Steps to Ensure a Smooth Evaluation Process

As coaches, we know the importance of planning out everything we do, and a good evaluation is
no different. The key things every organization should know well in advance of an evaluation are:

A. How do I assign numbers?

Pre-assign numbers (i.e., 1-100) and have players come prepared with that number pinned to a shirt or written on their leg. Using hockey tape to create numbers usually does not work well as the tape falls off leaving no way to identify them. Before the evaluation, make sure you have uni-sized numbered bibs and pre-assign them to your players.

Hand out a unique-sized bib/number upon arrival at the event. This requires a registration station where someone records the number/color of the bib provided and records it on the website.

B. Do I have enough people/equipment to run the drills at each station?

Now with technology like SkillShark, having more evaluators doesn’t mean increased data entry time into spreadsheets. You can have as many helpers as you like, and you have instant access to the data once the evaluation is over.

C. How many evaluators should I have at each station?

If measuring objective data (i.e., puck handling, skating times, etc.) you may only need one evaluator but if measuring subjective data on athletes, you’ll want to have more than one set of eyes.

D. How much time will the evaluators require to accurately measure the performance of
each athlete?

Knowing how long players need to spend at each station is important to ensure scores are not missed, and that both kids and evaluators have enough time to ensure accuracy.

E. With the method that I plan to run each drill, will the evaluators have enough time to
record a score, and then see the next athlete fully?

People running the drills should communicate with the evaluators to get the right cadence.

F. Is there a reliable network connection at the location of the event?

SkillShark works in both online and offline mode. If you’re concerned about the network, simply download and open the app ahead of time. This will sync your evaluation before you leave the house and have evaluators do the same. You will then be able to easily gather and sync data to the SkillShark website when you get home or near a cell tower.

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Sample Hockey Evaluation Process Example

The following example we will show consists of the criteria below:

  • This group is for U11 kids.
  • There are 90 athletes in this age group.
  • To keep things simple, we will not focus on evaluating the goalies.
  • Only 30 skaters at a time will be allowed on the ice at one time.
  • 6 teams are being formed ranked best to worst.
  • Skaters will have 4 skating sessions, after each of which, will be sorted
    from best to worst to determine the top players

1. Player Upload

The image below shows a simple player import using SkillShark Evaluation Software. If you like, you can visit the SkillShark website, to start your free trial account and follow along.

Before we import the players, we will use one of the 4 ‘Custom Fields’ SkillShark offers and call this ‘Group’ that each athlete starts out in (Day 1, Group A, B, and C) making sure to data map this field to Custom Label #1 when we import. This can then be exported as a spreadsheet and re-imported when all players are added.

Here is an example of how to use custom fields below:

Once the import is complete, we now need to take these 3 sets of kids (Day 1, Group A, B and
C) and assign each to their own list. Simply start with any of the 3 groups and select the top checkbox on the player page to select them.

Assigning players to ‘Lists’ allows evaluators to quickly filter their view to only see the group
of they are assigned when using SkillShark’s Evaluation App.

The difference between teams and lists

Here are some key basics to understand about each of these terms:

Teams vs lists

  • Teams represent either the final team the athlete will play on or for temporary sorting on the way to reaching his/her final team
  • Any team can be exported out to a Team Management System (i.e. TeamSnap or SportsEngine)
  • Any player can be assigned to one or multiple lists
  • Lists are used within the SkillShark app by the evaluators to help in filtering the view of athletes

2. Event Creation

Now we head to the events screen, and we create 4 events to represent each of the 4 skating sessions for the duration of the camp.

Because we have tagged kids to Lists, each evaluator can choose to filter their view of which
group (A, B or C) they are about to evaluate. As well as the specific skill they are about to focus
on (e.g., Skating)

3. Assigning Jersey Colors and Numbers

When players are uploaded into SkillShark, a jersey number and colour will automatically be assigned if this information is not provided beforehand.

Coaches can easily update player jerseys in bulk by colour and number. If needing to
manually assign each kid a new number independently, you can easily do this at any time in the software.

4. Assign Players to Teams

It’s easy to assign players to teams, using the data collected from your first evaluation (see image below). You can then easily export and import teams from team management software like SportsEngine or TeamSnap directly to SkillShark if desired.

Trade in the player evaluation forms for the SkillShark app. Evaluate players from any mobile device or tablet, and save over 50+ hours by eliminating the need for data entry into spreadsheets.


  • Easily Upload Players & Create Teams
  • Use Built-In Stopwatch for timed skates
  • View Instant Evaluation Results
Editing player details in the Skillshark app.


Running Successful Hockey Tryouts and Player Evaluations

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What are the common challenges coaches face when evaluating youth hockey players?

Coaches often encounter several challenges during the evaluation process, including: Lack of formal feedback for athletes after evaluations. Time-consuming data entry into spreadsheets. Parent dissatisfaction with placement decisions and a lack of information on player development needs.

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How can technology, such as the SkillShark App, help streamline the hockey player evaluation process?

Modern technology, like the SkillShark App, simplifies player evaluations by providing instant performance report cards to young athletes. This eliminates the need for days of data entry, allowing coaches to focus on in-depth analysis. Parents can also gain insights into their child’s development needs. It optimizes sports communication and player assessment.

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What criteria should youth hockey players be evaluated on during tryouts?

Youth hockey players should be evaluated based on criteria such as physicality, technical skills, hockey sense, knowledge, adaptability, attitude, and teamwork.

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What are some key tips for conducting effective hockey player evaluations?

Here are some tips for conducting effective hockey player evaluations: Incorporate game-like situations into evaluations. Collect data during the evaluation rather than relying on memory. Use a mobile evaluation app instead of pen and paper for accurate assessments. Ensure that skills being assessed are clearly defined. Establish a smooth check-in process for evaluators, players, and volunteers. Plan the number of stations required and the time needed for each station. Use evaluation software or ice hockey apps to eliminate evaluator bias. Design evaluations that test the right skills and provide efficient feedback to athletes. Utilize player data collected during evaluations for practice and game strategies.

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How can I create an effective evaluation template for youth hockey players?

Creating an effective evaluation template involves categorizing players, defining the skills to be measured, and determining specific metrics under each skill. SkillShark Software offers customizable templates that coaches can edit to measure any skill and metric, paired with any desired unit of measurement.

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What steps should organizations take to ensure a smooth hockey player evaluation process?

Organizations should plan ahead by:
A. Deciding how to assign player numbers for easy identification.
B. Establishing the check-in process, including staffing and equipment needs.
C. Determining the skills to be measured and the time required for each athlete.
D. Planning for the number of stations needed for different skill testing.
E. Performing a roll call to track athlete presence.
F. Ensuring evaluators have enough time to record scores and observe each athlete fully.
G. Confirming reliable network connectivity if needed. Technology like SkillShark can simplify these processes.

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Can you provide an example of a youth hockey player evaluation process?

Certainly! Here’s an example of a youth hockey player evaluation process:
– Identify the age group (e.g., U11).
– Determine the number of athletes (e.g., 90 skaters).
– Assign athletes to groups (e.g., Day 1, Group A, B, and C).
– Create events representing each skating session. Reassign jersey colors/numbers based on evaluations.
– Assign players to teams based on collected data from the first evaluation.
– Export and import teams to team management software if desired.

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How can coaches update jersey colors and numbers for players on their new teams?

Coaches can easily update jersey colors and numbers for players on their new teams using the SkillShark App. This can be done in bulk or individually, either in the software or on-the-fly using the app.

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How does SkillShark help coaches save time during player evaluations?

SkillShark streamlines the player evaluation process by allowing coaches to upload players, create teams, use built-in stopwatches for timed assessments, and view instant evaluation results. This eliminates the need for time-consuming data entry into spreadsheets and speeds up the evaluation process. Trade in the player evaluation forms for the SkillShark app. Evaluate players from any mobile device or tablet, and save over 50+ hours by eliminating the need for data entry into spreadsheets.

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Where can I start using the SkillShark App for hockey player evaluations?

You can start using the SkillShark App by visiting and signing up for a free trial account. The app offers efficient player evaluations and valuable insights for coaches and organizations.

Neil Anderson

As an engineer from the UofS, I’ve spent 30 years focused on optimizing industrial processes like mines or manufacturing facilities… combine that with my love of playing or coaching competitive softball the majority of my life, that’s where I saw the need for SkillShark. I took over the U18 Softball program in 2016 and saw the evaluation process was archaic and the way gathered data that was being used to decide team placement could be vastly improved.