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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 an effective 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, 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.

Why evaluate?

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.

What should you evaluate youth hockey players on?

Youth hockey players should be evaluated by several criteria including physicality, technical skill, hockey sense, knowledge, adaptability, attitude, and teamwork. 

There are a handful of key factors to consider when evaluating players.

  • Your ability to rank competencies and provide ranking information within a ice hockey app will help you better place players on teams. Having evaluation software will do this automatically for you.

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 your 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 use 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.

Biggest 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?
o The three most common methods for assigning athletes a number so they can be
easily identifiable to evaluators are:

  • Pre-assign numbers (e.g 1-100) and have that 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. What will the check-in process look like?
think about how many people you need working the desk and whether you need power cords to power laptops or charging stations.

C. What exactly will I be measuring from the athletes?
Make sure to understand how much time each evaluator will have for each athlete when the drill is being performed.

D. How many stations will that require for various skill testing? i.e., Skating, Shooting, or Goalie

E. Perform a roll call so evaluators know which athletes are present.

F. Do I have enough space to run all the stations I need at once or will I need to split into
multiple sessions?

G. 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.

H. How many evaluators will 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.

I. 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 both kids and evaluators have enough time to ensure accuracy.

J. With the method that I plan to run each drill, will the evaluators have enough time to
record a score, then see the next athlete fully?
People running the drills should communicate with the evaluators to get the right cadence.

K. 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, have evaluators do the same. You will then be able to easily gather data, then sync data to the SkillShark website when you get home or near a cell tower.

hockey testimonial skillshark

Sample Hockey Evaluation Process Example

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

  • This group is for our U11 kids
  • There are 90 athletes in this age group.
  • We will not focus on evaluating the goalies, to keep things simple.
  • 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 (1,2,3 and 4) after each of which, they will be sorted
    from best to worst to determine the top players

Player Upload

The image below shows a simple player import using SkillShark Evaluation Software. If you like, you can visit, 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 quick filter their view to only see the group
of they are assigned when using SkillShark’s Evaluation App.

The Difference Between Teams & Lists

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

  • 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

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)

Re-Assigning Jersey Colors/Numbers

If you want to be able to bulk assign jersey colors or numbers to the kids on their new ‘team’,
this can be done on the Players/Teams page.

Coaches can easily ‘Update Team Jerseys’ color only or color and number if you want. If needing to
manually assign each kid a new number independently you can easily do this at any time in the software or on the fly using the SkillShark app.

After Skate #1

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 softwares 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.

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.