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Top Tips for Evaluating Youth Hockey Players

Top Tips for Evaluating Youth Hockey Players

What are the most efficient strategies for evaluating youth hockey players at tryouts? 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 efficiently conduct hockey player evaluations, some of the biggest challenges coaches often face, and what you can do to streamline and improve your evaluation process today.

Problems With Evaluating Youth Hockey Players

As a coach, the 3 biggest areas that I saw in evaluating youth hockey players are:

  • Athletes almost never received any formal feedback on their performance after an evaluation.
  • Coaches spend countless hours doing data entry into spreadsheets and then have to try to make sense of the data.
  • Parents often feel dissatisfied regarding their kids’ placement decisions. However, coaches rarely provide parents with information to give them a better understanding of the criteria used to make the decision.

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 hockey coach software offers solutions to streamline even the most intricate tasks. When evaluators score players 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 analyzing data and providing feedback using pre-generated reports!

Moreover, parents can have a clear understanding of what their child needs to work on to be considered for next year’s top team. It’s a win-win situation made possible through the use of cutting-edge ice hockey apps like SkillShark.

Evaluating youth hockey players using software

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

Evaluations can be complex and come with many hurdles. We have discovered a large amount of these complexities can be solved 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 have developed a hockey player evaluation app 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.

The Link Between Software and Player Evaluation

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

Secondly, coaches can track their players’ skill progression over a series of evaluations and integrate the proper drills into practices that will enhance players’ abilities.

Lastly, individual feedback provided to athletes through hockey coaching software 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.

How Can Coaches Evaluate Youth Hockey Players?

When evaluating youth hockey players, ensure you design an evaluation template that will test the right skills, such as skating, shooting, game sense, and passing. Secondly, take proper measures to eliminate evaluator bias and ensure that the skills being assessed are clear to your evaluators for accurate scoring. Some coaches even create a hockey practice plan for their athletes within the software.

8 tips for conducting hockey evaluations:

  1. Ensure skills being assessed are clear to evaluators. For example “agility” could mean different things to different people.
  2. Use a mobile evaluation app as opposed to pen and paper. This ensures easy and accurate evaluations of athletes.
  3. Have a solid check-in process. Using the right team management software and evaluation software together can help ensure the process is smooth and organized.
  4. Make sure you understand how many stations will be required.
  5. Know how much time each evaluator will need to measure athletes at each station.
  6. Use evaluation software to help eliminate the evaluator bias. Evaluation software, such as SkillShark, will help eliminate evaluator bias by using normalized data.
  7. Ensure you architect an evaluation that will test the right skills.
  8. 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.
Hockey evaluation tips

Hockey Tryout Evaluation Template

A hockey tryout evaluation 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 below are passing, skating, character, vision and shooting skills.

Youth hockey player evaluation template

Above is a pre-built template taken from SkillShark. Coaches can easily edit this template to evaluate any skill and metric most important to them when evaluating youth hockey players. Within each skill, coaches can determine exactly what metrics will be measured.

Steps to Ensure a Smooth Evaluation Process

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

A. How do I assign numbers to each player?

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. 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 you are measuring subjective data on athletes, you will want to have 2-3 evaluators on that station.

C. 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.

D. 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. However, using SkillShark’s evaluation software, evaluators can quickly enter scores using their mobile devices or tablets, giving them enough time to enter data accurately.

E. 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.

Hockey coach looking out on the ice

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.
  • 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.

Before we import the players, we will use one of the four ‘Custom Fields’ SkillShark offers and call this the ‘Group’ that each athlete starts in (i.e., Day 1, Group A, B, and C). We will make 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.

Hockey player list in Excel

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

Custom fields for hockey tryouts

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. Assigning players to ‘Lists’ allows evaluators to quickly filter their view to only see the group they are assigned.

Player lists in SkillShark athlete evaluation app
Segmenting athletes by player lists

Above is an example of how player lists can be used to segment athletes. Evaluators will have the ability to score athletes by groups rather than using one large master list for evaluations, which can get confusing to use.

The difference between teams and lists

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

Teams vs lists

  • Teams represent the final team the athlete will play on.
  • Any team can be exported out to a Team Management System (i.e. TeamSnap or SportsEngine)
  • Lists are used by the evaluators to help filter athletes for easy scoring on the day of evaluations.
  • Players can be assigned to one or multiple lists.

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.

Event creation in SkillShark hockey app

Because we have tagged the athletes 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)

Selecting from a skill to score hockey athletes on

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.

Assigning jersey colours to hockey athletes

4. Assign Players to Teams

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

Drafting hockey players onto teams

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 a built-in stopwatch for timed skates
  • View instant evaluation results
SkillShark jersey selection

Hockey Evaluations Made Easy

Did you know, you can now trade in the player evaluation forms and use the SkillShark app?

Evaluate hockey players from any mobile device or tablet.  Save over 50+ hours by eliminating the need for data entry into spreadsheets.

  • Customizable templates
  • Instant player report cards
  • Enhanced evaluations with video
Hockey evaluation app

Want to learn more?

Find out how SkillShark can help you seamlessly conduct your next hockey evaluation.

FAQ — 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.

Modern technology, like the SkillShark App simplifies player evaluations by providing instant performance report cards to young athletes. Parents can also gain insights into their child’s development needs.

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

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.
• Utilize player data collected during evaluations for practice and game strategies.

SkillShark streamlines the player evaluation process by allowing coaches to upload players, create teams, access pre-filled evaluation templates, and view instant evaluation results in report format.

SkillShark offers tools and features that can enhance the evaluation process in hockey tryouts. It provides coaches with an efficient and transparent way to evaluate players and offer feedback. Coaches can evaluate players on any hockey-related skill, from passing delivery, forward skating, edge work, shot velocity, and more.

Create an evaluation template well ahead of the tryouts. Hockey players should be evaluated on their skating, puck skills, shooting, work ethic, and dexterity.

A practice plan is crucial for skill development, team cohesion, fitness, and strategic gameplay. It ensures players grow both individually and as a team.

Focus on fundamental skills like skating, shooting, passing, incorporate team-building exercises, fitness drills, and strategic gameplay elements.

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.