How to Perform Training Camp Player Evaluations

Dan Arel

Dan Arel is the Director of Coaching Education and Development for the San Diego Oilers and head coach of their 12U A team. He was also named the 2020 San Diego Gulls Foundation's Coach of the Year. You can email him at [email protected]

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The skills and abilities you looking for vary from level to level.
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Training camp can be a stressful time of the season. For some, this comes post tryouts and you’re getting your players ready, for others it’s a further evaluation to see who plays on your Varsity or Junior Varsity, or even up and down your A/B or AA/AAA system. 

The real question, regardless of your scenario, is what skills and abilities are you looking for, and that can vary from level to level. Regardless of the drills, you’re looking for certain characteristics of a player. Some of these will be skill based, and some will simply be character based. For the even younger groups, it can even be based on the player’s parents.

Picking Parents

Before we jump into players, let’s quickly pause and talk about parents. If you’re selecting from the 8U – 14U levels, I cannot stress the importance of getting to know the parents. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to at the 14U+ levels, but as these players age up, they become more in control of their futures and ability to talk to the coaches. That said, these same ideas apply to all ages.

Talk to the parents of the players you’re working with and see what the parents goals for their kids are, their own philosophy and what makes a good player, team, and even coach. Be up front with them about your own philosophy. Do you sit kids for behaviour, merit, skill, or do you roll lines no matter what and ensure no one is shorted a shift? Communicate with parents.

If a parent gives you serious red flags, remember you could be answering to them all season. Make sure it’s worth it.

8 and Under

I have attended a lot of U8 tryouts and camps and one mistake I see a lot are coaches trying to pick the next Sidney Crosby. The truth is, you should be picking 8U players based on a few factors.

Age – Keep the first and second year together as much as possible. This allows the group to age up together and can help prepare second year players for moving to full ice. 

Skill – While age is important, so is the ability to stop, turn, and control the puck. If your program has an A/B level for U8, you don’t want someone who is just starting to be on a team that almost guarantees they never see the puck and spend the whole time skating in circles. Ensure teams are balanced skill wise so that like-skilled players are together so they can develop with each other.

That’s it. Other than that, you just want to make sure the kids all make a team and have fun every single time they touch the ice. 

10 and Under

The skills and abilities you looking for vary from level to level . . .

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