How Do You Start Your Pre-Season?

Frank Hubley has been coaching for over 30 years, mostly at the high school level. His teams are always competitive and hard working. Frank is an educator and has a Bachelor of Physical Education degree from the University of New Brunswick. Here is how he handles tryouts.

How do you get your tryouts started?  Do you just give out the dates and times and then have players show up for the first ice session?  There are many ways that coaches do the tryout process and it varies between age groups.

Here is one way that I use and find to be very effective.

I have a player meeting prior to going on the ice, typically 5-7 days in advance.  This gives the players and parents some time to think about the things I have said.  At this meeting:

  • players are given the ice times for tryouts.
  • no guarantee anyone a position on the team.
  • I then provide them with an overview of my expectations for them, if they make the team.
  • Players are given a brochure to take home for their parents to read, along with a permission slip.  Why do I do this? The brochure gives the players and parents information on practice times, tournaments, off ice, finances and fundraising.
  • Parents are asked to attend a meeting prior to tryouts.  This meeting is typically 2-3 days prior to the first tryout.

When the parents come to their meeting they now have information on which they can ask questions – if they wish. The brochure serves as a very valuable information tool for me.

At the parent meeting I inform the parents:

  • that ice time is not something I will discuss
  • I am not there to please them but to coach their son
  • they will all contribute to the fundraising projects and that
  • I am the coach- I run the show.

I believe it to be very important for parents to know my philosophy and how the team will be run prior to allowing their son to tryout for the team.  Could you imagine a parent not knowing the cost of playing hockey and their son makes the team and they can’t afford it!

Having a meeting prior to tryouts and gets rid of many problems.  You lay out your beliefs and philosophy.  If they agree, then you have them. If not, then you get the people who want and believe in what you are doing.  As I tell them, 38 students have signed up to try out for the team.  If you as a parent do not like what I say and only 20 players show up on the ice, then I only have to release one player.

Over time I have found this to be a good way of approaching the tryout process.  Everyone knows up front how the ship is going to sail and who is the captain.  I believe this to be very important.

Once the tryouts are finished I have another meeting with the parents whose sons made the team and lay out plans for the year.

Not every league or team can do this but at the High School where I coach this is the way I do it and it works for me.

My suggestion is be up front and firm and things will fall in place.

Gearing Up for the Pre-Season

You are either already in your pre-season or it is just around the corner. Season plans should have been in place by now, along with the regular season schedule and practice sessions. Are we excited or are we panicking?

What did you learn from previous pre-seasons that you will use to make this year the best ever? Are you going to have a catchy slogan to rally the player around?

Here is an excerpt from The Hockey Conditioning Handbook that will give an overview of your conditioning objectives and areas of emphasis. The book also contains information for on-ice and off-ice training and programs for you to use. Go to the Store tab at the top of the page to buy the book.

Pre-Season means on-ice workouts have started but league games have not. It’s your last chance to get all your conditioning ready for the ultimate test – game time.

Pre-Season Conditioning Objectives: 1)      Top Up Off-Season Levels

2)      On-Ice Transfer of Conditioning

The first part of the pre-season usually has 2-3 weeks of dry land training for ‘topping up’ your off-season training. The off-season foundations must then be adapted to the ice. Your running legs get switched to skating legs. This is also the time to incorporate specific high energy and explosive energy training. Dry land work can be done to help develop these energy systems initially. But it will be essential to ultimately train these two systems on ice as well.

During the pre-season a player should be able to gradually reduce his aerobic workouts from 5-6 per week to 2-3 per week, with at least 1 of these being done on the ice. Players should put their strength training gains to use while practicing skills and reduce regular strength workouts to 1-2 per week. Flexibility work should still be done as a ‘loosen up’ in warm ups and as a ‘tension relaxer’ at the end of all workouts. Otherwise, players will start to lose the flexibility gained from off-season training. Less time can be spent on flexibility now. One or 2 repeats of an exercise for each major muscle group should suffice at this stage.

High energy training is difficult to do on ice psychologically because of the combination of intensity and time (very hard for 40-90 seconds) needed. Skills drills are not easily adapted to these training requirements. For this reason, optimum high energy work (60-90 seconds) is easiest done off-ice. Specific high energy work (30-60 seconds/a typical shift length) should be done on ice.

Explosive energy work should be done daily, primarily on ice. This system will be a key to quick skill execution during games.

Pre-Season Training Emphasis:

1)      Foundations On-Ice

2)      High Energy Training

3)      Explosive Energy Training

Use the pre-season to finish getting completely physically prepared to play games. All physical aspects of conditioning must be transferred effectively to the ice. Here are samples of pre-season training sessions for both on-ice and off-ice work.

Do you have your overall goals and objectives set for your pre-season? Are you rebuilding or just fine tuning around a core of returning players?

What is your player selection criteria? Do your staff and the players trying out for the team know the criteria? They darn well should. Is fitness testing included?

Use the pre-season wisely. It is an ideal time to set the standards, discipline, culture and environment for your team for the season.