California Rubber

California’s and Nevada’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

Behind the Bench: ‘Tis the season – tryouts season


Tryouts – where parents worry, kids stress, and coaches just want it over.

It truly is the worst time of the year. Where should you play? Who should you play for? What coach is good? Where are those top players going? Where will my kid develop?

The list goes on.

I was recently speaking to a player trying to make the jump to juniors (NAHL/USHL). I was speaking with his dad about how he just doesn’t seem to be getting scouted and talked to as much as they had hoped.

Fortunately, I know the parents well and they sent me some videos to watch and give my two cents.  

After years of watching kids, it is what I suspected. The kid plays absolutely FINE.

He is a defenseman, and he plays well. Nothing amazing. He is positionally OK, but not great. He skates alright, moves alright, and overall plays alright. He keeps up and makes good plays here and there. He fits in just fine. He is good.

Here’s the thing… nobody is looking for fine.

Scouts are looking for “something.”

While watching hockey and scouting, the game often turns into a sea of gray. Even the NHL. Everyone kind of fits in. That said, in the NHL, “fitting in” means you make exceptionally high-level plays, consistently and are among the elite of the world.  But…most are still just “average” for that level.  

Most guys still just “fit in.”

Then there are the few that stand out, even at that level. McDavid, Eichel, Marchessault, to name a few.

Ask yourself, why do they stand out?

There is a reason certain players stand out. Maybe they are great skaters, have unbelievable hands, make highly consistent or fantastic plays, or maybe they are just the meanest dudes out there.

To stand out, you need “something.” What is your “something?”

Coaches want to win. Even myself. I couldn’t really care less about winning without doing it in the “right” way, but I still prefer winning 10 times compared to losing. I would rather win than lose every single day of the week.

When you’re trying out for teams or being scouted, coaches and scouts are looking for something. What are you bringing to the table? Are you bringing speed? Skills? Toughness? Reliability?

How will you stand out from that sea of gray on the ice?

Coaches want to win, and they want people that will help them win. If you are one of those kids, you’re making any and every team you try out for. If you just blend in, then it makes it really hard for a coach to actually want you. Maybe you can fill a role and get a job done but they don’t “need” you. You want to be a “need” player.

So this tryout season, when you are going out for your team, figure out how you stand out.

What do you do better than other kids and/or what can you do to stand out amongst the sea of gray?

Do that, and you can make any team you would like. 

Noah Babin played NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Notre Dame and currently coaches with the San Diego Jr. Gulls youth hockey program.


(May 23, 2023)

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