By Ross Forman
Being successful in tryouts is fairly simple. But so too is having a sub-par tryout.
Any player at any level who wants to get noticed must showcase hard-work, aggressiveness and discipline. “When the puck is loose, watching to see who is first to jump on it, (or the) first person to jump on the ice for their shift and the player who hustles off to get ready for the next shift is always something we look for,” said Sean Freeman, a longtime coach of multiple levels in the northern suburbs.
Freeman, 40, is entering his 16th season leading the Highland Park High School varsity and this season he also will coach the Falcons Squirt AA and Falcons Mighty Mites teams. He previously has also coached Midget Major, Midget Minor and more.
Freeman said there truly isn’t too much difference between tryouts for high school teams and tryouts for youth teams, though high school tryouts “are much more physical” and have a potential social impact of not making the team as your peers.
As for negatives in tryouts, regardless of level, Freeman was straight-forward and direct: being a hot dog on the ice, or puck hog, or simply being lazy.
“Take it serious (during tryouts); be mentally sharp and physically willing to lay it all out there; (there’s) no reason to save anything for tomorrow,” Freeman said. “If you put your time in over the summer, it will immediately show.”
Freeman talks from experience. His playing career started in the USHL with the Sioux City Musketeers and the Wisconsin Capitols, then to Lake Forest College, and then into the UHL, ECHL and elsewhere.
“The will, passion and backbone to do whatever is needed to obtain your goal and achieve what you set out for,” is what stands out from personal tryouts, Freeman said. “No matter who you think you are, or what you think your skill-set is, you need to do whatever it takes to make the team and to make that team better. Once you earn your way on to the team, you can on a daily basis prove to the coaching staff and your teammates who you are and what you really can do. Nobody should be ever tell you what your limitations are. If you give 100 percent and can look yourself eye to eye in the mirror at the end of the day, you will know your limitations without anyone else telling you.
“There are no shortcuts and you should never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”
Freeman can fly under the radar before skating in tryouts, then shine. Case in point, the Lederer brothers – Kyle and Colton. They played house league their entire lives, but landed on Highland Park’s varsity, ultimately becoming team captains and all-stars.
But what if you don’t make the top team?
“Life is a long staircase,” Freeman said. “If you keep climbing up the staircase, even one stair at a time, you will eventually get where you want to go. It is the players and people in life who do not continue to climb the stairs that level off and get passed by.”
Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years, and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.