Lacing the skates for a hockey tryout can be tough. Whether it’s cracking the line-up on the local rep team or an NHL training camp, it always seems like a life-or-death ordeal – and that’s usually the biggest hurdle.
“I think one of the things I would suggest is not to get too overwhelmed by the whole experience,” said Rod Brathwaite, Manager of Canucks Centre for BC Hockey. “Think of it as an opportunity to improve your game, and go out there and have fun. I know it’s a challenging time in your career, and your life and you think its one of the last days of hockey, but if you really think about it, it’s probably one of your first days.”
Brathwaite knows hockey camps all too well. As head of the Canucks Centre for BC Hockey, Brathwaite spends much of his time focusing on the development of players, coaches, officials, administrators and parents throughout British Columbia. But the experience doesn’t end there. ALL IN THE FAMILY
Brathwaite, younger brother of former NHL goalie Fred Brathwaite, began playing hockey as a kid, falling in love with the game at a young age. Growing up in Ottawa, Ont, he played on outdoor rinks until age eight when he made the jump to organized hockey.
Always a strong skater as his General Motors Place co-workers can attest, Brathwaite has good memories of his days battling in hockey tryouts, and though he’s a wizard with the puck, he didn’t always make the cut.
“There were some years I didn’t make the team. I played multiple sports; I played football and soccer, and the coaches would always try to say ‘you can’t play both sports.’ And I had a lot more direct friends who played football, so I would go play football and then I’d leave the hockey behind.
“One of the things me and my brother laugh about is that back in the day you would come in and you would register, and they would give you a number, and you would put that number on your helmet. And after the tryouts were done the coach would say ‘okay everyone look on the sheet, if your number is on the sheet, you’ve made the team, or you’ve made it so far, and if your number isn’t on the sheet, report to practice for the next level down.’”
Brathwaite’s days of tryouts and cuts are now behind him, at least from a players’ perspective. Now, as coach of a minor hockey in West Vancouver, he’s getting the view from the other side of the clipboard.
Having seen the process from both sides, Brathwaite says he tries to be more open when it comes to explaining to a player why they didn’t make the team, which wasn’t always the case. “It’s not an easy thing to do. But I think today’s coaches are much more helpful in explaining to players what they need to work on and where they can improve.” INTRINSIC VALUE
Some things haven’t changed. Brathwaite says that just like when he was young, attitude is sometimes just as big of a factor in making a team as skill.
“It’s a difficult decision, there are a lot of variables and it’s not always what the person brings on the ice. Maybe it’s what they could bring to the team, as well as what they can bring on the ice.”
“If you look around the league in hockey history, there are a lot of players who were really good players, but sometimes they were the cancer in the room or whatever. And you can ask probably any coach from any level; sometimes you might want to try the more skilled player for a while, but when you look down the road, you’re better off taking the player who wasn’t as good, but who would have been more of a team player.”
Whether an extremely skilled player or an average player with great work ethic, Brathwaite believes that the path to success in both cases involves letting go of the nerves, and learning to skate circles around everyone else.
“I think maybe the biggest [mistake] is fear: they let fear overtake them and they get too wound up about the whole situation…When you’re in atom or peewee - in the younger years of hockey - it gets too built up. It seems that if you don’t make the team, it almost feels like it’s the last day of your life, but in reality, you should be using the experience as a tool to help you achieve more, and maybe prepare yourself for the next year.”
What’s Brathwaite’s biggest tip for working on you game and making the team?
“Skating is the key. Before you get there, go work on your skating. It’s similar to golf; if you have a perfect golf swing your game is much easier. If you can skate as well as you can, and you keep improving on your skating, it’ll make the game so much easier for you.”
For more helpful hockey resources check out Canucks.com/grassrootshockey
, and BChockey.net