Tryouts, whether for the first time or for the most select team, can be intimidating. Formal tryouts may require signing in and pinning a number on the t-shirt. Kids naturally look around to evaluate their competition and many will think, “What am I doing here? There are 45 players who are all better than me.” That’s the day a player really finds out what they’re made of, and it may be the day they really become a competitor.
It takes a lot of courage to risk trying out. Here are some hints to handle tryouts well.
I. Nobody Can Do it All
There’s a lot to being a good player. Everybody has strengths AND weaknesses. Some might be more aggressive, have better ball skills, shoot better, or defend better. Some run faster and others have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Nobody is the best at all these things, but the coach is looking for the best mix of these characteristics in the players he will choose.
Coach probably has an evaluation sheet. Here are sample categories a coach might use.
- Ball Control
- Passing Accuracy
- Strongest Position
- Right or left footed
- Overall athleticism
- General Comments
II. Come Prepared: Work Hard on Your Strengths and Harder on Your Weaknesses
Ask yourself, What does the game demand of a good player? Where are you strong? Where are you weak? Then … Work on your strengths; they’re likely what will get you on the team. Work twice as hard on your weakness(es); they’re likely what would keep you from getting on the team.
- Speed? Run sprints. Short repeats of 10-12 secs, with gamelike speed and very short rest.
- Endurance? Use longer repeats of 20-60 secs at a slightly slower pace.
- Ball skills? Repetition builds touch, accuracy and confidence. Work until you can do them without looking, left and right.
- Effort and work rate are in your control. Your effort off the ball/hustle, coachability, attention, good decision-making and poise under pressure all count. Use your head, play your game and keep your cool.
III. Trust Yourself: Don’t Look Around
It’s good to be a little nervous, but don’t psych yourself out by looking around. Pay attention to your own game, stay focused on what you know you can do and do it well. If you make a mistake, recognize it and come back stronger. Everyone makes mistakes; coaches are looking for what you do next.
Lighten the tension by making the choice to have fun. Meet other kids and learn a few things. Then act like the awesome game you’re playing today is no big deal – just the way you always play. By no means turn and look to see if the coaches were watching you when you just left that other kid in the dust. Be consistent, play your best and trust that, over the course of the tryout, you will get the coaches’ attention.
IV. Increase the Chance of Being Noticed: Dress for Success
If you want to get noticed, dress that way. Wear something that stands out. Make it easy for coaches to distinguish you from other players. Everybody wears a white t-shirt and black or white socks. Why not wear a tie dye shirt, orange socks or pigtails if it suits your style?
V. Be Smart About Details and Follow Up
- Will the coach contact you after the tryout? When and by what means?
- How many sessions will there be? Can you come to more than one? If so, be sure to attend as many as you can to show your interest.
- Is the coach looking to fill a particular playing spot or two? Have a preferred playing style or system? It’s fair game to ask about this.
- Will everyone who tried out be contacted or only those who made it?
- Be prepared for the “I’m sorry but we don’t have a spot for you” phone call. It’s the rare player who never gets the “turn down” call. Ask what you can work on for next time. Then thank the coach, and start preparing for next time.
The coach may see something in you they can work with even if you’re far from the best player at those tryouts. You can’t control whether or not you’ll be chosen, but you can adopt the attitude that the tryout process will make you better. That makes it way more likely you’ll make the team. If not this time, then next time around.
Good luck and play well.