This week, U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has to whittle his roster down to the final 23 that he will submit to FIFA to play in this summer’s World Cup. I can’t imagine having to choose the 23 best American soccer players from across the country from a pool of millions of kids of all ages that now play the beautiful game.
Tryouts are an opportunity for existing players to shore up their spot on the roster and new players to get their chance at a new start. It’s a stressful time for everyone as sleep is lost, relationships are strained, and dreams interrupted. They’re a necessary part of a competitive sports culture to encourage consistency, improvement, and challenge to players at every level.
In all reality, the youth player’s role in tryouts is the easiest. You do your best to prepare yourself leading up to the evaluation process, show up for however many tryouts your sport requires, and give it your best shot. After that you have no control over the decision process and maybe a limited role on where you go next. If you know in your heart that you did your best that’s all anyone can ask from you.
As a coach, the challenge can be more daunting, and especially in a club or travel situation where the political influence can be great. In addition to preparing for and executing the evaluation process, a coach has to balance his own philosophy with a sometimes demanding parent group. It’s during this time communication is key to establish expectations for the players and the parents and to discuss openly the strengths and deficiencies with the players that land a roster spot as well as those that don’t.
Parents really are the key to having a successful evaluation period. The parents that have a realistic view of their child’s abilities can use this time to guide their player through the rough waters and help them learn some life lessons through the process that will serve them well in the years to come. They can prepare their athlete with expectations from the tryout process and the decisions they have to make from the selection decision, but the most important role they play is to provide love and support, regardless of the outcome.
It’s important to keep the world of sports in perspective. We stressed for years about our two older sons’ sports careers and over-analyzed and second-guessed every decision we made along the way. At the end of the day, neither is playing competitive sports in college, other than in a fraternity league, yet sports remain an important part of their lives as exercise, as combatants and more importantly as fans. One graduates this week with a double major and starts his career and the other is focused on his academics and uses sports purely for recreation. They’re much better role models to their younger brother because of it.
Wayne Gretzky once said, “The highest compliment you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day, that I never dog it.”
If you learn nothing else from the tryout process, leave the field knowing you gave it your best.
Robert “Bird” Brown’s rec sports column runs every Sunday. Reach him at 410-857-8552 email@example.com.