Whether you are a young athlete, parent, or coach, the process of trying out and being selected or cut from a team brings many hours of stressful times as we wait for the decision to be made and then communicated to us on our status.
As we go through this process, the associated feelings of joy and self doubt cloud our perspectives on where these decisions fit into our lives.
As a parent, taking that call from the coach and communicating the message to your child is as difficult as many conversations you will have. Even coaches struggle with the process of selecting their team members and communicating the message to the player. At the high school level, that communication comes directly from coach to player.
High school is a bit different as you start from scratch each year as the outgoing seniors are replaced by the fresh faces of the incoming freshmen, but generally, the process starts with three days of player evaluations with several players seeking to fill the available spots.
Coaches run their prospective players through hours of skills, drills and competitions to hopefully come away with the best mix of players that match the coach’s philosophy and work ethic necessary to be competitive at their level of play. There are many attributes to consider including sport-specific skills, hustle, aggression, intelligence, respect for coaches and teammates, speed, fitness and overall athleticism. Basically, the process is organized chaos at best.
Each year at this time I tend to come back to columns about the tryout evaluations, the coach’s decision-making process, and offer a few bits of advice from my decades of coaching and playing in the world of competitive sports. Last year I even gave my tidbits of advice a nickname, “Bird’s B’s," as I laid out six points for each athlete to consider as they tackle this week’s high school tryouts.
Be prepared with the right equipment, paperwork, and fitness level.
Be flexible and open to opportunities that may be different than your favored position.
Be hungry by showing your coaches and teammates how bad you want to be on the team.
Be coachable by following the coaches’ instructions and applying them to your game.
Be a good teammate by encouraging, not demeaning, a fellow player. Lead by example.
Be true to yourself by giving it your absolute best effort. Leave it all on the field.
After putting another successful year in the books and with great excitement for the new season that begins this week, here is my 2019 version of “Bird’s B’s” to add to the list.
Be on time. People that know me would laugh that this would be a priority for me personally as my wife even called it “Westminster Time” when we were first dating, but most coaches look to punctuality of their athletes as one of the most important things to show you the commitment of the player toward the team. Coaches also understand that most of our athletes are not able to drive themselves so they are at the mercy of their parents who have their own commitments. But when you show up late for practice, have your gear on and be ready to go when the car pulls up to the field. As a coach, it is very frustrating to watch a player dress for practice after already showing up late, taking up more valuable training time and distracting his teammates.
Be a show off. I’m not talking about showing off and doing stupid human tricks, but rather to understand that you are going through a tryout process, competing against many other players as good as you are that all want the same thing you want — that coveted spot on the team’s roster. You only have a few days and few opportunities to make yourself stand out against the crowd so do everything in your power to do just that. When the coach sends you for your break, get your water, quick rest, and then be the first one back to the coach when she calls you for the next skill evaluation.
Be understanding of your abilities. Your selection to the team or the notification that you were not selected, shouldn’t have any bearing on the type of person you are or whether or not you are a good player. It only means your skill set didn’t meet the coach’s expectations of the type of player that she is looking for to fill out the roster on that particular team. Where you go to school could play a major role in your ability to make the team as we have over 60 boys tryout each year and some other county schools have less than 40. There are many levels of recreational sports programs available to young athletes throughout our county that serve a diversity of skill sets, time and financial commitments, and emphasis on sports’ position in relation to other family activities.
Each of these points seem to come back to the original in some ways as it all comes down to putting yourself in a position to succeed. Super Bowl champion coach Joe Gibbs summed it up best when he said, “A winning effort begins with preparation.”
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As you head in to your tryouts this week, have you prepared yourself the best you can?