Knowing the perils and process of tryouts

It's that time of year again, that time for fall youth sports programs to hold their tryouts for the upcoming season. Spring sports' seasons are coming to an end and programs are trying to get their teams established to determine a summer training schedule, get uniforms ordered, establish fundraising activities, and focus on the coming season.

It's a very nervous time for the players as the sheer number of kids trying out can be intimidating. For some, it's their first time trying out for a travel team, wanting to test their skills at the next level. Others may be testing the waters at several clubs, looking for the best fit.


And still others may be only focused on the only team they've ever known, fighting to hold on to the spot they treasure more than most things in their life.

For parents sometimes it feels like it's even worse on us. For most ages, the decision making process falls 100 percent on the shoulders of the parents. It's our responsibility to find the proper level where our child will be challenged to a point where they strive to be a better player and continually improve but not to the point where their confidence is crushed and their enjoyment of the game disappears because we put them in a situation above what their natural abilities allow them to compete.

It's our responsibility to find a coach who will nurture the passion for the game to the depth our child wants to take it. To find a coach that creates a team atmosphere of high expectations with allowance for failure, individuality within the confines of a team approach, and discipline in a caring environment.

No small task.

For coaches each season and each tryout process brings mixed emotions. In situations where there are more players trying out than spots that can be offered, you have to have the dreaded conversation with the player and/or parent to let them know that you can't offer a spot on your roster on this year's team. At the same time, if you have to make cuts the team that you will come out of the tryout process with will be the best team of players from your area that have shown their best abilities in a grueling process and are ready and eager to begin the competition.

It may not be the national team where you get your selection of the best players across the country, but it's the best players you had to choose from.

As a coach, that's all you can ask for.

We can't ignore the impact that the tryout process has on the team itself. When kids don't make a team that they've been on for several years or seek to move to the next team, friendships are strained and many times lost because the group of kids — and let's not forget the relationship we as parents develop — won't ever be the same. Old friends move on to other teams leaving a void in the roster that will be filled with new players who themselves bring challenges with them and for them.

Parent groups need to accept the new parents and new parents have to find a way to assimilate in to the team culture. Players who may have been "the man" on their last team and the player who everyone on the team looked at to be the difference maker finds themselves just a cog in the wheel of a well-oiled machine where players are all at equal levels and no one player stands out. A player who scored all the goals on her last team may find herself in a completely new position on her new team in order to get more playing time or where her skill set may suit the team needs better.

I used to be stressed out at this time of year and it's still not my favorite. Anytime you have to tell a player or his/her parents that there's no room at the inn for them this year, it tears at any normal person's heartstrings.

But in the grand scheme a spot on this team, for this year, at this level is a speed bump along the way in your sports and personal development. Because in my role as a coach of this team I evaluate a player's abilities with the needs of the team differently than someone else may doesn't mean the player isn't a good player. Sometimes it leads to a new opportunity for the player they didn't know existed.

The only thing we can do for players as the parent responsible for their happiness is to do the best we can and make the most of the consequences.

As Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones would say, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need."