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Monday, May 9, 2011

Youth coaches: What a two-day ‘TRY-OUT” may not reveal

Too many times so-called “rep”’ or all-star teams are essentially pre-picked—decided upon by the coaches (or in some cases by a coach’s son or daughter) well before a new season even begins.

Almost as unfair and disappointing is the perfunctory “try-out”, a supposed opportunity for new or previously un-seen or unknown talent to find out if they can earn a spot on a particular hockey, baseball or soccer team, for example.

Either way, these competitive teams can be a “closed shop”, essentially a little “club” or clique that doesn’t make room for newcomers, or may even make them feel un-welcome.

If you are the coach, beyond the obvious lack of fair competition that the above approach suggests, there is something else you should be aware of:  by closing your mind to new players, you may well be missing something.

Oh sure, there may be situations where a young player may legitimately be in over his or her head, where their desire to make a really good select squad may not match up with their ability—at least at the current time.  And so they aren’t ready to play at that elite level.  Fair enough.   
But how often I’ve seen these one or two-day tryouts turn young people away who could well have brought something important to the table. And, as coach, we decided after one of two of these “practices” or “try-outs” that they can’t cut it.

It is always frustrating to witness this.  Some good young athletes are “cut” and more importantly, some good young people are sent home too soon, without really having been given a good, long and thoughtful look.

BEFORE your next tryout, try to keep some things in mind as you begin to assess new players:
  1. Have you really given them time to show what they can do?
  2. Have you actually spoken with them, to see how passionate they are or why they love the game?
  3. Have you put that new player in a position to succeed, or have you almost guaranteed they won’t stand out?
  4. After one or two sessions, what, if anything, do you know about their heart, their desire?
  5. Do you have any idea what kind of teammate they are and would be?
  6. Have you spoken with any of their previous coaches, to see what you might be missing?
  7. Have you considered what attributes they might bring to your squad?
  8. Are you “protecting” players you already have even though they may not have the right attitude?
  9. Are you really being objective, or are you being swayed by the need to do “favours” for friends?
  10. Have you already promised positions to certain players?

There are many other questions that could be posed, but the idea is straightforward:  “open” tryouts, if they are promoted as such, should indeed be open.

And that includes those making the selections—they need to be truly “open-minded”…