basketball tryouts

Sports Tryouts Are Rife With Stress, Politics & Uncertainty – Here Are Tips To Succeed

Try.Out | /triout/ A test of the potential of someone or something, especially in the context of entertainment or sports.

Youth sports tryouts are a stressful time for both the athlete and the parent. Tryouts are a time of uncertainty, pressure, politics – the “not so great” part of youth sports. Regardless of the sport, basketball, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, tennis….. The pressure to perform and win a spot can stir up crazy emotions for the entire family.

Although turbulent and not always fair, tryouts are a microcosm for the life lessons we want our kids to learn.

  • Work hard for something you want
  • Keep a positive attitude regardless of outcome
  • Experience the joy of hard work paying off
  • Sometimes life does not always work out exactly how you want it to work out
  • Don’t give up just because it did not work out the first time
  • The most qualified person may not get the position

As the tryout season nears and the uncertainty begins to percolate, it is important that your athlete is prepared both physically and mentally. Here is a pre-tryout, tryout, and post-tryout checklist to help prepare your athlete. 

If your athlete wants to play for a new team or club, the pre-tryout steps are critical.

Research the club or team (2-3 months prior): Make sure there is a fit. Does the coach/club have a good reputation developing players? Does the team/club play a similar style to what you are used to playing?

Get in front of as many coaches at the club (1-2 months prior): The reality, most teams are selected prior to tryouts. There may be a few surprises but for the most part the team has been selected. It is simple math, if there are a 100 kids at a tryout and tryouts are 2-3 days for 90 minutes, it is impossible for coaches to truly evaluate each athlete’s technical ability, in-game performance, potential, mental toughness….

The takeaway, once you have identified 1-2 clubs, practice with the team in your age group as many times as possible. After a couple of practices, ask the coach for feedback.

  • Are you practicing with the correct team?
  • Does your child have the ability to tryout at this level?
  • What should your child be working on to improve?

These questions will give you a clear indicator if your child should tryout for this team.


Make a great first impression: Prior to the start of tryouts, introduce yourself and shake hands with the coaches and evaluators. Be genuine, look them in the eye, and thank them for the opportunity to tryout. Once the whistle blows, go all out, your actions will tell them know you are there to earn a spot.

Do what you do well and play your position: You need to be in the best position to make an impact with very limited time. Coaches need to see you in the best possible light, so play where you are most comfortable on the field or court. It is important to know and play your game.

Avoid matching up against the top player: This may be inevitable but limit the amount of time you go head to head with the best player on the court or field. You want to stand out and make a difference; this may not be possible against the top players

Work hard, show maximum effort: You have a short time to impress the coaches and evaluator. Keep your motor running the entire time; coaches like to see effort and solid conditioning, it shows commitment. Run/sprint do not walk on or off the court or field.

There are no friends at tryouts: You will inevitably have friends and teammates at your tryout. You are all competing for a limited number of spots on the team. The moment you step on the field or court, you are competitors. Work hard, compete, show good sportsmanship but do not defer and back off because you are friends. After the tryout, go get a slushy with your buddies.

Make eye contact and stand tall: When you are communicating with the coach, individually or in a group, make eye contact, stand tall, and no slumping. This positive non-verbal communication will show the coach you are listening and engaged. Your body language will tell the coach a lot about you as a person.

Good attitude and sportsmanship: Help kids up off the ground, clean fouls, high5s, positive comments after a teammate makes a good or bad play. Coaches want  kids that are “coachable”, display a positive attitude, be a good teammate, and respect the game.

If you make a mistake, move on to the next play: Coaches are watching your body language and how you handle adversity. Remember, the play is over, move on to the next play and get the ball back!

Arrive early to tryouts: Warm-up, stretch properly, shoot/dribble/pass so you are warmed-up and playing your best once the tryout starts.


Thank the coaches: Make sure to go up to the coaches, shake their hand, and thank them for their time and the opportunity to tryout. Leave a final positive impression.

Don’t stress: Yes, easier said than done. You will be stressed, your parents will be stressed but there is nothing you can do. Your tryout evaluations have been completed. It is up to the coaches to identify how you compare to your peers.

When you get the call and you made the team of your choice: Thank the coach for the opportunity, let the coach know you are excited and ready to work hard. Make sure your actions confirm to the coach why they selected you.

When you get the call and you did not make the team of your choice: Thank the coach for the opportunity, let the coach know you are excited and ready to work hard. You may not agree with the coach’s decision, your parents may not agree with the decision, it may be the wrong decision, but it is up to you to show the coaches, who passed on you, they made the wrong decision.

Tryouts are not an exact science, incorrect decisions are made based on a number of factors:

  • Not enough time to properly evaluate each player
  • Player has a bad tryout
  • Coach has favorites based on familiarity with a player
  • Players is chosen based on speed and size

If your child has a successful tryout, congratulations, but the works has just begun. If they do not make the team they want, it is not the end of their playing career. Either way, hard work and dedication are required to keep a spot on the team or to earn a spot on the team. Michael Jordan was cut from his Varsity team as a sophomore and it worked out well for him – see story below.

Courtesy of Newsweek –

In 1978, Michael Jordan was just another kid in the gym, along with 50 or so of his classmates, trying out for the Emsley A. Laney High School varsity basketball team. There were 15 roster spots. Jordan—then a 15-year-old sophomore who was only 5’10” and could not yet dunk a basketball—did not get one. His close friend, 6’7” sophomore Leroy Smith, did. The team was in need of his length. “It was embarrassing not making the team,” Jordan later said. He went home, locked himself in his room and cried.

Then he picked himself up and turned the cut into motivation. “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it,” Jordan would explain. “That usually got me going again.”

Jordan, using that sizable chip on his shoulder to his advantage, spent his sophomore year as the star of the junior varsity team. He put up multiple 40-point games and attracted crowds that were unprecedented for a JV affair. 




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Joshua is married with three active children. He has experienced the good, the bad, and the politics of youth sports as a coach (12 years youth basketball coach) and a parent. All three kids have played soccer (Competitive, Development Academy, ECNL, High School) and basketball (Competitive & High School). Joshua is a co-founder at StriveFar, a marketplace connecting athletes with coaches for individual and small group training. Joshua has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Denver since 2008. Joshua holds an undergraduate degree in Communication from the University of Colorado and an MBA in IT from the University of Denver.

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