I heard recently that the daughter of a friend did not make the team at her high school. I am a bit surprised, as I know the athletic talent and positive character that this kid possesses. I know this young lady is very disappointed. I heard some of the same comments from the parent as I’ve head many times as I have coached youth sports over the years. I have felt some of the same feelings at times when my daughter was not selected for various travel ball teams. So I thought today would be a good day for a “review” of the tryout scenario, the associated comments resulting from not making the teams, and the opportunities available or directions to consider going forward. I know that nothing I say here will change the disappointment of player or parent immediately. But hopefully, once the tears and anger have subsided, it will help both player and parent get back on the saddle and ride that horse again….. or not.
For the purposes of this blog I will deal most specifically with high school tryouts today. There are different parameters to high school tryouts that may seem similar to other tryouts but which are unique to high school sports. The disappointment may be greater because if you don’t make a travel or club team, there are many other teams available to try out for. But high school is special. High school is unique. You can’t just keep trying out for different high school teams until you make a team, even though some parents seemingly try to do that. When I first started coaching high school softball here in southern California, I heard the comment that “high school softball is a joke.” Yes, if you want to play at the college level you almost have to play travel ball. I say almost because it is not an absolute. I say almost because there are some very good high school teams. There are some schools where the team is as good as a travel team. But consider again that to many students, wearing your school colors is a different pride that is rarely seen in travel or club ball. To me, high school softball or any other sport is not a joke.
The first thing to remember is that it is the coach’s team. This is true in high school, college, travel and club ball, or any other “competitive” team sports. Unlike rec ball where every player will get to play, at the higher levels every player is subject to the opinions, whims, and directions of the coach or coaches. The head coach is going to select the players who they think will help make their team the most competitive. Each coach has different criteria for picking the players at tryouts. It may change due to the different number of players needed based on returning talent. Some coaches are very demanding while others are more laid back. Some like to carry larger rosters, others want the minimum number of players they feel they can get through the season with. Some demand that you play travel or club ball, others are simply glad if you do. Some coaches may even have a silent requirement that you play on THEIR travel or club team, or one specified by them.
The bottom line under any coach is that their perception of your son or daughter is THEIR PERCEPTION. It is their opinion. If you lined up ten different coaches in any given sport, and each had to pick fifteen players out of a pool of say, fifty players, you are likely to not have any two teams be identical. I would say, and this is a guess, that the ten coaches might agree on the top five to eight players. They might even agree on the top ten players. But I can almost guarantee that the next five players would be different on each team, depending of course on the overall makeup of the pool of fifty. Coaches will probably agree on the top players but there are always players that each coach will see something in them that the coach thinks he can take a given player and with the “proper coaching” will make them a quality player. Sometimes these are even called “projects.” I will discuss projects in a different blog. But the bottom line is that just because your son or daughter doesn’t make the team doesn’t mean they are a bad player or that they are not a good person. Remember, teens are often sensitive on the self-esteem issue, as are some parents. It’s easy to forget that, especially with high school sports, your son or daughter is graded on a sliding scale. This year they might not make the team but if they try out again next year they might make the team.
Next week I will discuss the associated comments that are often heard from parents when their child doesn’t make the team. There are many different comments, some are legitimate and some are rumor. How do you separate one from another? Or do you listen to the comments at all?
Remember, teach first, win later.