Sunday, November 20, 2011

The difficulty of tryouts

Tryouts might be the most difficult part of coaching. They're hard enough in the high school programs I've coached, where I've had a week and a half to evaluate players for anywhere from two to five hours a day before making final decisions. Only once (last year with NCS volleyball) have I had to cut people from a sport completely (it's happened a couple other times when I've been an assistant and not responsible for breaking the news), and that isn't easy. There were just too many people (35, I believe it was) for the maximum available spots (32).

But high school tryouts are nothing like club tryouts. Instead of two hours a day over eight days, there's an hour and a half on one day. Instead of 20-35 kids that you're mostly already somewhat familiar with, there are 40-50 of them, three quarters of whom you've never seen before. And in my situation, as an assistant for a regional level team (so, below travel), there are multiple people to try and make happy, often with wildly different agendas. For instance, the team I coached last year (a 14 & under regional team) had a really good group of girls (at least, as good as 8th grade girls can be, which most of the time is "eh"). So we wanted as many of them back as possible. But on the other hand, the horde that tried out for 15 & under this year was easily the most talented of the three age groups we had for that set of tryouts (14, 15, & 16), and so there is pressure to make sure that you get the best available players also,* and so all of a sudden you're looking at trying to slot 15 kids into a 12-person team, and chaos ensues.

* A good rule of thumb; don't ignore six-foot lefties with athletic ability, no matter whether or not they were on your team the year before. Take them. Always.
Then when you start calling kids, who of course were pretty much all trying out for multiple clubs, you wind up getting some surprise rejections, and then maybe instead of trying to shoehorn 15 people onto a roster for 12, you're not sure that you're going to get to 12, and you're competing not just with the other clubs but with the other coaches in the age groups (both regional and travel) around the same age that you're coaching, and it's enough to make your head spin. Especially because, again, so much of this process is based off of a semi-chaotic 90-minute tryout. Whew. I'm very relieved that a) that part of it is over (for another year) and b) that now we can focus on building the team we have.

**And, naturally, that team is one person short of a full roster. Hopefully we'll be adding someone soon.