Tryout Tips for Grade School Players

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Name of blog BasketballWiki.Net
Blog author BW-Ryan
Blog post date 2014/10/05
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I see quite a few threads on message boards looking for tips on tryouts, how to make a team, or what kind of things get a coaches attention. Here's some tips that I hope players can find helpful:

  • Break in your shoes: Every single year players show up to tryouts with their brand new basketball shoes they haven't worn yet. I can tell you how this ends up and it's very painful blisters. Buy your shoes a few weeks before the season and play in them or run in them a few times before you try out.

  • Be 15 Minutes Early - This should be common sense but I can tell you every single year there's those couple of guys that are 5-15 minutes late for some reason that's never "their fault". If it's important to you, you'll be there on time.

  • Don't Come In Out of Shape - This doesn't mean you need to be in mid-season shape during tryouts, but don't come in having gained 25 pounds since last year because you spent too much time on the XBox with a 2 liter of Mountain Dew. Try to stay active in all seasons and if you haven't been active, start ASAP before tryouts with incrementally increasing cardio and strength workouts.

  • Rest and Diet - Eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. This seems cliche but it's correct because the player who feels better will play better.

  • Pick Up a Ball - For a week or two before tryouts you should get some shots up, dribble the basketball, and try to play some games even if it's just pick up. Get that rust off in the weeks prior to the tryouts so you feel more comfortable on day one.

  • Introduce Yourself - Don't over do this. You want to have the coaches attention but remember that they are trying to evaluate a lot of players so don't take up a lot of time. A simple "Hi Coach, my name is ________. I'm looking forward to tryouts." will do just fine. 

  • Be a Good Listener - You generally don't want to ask specific questions about your chances of making the team as you will get a middle of the road answer that won't answer your question. You can do more by being a good listener. Instead of asking what the coach is looking for in tryouts, listen well when the coach is explaining at the beginning of tryouts what they are looking for. Pay attention when a coach is explaining the drill and as others have mentioned if you don't understand what they are doing let someone else go first and observe.

  • Be Eligible - If your school has an academic policy make sure you're not at risk of becoming ineligible or have a history of being so. 

  • Sports vs the Classroom - One of my biggest pet peeves as a coach is players that are well behaved in practice but are well known as a jerk to their teachers. Coaches expect that the players they select will be a model of the program they are trying to build. Don't be that guy because teachers and coaches talk.

  • Points is not the End-All - One of the biggest misconceptions is that players feel that they need to leave tryouts having scored X amount of points to have made an impact. You may have sunk that turnaround fade away three with a hand in your face, but I know you're not going to make that at a high percentage and the fact that you took that shot in the first place is a mark against you not for you. You're not Kobe (most likely) so go for quality over quantity. Coaches are looking for players that are aggressive in creating shots when it's a good opportunity to do so within the flow of the game.

  • Set Off-Ball Screens: Few people want to screen. The few that do tend to generally always screen the ball. If you're willing to go set a back screen for a teammate (if they don't use it, next time say "SO AND SO, USE IT" as you set it while making eye contact) that's a huge plus in my book. It means you're thinking about more than just yourself. 

  • Be First to Volunteer - If a Coach says "Give me 5 guys out here" run out there. Be the first one out there... every single time. Even if you have no clue what you're doing, be the first one out. Even if 10 people run out, don't shy back into the pack. Stay out there until your told if you are one of the five or not. If a player is the first one to jump into these type of scenarios every single time it tells me they want to play and they want to be coached.

  • Outwork Everyone Mindset - Be that guy first to the floor for a loose ball. Win that 50/50 rebound. If you don't get it, get the next one. Keep in mind that there is a fine line between working your butt off and being out of control. There are times to be explosive and times to be patient.

  • Make Eye Contact - Make eye contact and listen to the coach. This is an easy one that will make a difference. Eye contact tells me you're paying attention.

  • Stay spaced out on O - If you're that guy that cuts to the rim and stays on the weak side block because you thought you were open, stop it. Space yourself out (outside the 3) and replace open space towards the ball on the perimeter when it becomes available. If your a post, if you are posting up and don't get a feed within three seconds screen away off the ball. The group your playing with may look like a cluster but coaches will notice players that maintain their spacing on the floor.

  • Play Within Yourself - If you're not a great long range shooter right now, that's okay. You can work on that but don't expect results because you shot around for the past three days in your driveway. Know the things you're good at and the things that you are not. If you struggle with the long range shot, find your way into the lane by cutting off the ball or attacking the rim and pulling up for a closer jumper. If you're not a good ball handler, outlet the ball. I don't want to see my big 6'10 center stumbling and bumbling dribbling the ball up the floor. This leads into the next point:

  • Work Hard on your Weaknesses -  If you're a great three point shooter, shooting stations will be fun and it will be easy to go hard to impress people with how good you are. If you're that 6'10 center who can't dribble the ball I expect you to be the hardest working person at the ball handling station. Coaches will put you in a position to be successful within your current skill setand expand your game further. It's your responsibility to challenge yourself to elevate your game outside of your comfort zone in practice.

  • Communicate - I don't need a player screaming "BALL BALL BALL" the whole time we are on defense but we do want to hear you. More is better generally than less. Be on basket line when your man is on the opposite side of the ball - " I GOT HELP!". Defender getting screened in front of you? "SCREEN LEFT/SCREEN RIGHT!" If there's a line in a drill with not enough people in it, jog over and fill it. If there's a spot that needs to be filled, go fill it. If another player screws something up and you know it go over and talk to them why instead of telling them they screwed up out of frustration. This is a huge plus if I see players doing this.

  • Help Weaker Players - Even if you're not the best player there, help others that are struggling more than you. If you understand something or see something that another player doesn't help them out. Don't do it by interrupting the coach but do it at an appropriate time.

  • Don't Give Up - Some things in tryouts may be designed to be challenging or difficult. Push through as best you can and know that even though you may be frustrated/tired/overwhelmed you will give it your best effort. 

Tryouts can be a stressful time for everyone involved. Players want to make the team and coaches have a limited time to make tough decisions. Coaches want to make the best choices they can for their team, their program, and the school/organization they work for. If you can take even a few of these things and incorporate it into your tryout plan for this winter you're putting yourself ahead of where you were before. I can tell you that these are the type of traits that will make coaches choose similarly skilled/athetlic players one over another. I hope this helps!