How to Win the Tryout Game

This past weekend our travel organization held tryouts for our 12u, 14u and 16u spring 2012 teams. We had about 120 girls come out over two days hoping to make one of the six teams. The competition was pretty stiff and in choosing the teams last night we had to make some really tough decisions, including cutting some girls already in the organization.

As is always the case in a tryout scenario many girls are nervous and don't perform their best with the many coaches, peers and parents watching their every move. As coaches, unless we watched them play on another team or got a good report from a reliable source, all we have to go on is their tryout effort.

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As I observed these many young athletes I could instantly tell who was anxious. They would hurry their approach to the ball or the throw, and would have timing issues hitting off the machine. I could just see in many of the girls' eyes and body language how disappointed they were in their performances.

Now ours is one of the best organizations in southern California and it takes being a pretty good player to join us. However, I can't help but wonder if nerves cost several of these girls a shot with us.

Whether your athlete is trying out over the next few weeks or not until spring here are some tips to get her ready to play her best when it counts most:

1. Relax - this may sound easy, but in many ways tryouts are more stressful than games; particularly if it's for a team your athlete really wants to play for. Taking occasional deep breathes can help tremendously. Try to keep the conversation light on the drive to tryouts; do not set excessive expectations on your athlete as this will only serve to increase her anxiety and reduce her performance.

2. Monitor Her Thinking - it all starts between the ears. If she can focus on positive thoughts the moment she wakes up in the morning on tryout day, and maintain those thoughts all day long she will reduce her stress level. If she can recall a particular success or successes she has had on the field in the past she will increase her confidence level. If she thinks she "can" she will be more relaxed, allowing for a higher level of concentration and focus.

3. Expect Success - like #4 below if she expects herself to do well it will likely show in her body language and her performance. Expecting success is the result of self-confidence...which is the result of thinking right. If she tells herself she's gonna kill it at tryouts and can take the time to visualize her tryout performance, in advance, in as much detail as possible (using all her senses) her chances for success will skyrocket! If she works hard at the game she is entitled to success!

4. Look & Act Confident - one of the things coaches look for during tryouts is attitude and effort. A player who looks confident, is diving all over the field and just demonstrates a swagger of success gets our attention. If she looks like she belongs we will see her that way. Be verbal with the coaches and other girls...make us notice you...STAND OUT! Every coach wants to add a "difference maker" to the team. Show us leadership skills as well as athletic skills.

5. Have Fun - No matter what the competition level have fun! Playing the great game of fastpitch should first and foremost be a joy. Do your best, expect success and let it do what it's gonna do. In a tryout situation the player never knows what is going on behind the scenes; which positions the coaches are most interested in, if they need speed or power or defense. Therefore as a player take care of the factors you absolutely have control over: your effort, your attitude and your mental focus.

The bottom line is that a relaxed, confident and focused athlete will perform her best more often than not. Do your best to work with your athlete on her "tryout plan" to insure she brings her "A" game. Coaches love to see how an athlete performs under pressure and tryouts are a great opportunity to gauge that.

Nothing is sadder than a young athlete performing below her potential at a tryout. It's usually a one shot deal (like a job interview), so work diligently with her to prepare herself mentally for the big day. Just remember...this is a journey. If she doesn't do well at the tryout look at it as a learning experience for her. There is always tomorrow (sounds like a good theme for a song)!


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