What happens to you when you see or hear this word? TRYOUTS. Does  your heart race?  Does it stimulate memories of specific moments on a track, field or court?  Maybe it’s a coach’s face, a teammate’s tears, or your own doubts in your preparation. 

What happens to you when you see or hear this word? TRYOUTS.

Does  your heart race?  Does it stimulate memories of specific moments on a track, field or court?  Maybe it’s a coach’s face, a teammate’s tears, or your own doubts in your preparation.

As negative as some memories may be around tryout situations, I know with the conviction of a former college player and coach, that: the life lessons learned through tryouts can be invaluable on and off the field for the rest of your life. 

I write this as a plea to parents and athletes to embrace the uncomfortable feelings inspired by tryouts.  Responses to moments are the only thing you can control at this point, so put your focus and energy there, rather than on other players or on the coaches’ decision making process.  No one should want to be entitled to a spot on a team without a tryout, because you don’t want to miss out on the things you learn from experiencing one.   

The tryout environment forces athletes to problem-solve, handle pressure, work with others, and battle with an urgency tough to simulate in practice sessions.  This means that those few days of tryouts are some of the most valuable days of the year.  A failure in a tryout can lead to a successful moment in a game situation down the road.  A win in a tryout can also reinforce good decision-making in overtime of a playoff game someday.  A disappointing tryout result can lead to a kind of edge needed to land a job in the future.

Most adults remember the time they showed up to something unprepared and paid the price.  If a player shows up to a tryout out of shape, hopefully she will never be unprepared again.  If a player works hard on fitness, but lets her stickwork and shooting slide, then more attention to detail is in her future.

Post tryout family conversations around things the player can control are the most productive, and here are two things to focus the player on during and after a tryout situation:  ATTITUDE AND MINDSET.

Team First Attitude

It’s not what your program can do for you, it’s what you can do for your program.  The question to constantly come back to is, “what is best for the team?”  It may seem strange in a tryout situation to think about anyone but yourself, but a criterion in any coach’s selection process is chemistry and teamwork on and off the field.  Can an attacker work with others, and create without the ball? Can a defender work within a unit?  How versatile is an athlete? Can she play a different position this year?

  • During tryouts, demonstrating skills like going full speed, scoring goals, making assists, winning ground balls, and smothering cutters on defense are a must, because those are certainly things your program needs from you. However, the effort you put forth should be a given.  In order to separate yourself, show care for potential future teammates by cheering them on, and by pulling them along with you. When you are stepping up to the line for sprint number ten in a run test, make sure the person next to you keeps going her hardest, with  Sometimes a great way to distract you from your own nerves, is to cheer for someone else, and it is certainly a way to build a strong program culture.  If a coach asks what position do you play?  Answer this: “wherever the team needs me, coach.”
  • After tryouts, if you make the team you want to make, your next move is to make sure you do everything you can to continue earning that roster spot every day. The question becomes, “how can I help my team win?”  If you should be getting the starts and stats, get them.  And if you need to be a second-string player, then push your teammates like the best opponents you will face all season, every single day at practice.  If you don’t make a team, or don’t make the top team, get the feedback you can, and get back to work.  Find the balance between self-advocacy, and selflessness.  Know that a different outcome may be a long time in the making.  It may be two years of getting cut before making a team.  It may be one year playing a second-choice position before working into a spot where you want to play.  It may also be limited playing time for three years and a starting position senior year.


Pursuit Mindset

  • During tryouts, you can still be improving and getting better. Ask questions if you can, and if it’s a less instructional environment, then listen and respond to the coaches’ instructions for drills.  Set goals for yourself around how many times you can try something at full speed.  Push the pace in a drill or run test to access your next gear- whether it’s stamina or speed.  Fine tune your basic skills as you try new drills the coaches throw at you.  Take risks related to the effort and intensity you put in and be precise in moments where coaches are asking for excellence in execution.
  • After tryouts, set new goals around specific skills, and your mental approach to practices and games. Focus on the growing as much as the outcomes, because the pursuit of better is what you can always control.

High school teams will start holding lacrosse tryouts in California in the next couple of weeks and as we move out of NorCal Tenacity Team tryouts, the qualities that coaches are looking for in players are fresh in our minds.  Let the successes and failures in a tryout situation be the moments you draw on later in a different kind of test, tryout, or championship moment.

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