Basketball tryouts can be tough on everyone involved. As a kid trying out for a team, you’re stressed about making sure you do your best and not allowing your nerves to affect your performance so that you can make the team. As a coach you worry about selecting teams while giving every player a fair shake with a short time period to evaluate, and as a parent you watch while your child weather’s the storm and you function as their anchor, or at least that is the hope.
If you are a player reading this blog, I wish you all the best. Take a deep breath and hit the court with intensity and a positive attitude. And no matter the result, if you give your very best, that is all that really matters. If you don’t make the team or the level of team that you thought you should, it might hurt deep in your soul, but if you gave your all, there can be no regrets. Tears and frustration maybe, but no regrets. Instead, if you love basketball, use this as fuel to work harder over the next year, or if you’re not sure if basketball is your thing, use the opportunity to try something new that peaks your interest. Use this pivotal point in your life as inspiration. What is important to you? What do you really love to do?
If you’re a parent, it’s time to support your child. Be there for them no matter what happens. If they don’t make the team it will surely be a life changing experience, so help it to be a positive one. And if your son or daughter doesn’t end up making Varsity, that’s okay, they can have fun and learn to grow as person and a player on the JV or C-Team. Will they always like what team they ended up on? No. Will you? Possibly not. But, just as in life, you don’t always get what you want, so it is important for your child to learn from the experience and to understand how to make the best of any situation. This is when a parent’s reaction can make all the difference in the world. This is a time for your child to grow, perhaps as a player, and for sure as a person.
A coach works to build the strongest team possible, while teaching young athletes the game. Their focus is on many, not one, so not every player will be happy all the time. I hated being on the bench my first year in high school. But I had to learn that sometimes I didn’t get what I wanted. With support from my parents, I stayed positive and worked hard all of that season and during the next summer and by the following year I was starting. A year is a long time for a teenager to wait and work, but that experience taught me a lot about life and about myself.
My parents were always supportive when I struggled as a kid, yet they let me find my way. Maybe it was just their way of doing things or maybe it was the fact that they knew that one day I would have to live my life, and face challenges and make decisions on my own. This is not an easy thing to do, to support your child while letting them find their way. But it can be done and the results can be amazing.
Last season I had a Senior who played JV and a Senior who played C-team. Often coaches won’t allow seniors on lower level teams because their attitudes can drag the team down if the player carries anger about not being on varsity, but both of these Seniors were excellent leaders on their teams, improved as athletes and had great experiences playing basketball. They both made me proud in the way they represented themselves and our program. Both had supportive parents. I know it’s not always easy to sit back as a parent if you feel your child deserves more, but take a moment to think about the way in which you support them. Ask yourself if it is benefitting them.
I had to remind myself of this recently. My daughter, who is now in college, was not playing with varsity after the first week of tryouts and I’d seen her play with the team at open gym and was surprised. After coaching her for many years, I know what she is capable of, but I also know that the things that she does on the court are not noticeable at first glance. She’s not a fancy ball handler or shooter. She plays tough defense, gets rebounds and steals. She does the grunt work.
I wanted to call her coach and say, “Hey, you are really missing out…” and send videos of her from the state tournament, but instead I told my daughter, “You’re a freshman, just keep working, it will pay off. It may not be this year but you’ll get your chance just keep working.” Inside I was bummed for her but instead of fueling her with negative energy, I supported her and gave her my suggestion. A couple of weeks later she texted that she’d made the varsity. She was lucky that her work paid off so quickly, it could have taken a year or perhaps never, but staying positive was her best bet to make the situation move toward a good ending.
So whether you are in the midst of tryouts or supporting someone who is, stay positive and remind yourself that experiencing tryouts will teach you or your child important lessons about themselves and how best to live their life.