10 Tryout Tips to Land on a Top Team

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Before your car even cools down and your suitcases are unpacked from your trip to Nationals, tryouts for the fall 2013 will be here.

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.

Each year, as I observe these many young athletes I can instantly tell who is anxious. They usually hurry their approach to the ball or the throw, and have timing issues hitting off the machine. I can just see in many of the girls' eyes and body language how disappointed they are in their performances.

Here are 10 tips to help your athlete to play her best during tryouts and to land on the team of her (and your) choice for the fall of 2013:

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 Thinkingit 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. 

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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 and 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.  Every coach wants to add a "difference maker" to the team. Show us leadership skills as well as athletic skills.

5. Be a Good Communicator - Be verbal with the coaches and other girls...make us notice you...STAND OUT! Being a good communicator tells coaches an athlete understand the game, or by asking questions of coaches that the athlete is interested in getting better. Coaches love and respect those kids who demonstrate a desire to improve their game.

6. Pay Attention - Nothing is more frustrating to a coach than a player who cannot pay attention, or is more interested in socializing than learning. Parents pay good money for these kids to play at a competitive level then the kids don't get better, in many cases, because they can't summon enough focus during practice or games to improve. Sadly these kids will never reach their softball potential.

7. Be Coach-ableToo many athletes today are part of an "entitled" generation that is far too self-absorbed to be coach-able on the field. These athletes are defensive, overly emotional or just display an attitude (and the body language that goes with it) when coaches attempt to help them get better. To maximize your tryout opportunity your athlete needs to display maximum coach-ability; be open to suggestions and show positive body language.

8. Do Your Homework
as a parent do some research on the teams you plan to tryout for. Ask around about the manager and coaching staff. Talk to current parents, and even parents who have left the team. Check to see their track record with previous teams and players. Do they have a lot of player turnover or not? Filter out the hype and do your best to determine of your athlete will be a good fit. Find out if the team has a need or an abundance of players with your athlete's strengths or at her primary position.

9. Is the Grass Really Greener? - Hopefully you are not one of those parents who finds fault in every team your athlete plays on, subjecting her to constant team hopping. If you really want your athlete to play her best consider that each team change forces her to leave one comfort zone and have to start all over again building a new one; something that is not always easy for female athletes to do. Unless your athlete isn't getting deserved playing time (and be honest with yourself about her true talent level), or her coach(es) are clueless or verbally abusive why move her?

10. 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 gage 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)!
Remember, thoughts are choose them wisely!

I invite you to forward this email to a friend who also might find this information valuable for their athlete!

**Read Softball Smarts archived tips here.

Thanks for reading!

John Michael Kelly
Softball Smarts
John Michael Kelly Sports

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