With Labor Day weekend in the rear view mirror, most of us (including me) are heading back to school and the beginning of school brings the college try-out season. As someone who got cut in my first tryout for Carleton (in 1991) and nearly cut in my first tryout for Sockeye (in 1996) I’ve always had sympathy for those people grinding it out on the bubble. So here’s what you need to do to make it…
1. Be fit. The horse is almost out of the barn on this one, but it isn’t entirely too late. If you aren’t fit, at some point you will tire. When you tire, you will falter. When you falter, you will make mistakes. Do I need to go on? Michelle Akers said, “Your own fitness is the only thing you control.” So control it.
2. Throw within yourself. The most common mistake tryouts make is throw beyond their ability. There’s no surprise here; most tryouts are coming from another team (high school, b team, second team) where they have had to be The Man. If you are trying out for a team, though, you’re not The Man. (If you’re going to be The Man on your new team, you can ignore all of this advice except the last piece.) Throwing in a tryout isn’t about being a great thrower or even completing all your passes. It’s about demonstrating to the team that you understand yourself as a thrower and can play within that. Can’t throw at all? No biggie. Just catch and then hand it off immediately to a handler; they’ll love you. No forehand? Don’t sweat it. Just fight for that backhand every time.
3. Play defense. Every team in the world has a place for someone who can play nasty defense. If you can’t play defense, the tryout committee will be arguing about where they might be able to fit you. If you can play defense, they’ll be arguing about how they are going to use you.
4. Play to your strengths. Whatever you are good at, you should do. Whatever you are bad at, you should hide. Hiding your weakness is a great skill. You’d be surprised how many great club players are actually terrible at some aspect of the game, but are functionally okay at this weakness just by hiding it. I will contradict myself here a bit and say that if you are trying to make a team as a thrower, you will need to take some chances and make big throws. If you’re good, you’ll hit them, too.
5. Don’t be a jerk. Remember, the coaches and captains are charged with making the best decision for the team. I have seen lots of good players get cut, just because they were jerks. From the outside and from the point of view of whoever got cut, this is totally unfair. Here is a tryout, clearly talented enough to make the team, cut for personal reasons. Seems messed up right? It isn’t, really. A team is more than a cluster of talented people. It has to work and to click and to function together. The wrong combination of people is painful (we’ve all been on that team) and it is right for the captains and coaches to try to prevent that. As a tryout, you control your own behavior. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. (And don’t call any travels!)
Photo by Andrew Davis