Making the Cut: Tryout Preparation, Analysis and Execution


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Every year Club Directors and Coaches are strategically planning for ways to better their tryout and player selection process. While there are many ways that tryouts can be run, it is important that Directors and Coaches are able to gather enough information about each athlete prior to making a decision and extending an offer to the athlete and her family.

Here are some simple steps that can help your tryout selection process run smoothly and more efficiently this upcoming club season.

Tryout Preparation

Registration
When planning for tryouts, you want to provide as much information to the public as early as possible. BE CLEAR and PRECISE with your information regarding dates and times. Providing a flyer with clear dates and times for each group will serve as a reference point for everyone and help reduce the number of questions. Have a link that directs players and parents to a registration page. Here you are able to collect data for each player and re-use for the club season. Post and Share on Social Media to help spread the word to returning families and to attract new families in the community to your program!

Staff
It is important that staff and coaches are contacted in advance regarding their help with tryouts.

  • Pending how you structure your tryouts, you will want your coaches for the age group trying out to be PRESENT at the age/team specific tryout. We send a Google Sign Up Sheet to all our coaches along with the tryout details. They are able to sign-up based on their availability for each tryout date and time. This helps us better staff and monitor our tryouts so we can properly add coaches as necessary.

  • Be in communication with the staff regarding arrival time, tryout plan and expectations. You want to be able to have a reference point with all your coaches present so that you are on the same wavelength when it comes to the day’s activities. For ease of convenience, have coaches arrive early and plan a meeting with them or a walk-thru BEFORE you open the doors to participants.

  • Know who will be evaluating the athletes and ensure that all evaluation takes place under the same criteria. This will help eliminate any conflict between coaches if they are evaluating for their own personal teams!

  • Some coaches will run drills for the athletes and during position training. Other coaches are assigned to the player evaluation process.

Ensure that you have all testing and tryout materials prepared and ready for use BEFORE athletes enter the gym. A parent’s perception of your program begins from the first time they walk through your doors!

Tryout Structure (Varies by Club)

When structuring your tryouts, ensure to allow enough time to collect any testing data that you want, along with enough time to evaluate ALL athletes. If evaluating and placing athletes on teams occurs on the same day, you want to ensure that you have seen EVERY athlete perform.

We structure our tryouts into two sessions. These sessions occur on the same day.

The first session begins with athletes checking-in and getting their height and reach measured. From there, they are able to warm-up and practice any specific skill of their choosing on the court. This occurs BEFORE the designated start time of tryouts.

Once the tryouts begin, we explain to the athletes what they can expect over the course of the evaluation period. This allows some of the nerves to be reduced as athletes have an expectation for the day and each session.

Our first session is based around individual performance.

  • We collect data on athlete’s physical ability: Vertical Touch, 20 yard dash time, triple jump, and shuttle run time.
  • We also break all athletes into positions for evaluations. Coaches are assigned to run drills and evaluate player’s performance during the position training.
  • We utilize a google doc spreadsheet that collects data for each athlete when going through our testing evaluations.
  • Each one of these testing measurements has an individual criteria that our club utilizes to measure athleticism. We color-code these with GREEN, NEUTRAL, RED to help us see, if an athlete falls inside or outside of the desired range for each individual test.
  • When compiling this data, it allows us to quickly filter and effectively to show our coaches each athlete's testing results. We have the ability to then group this information by both individual positions and by tryout # provided. 

We have columns for evaluating coaches to comment on regarding:

1) Position Training

2) Component Play

3) Attitude/Effort

We provide a break for all athletes to hydrate and re-fuel prior to the second session.

Our second session is structured around team performance.

  • Athletes are grouped and placed on courts in which various component drills are ran, allowing athletes to showcase their abilities in a competition setting.
  • We will move athletes to different courts to allow us to see them perform in different competition settings.

Tryout Acceptance (Call-Backs) 

Pending how your club handles the players acceptance process, it is important that you have communicated that with families PRIOR to the start of tryouts. Adjusting or modifying your plans will cause a lot of confusion amongst families if done at the last minute. Ensure that athletes and families are either leaving the gym with a clear answer regarding club/team acceptance or that they know a designated method in which they will receive one.

Making the Tough Decision
There are a variety of areas that we consider when making a decision between players of similar ability. 

  • First, we ALWAYS look to the player's ability to be attentive and follow directions. Being respectful and considerate to coaches is a MUST. Eye contact, verbal response and engagement are critical to know that the athlete is understanding the directions and information being presented.

  • When evaluating, a player's body language is monitored both when successful and when struggling. We evaluate how she supports her teammates and if she is complementary to the GROUP or only supportive to her individual success. It is important that athletes understand that the TEAM is more important than the self and when being evaluated for a place in the PROGRAM and a role on a TEAM that they are willing to serve a bigger purpose. We strive to provide our athletes with the characteristics needed (and sought after by college programs) to be successful at the next level.

  • Lastly, parents do have a part in our decision-making process. This is the athlete's journey and we want them to take full ownership of it. We want the athlete to be able to make a commitment based on what is the right fit for HER future and not what is the right fit for MOM and DAD's vision. When speaking with an athlete, we want to hear her vision and her desire for the future. Having parents who interject and try to communicate what their daughter wants does not lead to the betterment or success of the athlete.

After tryouts our staff meets to discuss who will be offered a spot at Tennessee Performance. The Club Director makes the final decision about all athletes. The evening of tryouts, we communicate with all athletes whether they have made the program. We do not select teams until we have gone through a continued evaluation process once season begins.

Hopefully these steps help your club tryout preparation and execution run more smoothly. Wishing everyone a successful upcoming season. 

For related reading for Club Directors click HERE. For more tryout information, including evaluation templates and sample tryout schedules, visit the JVA Member Resources HERE.

About the Author

Dan Dierking is the Director of Tennessee Performance, a JVA Member Club in Franklin, Tennessee. He has been coaching both girls and boys volleyball for 13 years with coaching experience in the collegiate, high school, club and youth level.

TPV is entering its third season as a club having grown to 37 teams in its second year. Dan also serves as the Recruiting Advisor and Heads the TPV Jrs. Program (Youth Academy).


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