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How to Handle Cutting Players During Tryouts

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Of all the unpleasant tasks that basketball coach's face, telling a player that he has been cut from the squad is perhaps the toughest. Many coaches have become pretty creative over the years while looking for a way to break the news as gently as possible while others still post a list on the locker room bulletin board and call it good.

I don't know which is the best way to break the news to a young man who has his heart set on making the team, but I do have four suggestions to make the whole process a little less painful.

1. Prepare players and parents beforehand

Before you start your tryout process have a "team" meeting where you can gather all the interested players and their parents and explain exactly what you are looking for in a potential team member. Make it clear to everyone that you are not necessarily collecting talent but are attempting to assemble as strong a team as possible.

National Champion Jerry Tarkanian wanted his Long Beach State, UNLV, and Fresno State rosters to include the 8 best players he could get and then 4 other guys who were just more than happy to work hard in practice and then cheer like crazy during games. As a result, he usually cut better players than he kept for the end of his bench.

If possible put whatever criteria you are using in a letter and have it signed by every player's parent. In this day and age of extremely involved parents you may find that when it comes to cutting players most of your resistance may come from parents and not the kids themselves.

2. Be available to discuss in person

Depending on the number of players you have to cut you may not be able to spend large amounts of time with each one. However, you should make yourself available for those who want to meet with you; especially for those borderline kids who really thought they were going to make the team. The players who were just "hoping" to make the team will take the news much better and may not need or want to meet with you in person.

When you meet with a player in person, not only can you deliver the news but you can also offer him some suggestions and advice as to which direction he should consider heading. However, when you meet with a player and/or his parents you should always have another coach or athletic director present as sometimes things are misunderstood or even ignored in the heat of the moment.

3. Be honest

The honest truth is that most players are cut from your team simply because they are not good enough. Very few players are cut because they are lacking only one specific skill. Their overall skills or playing abilities may be underdeveloped or you may be in the fortunate situation where you just have several better players at his position.

However, many coaches try to soften the blow by telling players something like, "You're not making the team because you don't shoot (pass, dribble, screen out, defend, etc.) well enough. If your shot was better we would have a spot for you." If that is absolutely true then great. But if not what happens when the below average player comes back after improving that one particular skill?

4. Put them to work

Just because a player isn't good enough to play doesn't mean he's not good enough to help the team in a different way. (Let's be honest, most of us wouldn't be coaching if we were good enough to play in the NBA!) Big time programs have and utilize as many as a dozen managers - why can't you do the same?

How much more productive could your team become if you could videotape every practice or keep individual stats on every player every day? Could you use extra passers and rebounders in your individual workouts? Who better to help with these things than a kid who loves the game but lacks the overall ability to actually get on the floor?

Telling someone he is not good enough to make the team is not fun or easy for anybody. However, by being mindful of the above suggestions you may be able to make the experience less painful and more productive for everyone involved.

Please let us know what you think!

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