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The Truth About Basketball Tryouts

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Every year high schools and middle schools all over the country conduct team tryouts for the basketball season. Many of the kids who got cut the previous season wait an entire year for this time to come and so have many lower level players who are hoping to move up to the Varsity. In their mind (and possibly in the minds of their parents) their entire basketball future could be hinging on this week. But is it really? 

While the "official" tryout only lasts a couple days at most, the unofficial tryout is ongoing every single day, 365 days a year. The reality of the matter is that there are usually far more players on a coach's "radar" than most players realize. And speaking from experience, once a player is on a coach's radar, that player is observed at every possible chance. 

I was once sitting behind the Stanford coaches at a summer AAU tournament where they were obviously watching a potential recruit. They took out their game program, jotted down some notes, kept some stats and briefly talked back and forth during the action. After missing a couple consecutive shots and then throwing the ball away, the player being watched was subbed out of the game. Instead of acknowledging her teammates who were standing, this player immediately walked to the end of the bench and kicked a chair. The Stanford coaches looked at each other and then one took out a red pen, drew a line through the player's name and left the gym. The "tryout" was over. 

Mike MacKay, the former Manager of Coach Education and Development for Canada Basketball talks about a similar experience. "This past summer our Junior National team was having a shoot around in preparation for an exhibition game with another country. It was early in the morning and many of the players were not too excited about having to be up that early. The shoot around took place and it was not one of the better performances by the players. After the shoot around our coach pulled the players together and told them that they he was disappointed in their performance. He also asked if any of them knew who the gentlemen were, that were sitting off to the side when practice was taking place. The answer was no. The coach proceeded to tell them that they were all NBA scouts. 

That they had just had their first tryout for the NBA and first impressions are hard to change." 

If a player looks big or fast or scores some points in an organized tryout most everyone naturally assumes he should be on the team. However, all players and parents need to understand that every time an athlete walks on to the court someone is watching and conducting some kind of tryout that could affect his future. 

  • When a player is subbed out of the game, how he handles it is part of the tryout 
  • When a player shows up late for a scheduled workout it is part of the tryout. 
  • When a player chooses to sub himself self out of a drill it is part of the tryout. 
  • When a player coasts through conditioning drills it is part of the tryout. 
  • When a player is disrespectful to coaches, managers, or officials, it is part of the tryout. 

    In other words, even though "official" tryouts are on a specific date, players need to know that tryout time is all the time! 

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