Put some eHarmony into your sports tryouts

Merry Go Round

Start the spinning! It's tryout time. Photo Creative Commons via Rob Grant

No part of sports is more stressful for players, coaches and parents than those few weeks each season when we try to figure out where we’ll spend endless hours and tons of money. The carpet baggers run from tryout to tryout. Youth coaches suddenly have a slew of new best friends. Deals are made. And unmade. Personally, I think everyone should just throw their shoes into a pile and pull them for random team assignments but no one has taken me up on that one yet. So how do you survive? Think Fiddler on the Roof here and allow me to play tryout Yenta. Because really, it’s just like dating. And that’s so much fun, right?

Matchmaker, matchmaker
First, stop worrying about getting your kid on the best team and just look for the right team. You should be looking for a good match for your player and your family, not plotting the total domination of the sports world.

Ask questions. Lots of questions.
Just like on a date, the best way to get to know a potential partner is to talk. So start making conversation and asking questions. You can learn a lot, including one of the most telling things–how the coach reacts to questions. There are no right or wrong answers here, you’re looking for philosophical agreements. Don’t know what to ask? Here are a few ideas:

  • Do players learn multiple positions or do they play the same position all season?
  • How do you dole out playing time?
  • How do you discipline players?
  • What are your expectations for attendance at practice and games?
  • Do you plan any out-of-town tournaments?
  • How much is this going to cost?

What’s your type?

Angry Coach

What's your coach's style?

Are you looking for a Coach Boone from Remember the Titans or a  Herb Brooks Miracle coach? What are the coach’s communication skills like? Some coaches are loud and in your face, which is motivating for some kids but horrific for others. The coach that’s super nice may turn out to be a pushover. Does the coach teach skills or just load the line up and be done with it? How does your player respond to the coach? And just for fun, how do they match up with your favorite movie idol coaches?

First date time
Going to a tryout is sort of a like a first date. You get to observe and see how things look before you make a commitment. Tryouts are a preview of the season and you can learn a lot. Are things organized? Are the drills explained well? Does the coach interact with the players? What are the other players and their parents like? Can you see your player and your family fitting in on this team? What will Grandma think? And contrary to popular opinion, tryouts can actually be fun. If your kid comes off the field smiling and sweaty, that’s a good sign.

Do a background check
There are all kinds of rumors that circulate around teams and coaches and sometimes, they are actually true. So find a trusted parent that’s had experience on the team and ask about it. Did they enjoy it? Would they come back? Why or why not? People make decisions for all kinds of personal and very legitimate reasons so assess the rationale. And don’t forget to ask your player what they think. Kids are remarkably astute.

eHarmony, sports style
In the end, it’s all about the match and finding a good fit. Figure out what you want from a team and ask, observe and listen until you find the best fit. Maybe it’s not the best team in the league. Maybe it’s just the best team for your player and you’ll find that long-lasting match that’s made in heaven.

Have you been through the tryout scene a few times? Add some tips for the rest of us in the comments.

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3 Comments on “Put some eHarmony into your sports tryouts”

  1. A good additional question to ask the coach is why did you select my kid for the team? What stood out to you to make the offer?

  2. Bench Coach Dad–
    Very true. I’ve got a follow up post coming on what happens if you actually make the team.

  3. Harry says:

    I don’t know.. I think people take youth sports team too seriously. Just let them enjoy the competition, discipline, life lessons!


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