4 Keys to Successful HS Tryouts
High School tryouts are perhaps one of the most exciting and stressful events in a student athlete's career. If you want to make the most of the experience, and give yourself the best chance of achieving your goals, I've put together 4 Keys to prepare and execute to your best ability.
1. Skill Preparation
The greatest asset you have to ensure a successful tryout is time. As soon as you decide that making a HS team is your goal, begin immediately to prepare by creating a schedule of routine, repetitive workouts that rehearse the game-specific skills you will need to contribute to the team. Joining a program like Shine Basketball Academy is a great idea together with other like-minded athletes on a consistent basis. The key is to commit to a training and workout habit. If you want until weeks before the tryouts, you will not be able to build the conditioning, muscle memory and strength needed to compete at our best. Focus on fundamental basketball skills like ball handling, shooting, and footwork. Include daily conditioning like jump rope, push ups, sit ups, and lunges. Track your workouts in writing - dedicate a notebook specifically to your workouts and log each session, including notes about areas that are going well, and those that you want to focus on more in future workouts. This honest assessment will help you identify your weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
2. Nutritional Preparation
First, I am not a certified anything when it comes to nutrition, so seek out a professional opinion before adopting this or any recommendation for nutrition. That said, there are some commonly accepted habits that you should implement to make sure that you're fueling your body to perform at its best capability. Hydrate regularly. Avoid sugars. Eat more vegetables. Get proper rest. While this subject is not difficult to implement, it does take some planning. You can do it! Get educated and place a high value on your body and your health. Think of it this way - treat your body like a small child that you want to grow up to be strong and healthy. The only thing that child can use to grow is what you put in your mouth - you are the source of its nutrition. What would you say to someone who only fed their child soda, candy, chips, sugary cereals, desserts, ice cream, and the occasional drive thru "happy meal"? Be the caretaker of your "inner child" and help him to grow up strong and healthy! (There's lots of resources available for athletes to learn about this. Here's one you can start with!)
3. IQ Preparation
Coaches like skilled players. Yet Coaches LOVE skilled and SMART players! It's not enough to simply be able to dribble and score on your own at the HS level. To earn the top roster spots and, more importantly, playing time, the Coach and team must be able to count on you to make intelligent decisions at game speed. In addition to your on-court physical training, invest equal time studying the game film and reading books. I'd suggest studying men's and women's college basketball. At that level, you will see fundamental basketball coordinated by some of the greatest basketball coaches into great examples of team and positional play. Focus on players that are in the same positions that you will likely play in HS and study their game - how they communicate, when and how they move (with and without the basketball), when and how they score, and what their bench behavior looks like. Take notes in your notebook and as you watch and study, identify the habits and skills that you know you need to develop to be able to replicate those behaviors on your team. You can find many full games and highlights by simply searching online. We have also put together a reading list at the Shine website that can also serve you as a recommended library for further study.
4. Emotional Preparation
The key to emotional stability is to consider and embrace all potential outcomes of a situation, decide how you are going to respond to each in advance, and then move confidently toward your goals. When it comes to tryouts, there are basically three possible outcomes - you make the top team, you make an alternate team, or you don't make the team at all. That's all that can happen. So, all you need to do is decide what your response will be to each option.
Notice I did not say "reaction". Reactions are what we do when something happens that we did not expect - like a sudden scare that causes us to scream. Someone who is reacting to life has simply not considered the situation as a possible outcome, and therefore is surprised when it occurs. This is a HUGE topic and deserves it's own discussion - which I will do at a later time. For now, let's just shape some healthy responses to the three tryout outcomes we identified already.
Outcome 1. You made the top team.
Congratulations! That's good news, and bad news. On the good side, you accomplished your goal of making the team. The bad news is that it's time to immediately set a new goal and begin pursuing that one. Making the team means you are now grouped with the best kids in the program, according to the Coaches. Now, it's time to decide where you want to rank inside of that group, and to set a work habit to accomplish that goal (your Response). In any team there are starters, bench/role players, and fillers. Where are you? Where do you want to be by the end of the season? Decide. Set those goals. And get back to work!
Outcome 2. You made an alternate team.
Ok. You should celebrate that you made a team, that's awesome! Your hard work paid off and you're now a HS athlete! A healthy Response would be to take pride in your achievement, yet stay humble knowing that there is still an other level (the Top Team) to attain. Be grateful for the opportunity given to you. Be thankful that you get to have the HS sports experience and be a part of a great program. Be enthusiastic and supportive for those that made the Top Team (a great way to build a reputation of a player that they want to run with - you may be teammates someday!). Commit yourself to putting in consistent, dedicated work in practice and games, and strive to be the best teammate possible. A killer goal would be to strive to be an "obvious" choice to be moved up to the Top Team when an opportunity arises!
Outcome 3. You did not make a team (this time).
You should not be overly emotional at this point, since we knew that this was a possible outcome. Sure, you may have some disappointment, but you are already putting your planned Reaction into action so there is no time for feeling sorry for yourself. You have already planned your training schedule that parallels the HS season, which includes daily workout plans to continue to develop your key basketball skills and IQ. You already have an established nutrition plan so you'll stay on track with that also. And you already realized that, in fact, you have a chance during this time to accelerate your skills and IQ beyond many of the active HS team players, since most of them will not do any extra training or development during the next 6 months, relying instead on their HS practices to keep them in shape and skilled. You have already considered this, and are actually smirking to yourself because you know that while those kids are running suicides and standing around listening to the Coaches rant on and on about execution of plays, you'll be getting 100's more dribble repetitions, shooting reps, all blended with smart conditioning in your planned workouts. You'll be able to get more done in less time, and you're excited about the prospect of getting to the Spring Competitive tryouts for Club teams in great shape, ready to run, and motivated to compete!
I wish you the best in your upcoming tryouts! I'd love to hear from you if this was helpful! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or text me directly at 720-442-8389 with your stories!
See you on the court!
Coach Rob Pierson is the Director and Lead Trainer for the Shine Basketball Academy in Broomfield, CO.