Tryouts, Part 1 of 3: Looking at Common Assumptions

Every year, young athletes get excited for tryouts. And every year, plenty of kids get cut. As a coach, it is emotionally one of the hardest things to do. As a player, there are things you can do to stand out to better your chances of making a team. This will be a 3-part series about tryouts: Week 1: Common Assumptions Regarding Tryouts Week 2: How to Stand Out During Tryouts: What Coaches Look For Week 3: What to Do If You Get Cut


Let’s uncover some assumptions about tryouts.

1. It doesn’t matter what I do, the coaches already have the teams selected.

In all honesty, the higher level you get, the least amount of spots are up for grabs. At the varsity level, coaches usually have up to 8 players that they have tabbed into the varsity team. That doesn’t mean those players are automatically varsity players. I have seen plenty of cases where a player who is thought of as a varsity player gets outplayed during tryouts and drops to a JV player. At the JV level, there can be a certain number of players that are being looked at as borderline players that have a chance to make the team. There may be 15 players who played on the Freshman team a year ago and another 6 who played JV. Now you have 21 players battling for 12-15 spots. At the Freshman level, there are usually no pre-determined players.

The teams are not pre-selected, but some players are already considered to make a team within the program given their track record.

2. If I have never played in the program, I don’t have a chance to make it.

Not entirely true. The older you get, the more it hurts your chances. But there are things you can do to immerse yourself in the program ahead of time, such as attending pre season workouts/open gyms. If you are good enough to make the team, you will. Most kids who do not have a history in the program are usually behind on how to play the game the right way more than they are on shooting/dribbling ability. In the next part of the series, I will go into the importance of this.

3. All that matters is what I do on the court.

Not entirely. Yes, you have to have the ability to play basketball. But coaches (in good programs) want quality citizens and students to be part of their team. Unfortunately (in most cases), the more talented you are, the more room for being an idiot (for lack of a better word) you have. If a player is constantly late or skipping classes, failing multiple classes, and receiving negative reports from teachers, he is not helping his cause to make the team. A player like that needs to be extremely talented just to have a chance to make it. Basically...

Big idiot + No talent = Automatic cut. Stay away from my program. Big idiot + average talent = Work on the off-court issues, try again during summer league. Big idiot + Very talented = Let’s see what we can do to help him.

On the other hand, if you are the opposite of that player (good grades/citizenship, positive reports from teachers), you help your chances even more than an idiot hurts his chances.

Standout student/citizen + no talent = Keep coming in the off season, try again next year. Standout student/citizen + average talent = On the team, we will try to find ways for you to succeed. Standout student/citizen + Very talented = Team captain.


Not all coaches have the same standards or methods when it comes to tryouts. This is the general consensus from the coaches I know. The bottom line is that in order to be successful during tryouts, you will need to have done some things ahead of time that put you in a position to be successful.