5 Ways To Stand Out During Basketball Tryouts

As a late-developing basketball player who was cut in both 7th and 8th grade only to JUST make my basketball teams in 9th and 10th grade, I know all too well what it is like to tryout for a basketball team that you are unsure you are going to make. You see, even when I made it in 9th and 10th grade, I was told I was the 14th of 14 players on the roster…two years in a row! I’ll never forget the feelings and thoughts I experienced when being cut from the team.

Did I do enough in the offseason to prepare myself? I did more than most, but that obviously wasn’t enough. Did I do enough during the tryout to really showcase my talents and what I could offer as a player? Apparently not in 7th and 8th grade. So, what was the difference for me to finally earn a spot in 9th grade, even if it was the last spot? I like to think that it was due in large part to a combination of the work I put in during the off-season AND how I approached tryouts that year. Trying out with another 100+ kids and only 2-3 days to prove you deserve a spot on a team is no easy task. I’m not sure EXACTLY what difference I made but I remember approaching the tryouts thinking that I needed to be the hardest worker at any given time and that if the coach valued that, he would pick me. Did I also do a lot of work to develop my game leading up to the tryout? Of course! As a player on the cusp, just expecting to “show up” to a tryout without putting in the off-season work will never be enough.

Now that I have had coaching experience at the high school and college levels, I understand how truly difficult a task it is from the coach’s perspective to choose players based on a week (or less) of tryouts. The amount of time a coach is able to spend on each player is minimal. Coaches often (whether they admit it or not) quickly determine their shortlist of players who are “definites”; sometimes this happens even before tryouts begin. Then, by the end of the first day of tryouts, the coach either makes a round of cuts or has eliminated many players from their list internally. As tryouts continue, the coaches begin to hone in on those players who are right on the cusp. How does a coach evaluate a bunch of players who are essentially of equal talent and athleticism? This is when many other “factors of potential” are put in the spotlight. So, if you are not 100% sure that you are going to make your team, here are 5 things you can do to stand out:

1. Attend Pre-Tryout Workouts
It is becoming increasingly normal for coaches to hold open workouts in the weeks leading up to tryouts. If you are able to attend these workouts, they will be the best way for you to get “extra” tryout time. A coach is ALWAYS evaluating a player, not just during tryouts. Recently, I spoke with one of our local Varsity coaches about players attending these pre-season workouts. He stated, “there is nothing that can replace face time”. But, exposure can go both ways, so be careful! If you are not a good listener, aren’t coachable or simply do not have the talent – this will also become exposed. Make sure to come to these pre-tryout workouts as if they were tryouts themselves because in many cases, they are!

2. Complete Necessary Paperwork & Meet All Requirements
This SHOULD go without saying, but over the years I have seen way too many players miss an opportunity to play an entire season of basketball because they didn’t attend a mandatory meeting or complete their physical in time. If achieving and maintaining a certain GPA is a requirement for you to be eligible, ensure that you are meeting this requirement. If that means you need to put the basketball down and pick up the book – make the right decision. Don’t cut yourself before you even step on the court!

3. Control The “Controllables”
You can’t control what drills are done, how many reps you will get and especially how the other players around you are playing. But, you can control your effort, energy, enthusiasm, communication and ability to listen and execute instructions. Sprinting to the next drill, beating everyone in sprints, asking intelligent questions that show you are listening and making eye contact whenever the coaches are speaking are just a few things that will separate you from the player who has just as much talent and athleticism as you.

4. Do The Little Things Well
A coach is not looking to pick ONLY scorers and shot-blockers for his team. Every team needs a healthy balance of players in different roles. Be a star in the role that you think you can best contribute to the team that you are playing for. This might mean taking less forced shots and showing the coach that you know how to play cohesively with other players. They are also looking for players who move off the ball well (don’t stand still…set screens for others), dive for loose balls, take charges, rebound (box out on defense AND go after offensive rebounds) and show a willingness to basically do whatever the coach asks of them. 96% of NBA players are role-players, so you shouldn’t be above this!

5. Introduce Yourself and Thank Your Coach
At the first day of tryouts, make sure to approach the coach and introduce yourself with a firm handshake. Just simply tell them your name and that you are ready for tryouts. At the end of tryouts, make sure to thank the coach for the opportunity. This small act of direct communication will show that you are a mature player who is capable of communicating effectively with your coach – something that coaches are having more and more trouble with their players these days.

Good luck and show your coach you’ve got the DRIVE!