confused 1It’s the crazy time of year in the world of travel softball.  As a coach I receive numerous emails, texts and phone calls daily concerning tryouts for the coming year.  Every year that begins earlier and earlier.  “How many spots do you have open?”  “Are you looking for a shortstop?”  “What’s your tourney schedule looking like?”  “My daughter is an all-conference superstar in high school; just wanted to let you know that before tryouts.”  “Can my daughter get a private tryout?”  

That last question is probably the most popular.  I get it.  Most travel clubs conduct their tryouts during the same dates and often times, so it’s difficult or impossible to make them all.  I had a relatively easy time as a parent with my youngest daughter with tryouts.  But for my middle daughter, it was more stressful.  We want what’s best for our baby girls, so I remind myself each year of the anxiety parents and players are experiencing.

Selecting players for your team is not an exact science by any stretch of the imagination.  With softball’s 2-year age groupings each year I have some players returning, while others I do not (whether by their choice or mine).  Online registration gives you a steady stream of players to research, watch skills or highlight video clips and figure out if you’ve played against her or seen her play before?  

There are typically players I might extend offers to during the season as well.  They’ve contacted me and expressed interest in joining my team next year.  This sometimes gives me an opportunity to get to know them a bit personally and watch them play.  It also gives me the chance to watch their parents before, during and after the games.  

Often I learn of players who are considering “coming to the club” next year through parents, players both current and former.  There’s nothing like word of mouth from satisfied parents and players in the club.  They know what the club is all about, have seen what it’s done for their daughter and usually only recommend the types of players and parents who would be a good fit.  

And then on the days of tryouts several players show up who did not pre-register.  So, within a few hours I must complete my roster.  I have had seasons where 10 of my players had to move up to the next age group and those where only half of my players aged out.  Every coach has a different preference concerning this.  Some like having a “15u” team where they plan to keep all players for 2 years.  I prefer the half/half approach and recently have considered second year 14u players for my roster as well.  

All that said, after going through this process for years I better understand the dilemma that college coaches face every year when they are recruiting.  They are selecting players who they will be with for 4 years, for better or worse with their jobs often on the line.  They also have to decide “how” much they like prospective players in terms of athletic scholarships and or “financial packages” they put together for them.  As a travel coach I just have to get a hand shake and commitment fee from the parents.  

Tryouts is not much fun for parents and players.  It’s definitely not fun at all for coaches.  Should a coach be in a position where he is set with his team or close to it prior to the actual tryout dates, it is much less stressful helping the other teams and coaches with the process.  The most difficult part of tryouts is facing players and parents who you cannot offer a spot on your team.  Sometimes they’re understanding, other times they want to debate and argue and then there’s the tears……sigh.  No grown man likes to see young girls cry.  Ugh.  

So here I am, leaving today for Peoria for our last tourney of the summer and looking forward to the final 6-hour road trip with my 16u team.  I really enjoy these trips, hanging with the team and parents.  I’ve been lucky again to have a great group of both this year!  Next week will be chaotic and busy and I’ll be glad when it’s over.  I’ve written plenty about tryouts in the past as far as helping parents and players through the process.  I just wanted to present you with a look at tryouts from a coach's point of view.  Some of you have already gone through tryouts for the upcoming year.  For the rest of you.....Good luck to all of you and Happy Trails!