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Perspective From The Team & From A Player

by Ben Wiggins

A couple of thoughts that I always have when tryouts roll around: 

Any young player that wants to improve should be trying out for any team possible. Tryout ultimate is typically intense, cheap, and with players that you don't normally play with. This can be an amazing opportunity to improve...especially with experienced players available that are motivated (or at least ready) to give constructive feedback. This can be a great opportunity for developing players, regardless of your own chances of making the team. 

If you are invested in making the team, you should know the answer to this question: What is the point of the entire tryout process? It isn't to be fair, and it isn't to give everyone an equal chance. It darn sure is not to find the best 24 players. The point of tryouts is to WIN GAMES. 

From the tryout perspective, this means that you should be trying to win scrimmages and win tournament games, first and foremost. Win. Play tough D, hustle to the ball, listen and those things that win games. This should trump any advice on how to try out. Assuming that the people picking the team are thinking objectively (which is a big assumption, obviously) they will see those things. If your scrimmage team's best chance of winning is not with you on the field...well, you probably aren't going to make the team this year (which is may as well ignore this assumption for the time being, get onto the field, and improve...just be realistic about your chances this year). Why should you cheer your scrimmage teammates from the sideline? Because this wins games. Why should you run down on the pull hard? You get the point. 

If you ever come to a point in a tryout practice where you aren't sure whether you should give full effort or Returning players have a history of success on the team, and will be excused for their inability to get up for practices to some extent. You, however, do not have this history. Win drills, win games. 

The team is trying to pick a team that will win games. If you show yourself to be a player that will give them their best chance of winning, they should take you. This is very different than trying to be their 23rd best player. If you don't make the team, and spend your time thinking about how you are, in fact, better than player missed the point. Do you give your team a better chance against Regional Rival X? Would Sectional team Y be dismayed to see you on the roster, or happy? 

The folks that run tryouts for professional teams get paid of a lot of money, and they make mistakes all the time. These mistakes are both in their process mistakes (how many tryouts, how much intensity, what drills do we run, etc) and in their decision mistakes (which player should we pick). And those are the pros. Non-pro Ultimate players are often running tryouts with no experience or training, and they are doing the best they can with the main goal (Win Games) in mind. Which means they are going to make mistakes of all kinds. Winners deal with these mistakes and give their best, and the rest tend to whine about how they didn't get a fair, open, balanced chance to show they "deserved" a spot. If you are trying out for a team, understand that the process will be imperfect and be ready for something weird. Maybe you get less time on the field than optimal. Maybe you do drills that aren't geared to your strengths. Maybe you are forced to play in an offense that you don't know well. Deal with it...when the big games come in September and October, you are going to be out of your comfort zone then, too. Everyone will. Heck, this almost makes the insane tryout process a better process of analysis. 

On Sockeye, we have what I think is a pretty solid tryout process, but only after years of making mistakes and then making adjustments in the next year (I'm not captaining now, but have been involved for the past several years). We have an initial open tryout, where about 100 players come out. Our tryout process is merged with Voodoo, the other open team in town. At least for the past 4 years, everyone has to try out every year: obviously there are people that are at very, very low risk for being cut (Nord is probably going to have to lose 2-3 limbs in order to NOT make the team this year) but everyone else has to perform and show up to camp in shape. After the initial tryout, we cut down to about 35. We make cuts by email or phone, and we give players a chance to tell us which method they would rather receive the news by. We set pretty hard deadlines about when people will hear back from us. After first cuts, we practice with this 35 for 3-4 weeks, then go to a tryout tournament. Tryouts are told that the tournament is the big deal, and we try to teach everything the player needs to know (O, D, positions) before that tournament. If someone blows up at the tournament against good competition then they have a good chance of making the team. I might repeat, I think this is a solid process, but we make mistakes with it every year and every year it improves, hopefully. 

I think team captains need to understand what they are selecting for. I had trouble trying out for a couple of teams as a thrower/handler...these teams wanted all their new players to simply dump the disc to their veterans. You find out after tryouts that, sweet, you now have 8 new handlers...none of whom will throw (or can throw) a 30-yard throw. Maybe THAT is why our offense keeps grinding to a halt. Teams need to trust their own teaching and, often, look for the players with character and potential. If the player is a winner and unselfish then they can learn discipline, in my opinion. 

When one of my team's takes on a new player, we need to realize that our team is now 1/24th based on the new players skills and mindset. We picked up two vert-stack players? This doesn't mean they need to hurry up and learn horizontal stack like we run...maybe it is time to incorporate more vert-stack principles into our offense so we can really use those skills. Such are offenses changed to become more effective. We picked up a guy with a crazy I/O flick? Well, 23/24ths are him learning to use that throw within our O, and 1/24th is us learning to adapt how we play to this throw. Same with team motivation, learning style, take on the character of your new players. They don't just become robotic clones of last year's retirees. 

Lastly, as a tryout, try to focus on things that you can control. If your goal is "make the team" then you are always going to be at the mercy of the people picking the team. These people may or may not be objective, logical, or fair. Making a goal like "play well enough to help my team in every scrimmage or tournament game and give focused effort in every drill" is better; it helps you to focus on the things you can control. At the end of the day, you can meet your goal and still not make the team, which is a darn sight better than being crushed that you were cut and then giving up. Make controllable goals.

huddle Issue 2 Trying Out

Tuesday, May 28th, 2008

Thoughts From Chris Ashbrook
by Chris Ashbrook

Answers To All Of These Questions
by Tully Beatty

Play To Your Best, Tone Down The Rest
by Lou Burruss

Things To Focus On At Any Level
by Jeff Graham

Go After Similar, More Experienced Players
by Greg Husak

Focus On What You Can Control
by Ryan Morgan

Hard Work Stands Out
by Miranda Roth

Strong Fundamentals Trump Team Needs
by Nancy Sun

Athleticism First, Attitude Close Behind
by Chris Talarico

Thoughts From Team USA Tryouts
by Ben van Heuvelen

Perspective From The Team & From A Player
by Ben Wiggins




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