Are you thinking about having your child try out for a new team? The tryout actually begins with your first contact — the initial email, phone call, or face-to-face meeting. How you handle this is critical.
I’m currently going through this process as I start building my 11u Spiders roster for the 2019 season. I can tell you first hand that it helps tremendously when a parent is prepared and provides the information that I want without asking.
Here is a checklist of things to consider when presenting your child to a prospective coach…
1. Provide the Important Bio Details
There are a few things the prospective coach will need to know. It helps if you provide these things without him even asking.
- Player Name
- Player Age
- Current Team
- Home City
- Current or Future High School
I want to know whether your child is a potential fit. Basic things like age and city will help me know whether I should shut it down immediately. Is your child too old or too young for my team? Do you live so far away it would never work?
If I know your child’s name and current team, I can usually do a great deal of research without a tryout. Most teams use Gamechanger, and I can look at how you’ve been used, what positions you’re playing, where you’re hitting in the lineup, and how you’re performing.
If you play for a team that is at a lower level than mine, I’ll want to be sure that you’re a top performer on your current team. Positions played and spot in lineup help, but they aren’t everything since I understand that your coach may misuse you. But stats — while they can mislead in small sample sizes — don’t lie over the long haul.
Your future high school is helpful to know even for the younger ages. If possible, it’s always nice to have multiple players who plan to play together as they get older. Not required, but a nice-to-know.
2. Provide Relevant History
Sometimes, Gamechanger can tell me the story. But it’s not always there.
Give me a breakdown of the positions that your child plays, what he likes playing, and a general overview of strengths and weaknesses.
3. Avoid Stats
This may sound weird because information is power, but don’t provide stats unless the coach asks for them. If you’re a stats hawk, it’s a red flag that you could be a problem.
What do I mean? It means there’s always a parent who is obsessed with his kid’s stats. They’re the ones bugging the scorekeeper about earned and unearned runs when their kid’s on the mound. They complain about where their kid is hitting because of his batting average. They point to the number of errors when wondering why Jimmy plays more innings at shortstop.
As a coach, I love stats. But I also realize that you can use stats to tell the story you want to tell. Your kid may be hitting .450, but what’s the context? What’s the team average? What’s the sample size? How dependable is the scorekeeper? Are errors recorded? How strong was the competition?
I’ve received emails from parents of prospective players and in their very first correspondence they list off all of the kid’s stats. It may just be me, but I see that as a sign of potential trouble.
4. Avoid Overly Glowing Descriptions of Your Child
Your kid is an amazing fielder. He is the best catcher on the team. He has the best arm in the state. Just stop.
These are all opinions. You are biased. Using glowing descriptions of your child isn’t helpful. Instead, they make me concerned that you may have an unrealistic perception of your child that could create problems.
5. Be Objective About Your Child
That doesn’t mean you can’t describe your child’s play and ability. Just avoid the adjectives. Focus on what he’s done, strengths, weaknesses, and what he’s working on.
It’s hard, but do your best to be objective.
6. Why Are You Looking for a New Team?
As a coach, I struggle with this because I don’t like secrets. I actually appreciate when a parent tells me too much and gives me the warning sign that I need.
I once had a parent who told me that he had a fight with the coach. He was kicked out of the dugout as an assistant. He was told to never come back. Why, then, would I want any part of you and your kid?
If you tell me that you’re leaving due to Daddy Ball, I wince. Granted, it may have been a problem, but it may also be that you struggle to objectively view a situation. Are you going to accuse me of Daddy Ball, too?
As a coach, I’m going to dig. I’m going to get the answers I can — whether from you or someone else…
I feel like a lawyer here. There’s a matter of what I want as a coach and what I recommend you do as a parent. Be as diplomatic as possible. Having harsh feelings about a current situation could be a sign that you will always be unhappy.
Focus more on what you’re looking to provide for your child. What has attracted you to this new team and coach?
7. Avoid Labels
When you say, “My child will only play for a majors team,” it may not send the message that you want.
The truth is, many of the parents who have told me this over the years have kids playing for majors-level teams but don’t truly have majors-level talent. Some parents care more about labels than finding the best fit for their child’s abilities.
This year’s 14u Spiders are 39-7 as I write this. We have yet to lose to a AAA Colorado team. By definition, you could certainly call us a majors team. But if you ask me, I won’t use that label. I won’t use any label.
We’re a high-level team that can compete with anyone. We’ve had a lot of success. Beyond that, labels mean little. There are teams that belong in AAA that participate in majors tournaments for the label only. And they get their butts kicked.
If your child truly has majors-level ability, it will be obvious — both in stats and at a tryout. If you seem too hung up on that label, it sends up a red flag.
8. What is Your Child’s Ideal Scenario?
What is it exactly that you’re looking for? Do you know?
Sometimes, parents are just unhappy with a current situation. Yet, they don’t know what situation would actually make them or their child happy. If that’s the case, expect to be perpetually unhappy no matter where you go.
What is the coaching style that your child responds to best? What type of coach gives him trouble?
Is he wanting more reps than the current situation?
Does he want to focus on one or two positions? What are they?
Do you care whether the team has a roster of 11 or 12-plus?
Would it bother you if a coach bats only nine batters on Sunday and your child was one of the players sitting?
How much traveling would you like to do? Is there somewhere in particular (Cooperstown) that you want to travel to?
What is your budget?
Do you want a short season or a team that practices and plays year-around?
Be prepared to know how you feel about these things and ask the coach the related questions. This will help you and the coach figure out from the beginning whether there may be a fit.
If you read the above eight points, it looks like your intro email or conversation with a prospective coach could be long. But don’t look at it that way.
In addition to the bio details, pick out a few key points of focus and go from there.
Anything else you’d add to this? For coaches, what else do you want to know about a player?
Let me know in the comments below!