How to Make the Team

September 10, 2023


Fall basketball tryout season is here for club teams. I’ve sent a few emails recently with some tips so I thought it would be a good idea to compile my thoughts here. 

Tryouts can be a stressful time for both coaches and players but hopefully with some of the advice I lay out here, it can be a smooth experience.


Skill work

Daily skill work is key - players need to make sure that they are training and honing their skills in the weeks/days leading up to tryouts. There is no excuse not to for a player who wants to stand out among their peers. 

10-15 minutes of ball handling, 10-15 minutes of layups/finishing, and 20 minutes of partner (or solo) shooting and footwork is a super basic but effective outline for a skills workout and it’s not too much to ask of a player that is serious about getting better and impressing coaches. 

Getting in Incredible Shape

Players who are in the best shape will be able to stand out by finishing first in sprints and by being able to give max effort longer than everyone else. Having this trait can sometimes make up for a lack of skill. 

There are a multitude of ways that players can get in great shape; the first and most obvious method is running sprints and long distance. 

If you choose running, my best recommendation for basketball purposes is to run sprints either from baseline to baseline or sideline to sideline with a timer to track progress at the end of skills sessions. This will prepare players in case timed sprints are incorporated into tryouts.  I won’t give specific times for players to be able to finish sprints because it depends on the age/grade level of the player. The bottom line is the same for all ages: running sprints helps players get into great basketball shape.

The second method (my preference by far) is to incorporate conditioning into one’s skills training workouts. There is no limit to the amount of ways you can do this. Full court ball handling and shooting drills will help players get into incredible shape. 

Another way to get in shape is playing the game itself - 5 on 5 basketball is an incredible cardio workout as long as one plays the right way and doesn’t take plays off. Pick up games can get sloppy and it is important to make sure one doesn’t develop and reinforce bad habits.

Playing Real Basketball

Playing any variation of 5 on 5, 3 on 3, and 1 on 1 basketball is an obvious way to prepare for tryouts because it simulates competitive situations that coaches will want to evaluate you in. The ultimate goal of any skills training and preparation regimen is to prepare a player to excel in real game situations.

Getting together with teammates and friends to compete in the weeks before tryouts is a great way to prepare, and depending on the intensity it is also a good way to stay in shape as well.

At the Tryout

Introduce Yourself/Be Vocal

Coaches like confident players who are sure of themselves. Players should make sure to introduce themselves to the coach/coaches at some point during the tryout so that coaches can put a face to a name when they make their decision later on.

This leads right into my next point of being vocal on the court. I've discussed my thoughts about the importance of being vocal at length so I won't go into too much detail. The most important thing to take away is that being vocal establishes someone as a leader and makes them stand out from the pack. It is also not a difficult thing to do, so it is a no brainer to do in tryouts.

Listening to Directions

One of the most important skills in basketball is listening to directions as they are given. That may sound like a given but it is remarkable to see the amount of players that fail to follow basic instructions that don’t involve any skill or technique. Whether it is a lack of listening comprehension or just a simple disregard for the instructions being given, coaches do not like this at all. Being able to follow simple directions goes an extremely long way and can actually separate the players that do so from the players that don’t. 

Something that goes hand in hand with following directions is doing things quickly and with a purpose. When a coach says to go to the baseline and there are players walking at a leisurely pace or finishing up their drink of water instead of running/jogging to the baseline with some urgency, those players stick out like a sore thumb and not in a good way. The players that maintain good body language and eye contact while coaches are speaking have a leg up on others who choose not to do this.

Giving Maximum Effort

There are many variables in basketball, some are controllable and some are not. One’s effort level is something that is always controllable (excluding injuries as a factor). Coaches look for players like this in every single tryout. High energy players can affect the game in so many ways and oftentimes they can get away (to an extent)  with lacking in other areas of the game. A player with great offensive and defensive skills plus a great motor is a force to be dealt with at all levels of basketball. 

Putting in a lousy effort is just as bad, if not worse than not following directions. Coaches hate it and it is impossible to hide. Trying one’s best is a basic guideline in life and not just basketball. As they say “how you do anything is how you do everything. Nobody wants to coach a player who is blatantly lazy, even if they have a lot of skill and talent. 

I hope this post is helpful to parents and players as you all navigate through basketball tryouts this fall and winter - Good luck to everyone!

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