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Gentling the cruelest cut of all.

A "note" on how to let down the kids who don't make it in your tryouts

Tryouts for your basketball, volleyball, and swimming teams are coming up and the dismaying thought of cutting eager young prospects looms in the future.

What is the best way to tell a young athlete that he/she doesn't have the ability to make the team? How many hearts are you going to have to break?

For years, coaches have done it by posting lists on a bulletin board or office window or whatever. Or talked to each young athlete as the others waited their turn nearby.

Each of these methods gets the job done, but with little regard for hurt

feelings or wounded psyches.

Is there an easier way of letting the kids down? We say yes. There's a way to do it quicker, more privately, and with less pain.

At Rockford Middle School, where we have 60 to 80 kids trying out for our two 15-man basketball squads ("A" team and "B" team), we do it with a simple note.

Before tryouts begin, we make up two sets of 15 notes of exactly the same color and shape that say, "Congratulations, you made the 'A' team. Practice is tomorrow at 2:45," or "Congratulations, you made the 'B' team. Practice is tomorrow at 4:00."

We also make up a third set of 30 to 50 notes that say: "Thank you for your effort and enthusiasm this week, but you have not made either team. We hope you will continue to work on your game and try out again next year."

At the conclusion of the tryouts, we decide which of the players have made our two teams and which have not. We put their names on the back of the corresponding slips and pass out the slips to the players.

The players can look at the slips whenever they choose - immediately or on the way home or even after they get home. They are trusted to respect the privacy of the other athletes and to keep their elation or dejection to themselves.

After handing out the slips, the coaching staff keep themselves available to talk to any of the athletes who have a question.

The system is simple to administer and eliminates confusion - athletes crowding around a posted list or listening for a name that will never get called. The "note-ification" process is both immediate and private, and it has worked well for us.

The actual contents of the note can be handled in any way you choose - made softer, shorter, longer, any way you want to make it as easy on the kids as possible.


To facilitate the coaching job during the year, we have prepared a list of the seven steps needed to ensure a successful season.

STEP 1 a pre-season meeting with any student interested in trying out for team.

When tryouts will be held.

What has to be done prior to tryouts (physicals, pay to play, permission slips, equipment needed).

What to expect during tryouts (types of drills, what coaches are looking for).

The pre-season meeting provides the coach with a list of the people coming out for the team and enables him/her to pass on the essential information to players and parents.

STEP 2 a list of all the candidates that is given to the teachers, who can comment on the students' progress and behavior in the classroom. Gives the coach some valuable insight on the players.

STEP 3 try-outs - three to five days in which the kids are evaluated on their fundamental abilities. Extra adults are brought in to help with the process. All the testers axe equipped with checklists on what to look for.

STEP 4 the pruning of the group through the "note" system.

STEP 5 an interaction meeting (30 to 60 minutes) of players, parents, and coach, at which we discuss team goals and expectations of players and parents, and pass out schedules and list of names, numbers, and addresses.

STEP 6 the season (practices and games).

STEP 7 end-of-season party and distribution of literature on how to improve during the off-season, including drills and lists of summer camps.
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Title Annotation:notifying aspiring athletes that they failed to make the team; Basketball
Author:Ouellete, Tracy Alan
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Sep 1, 1999
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