We're smack dab in the middle of the fastpitch softball travel ball tryout season right now. For the next couple of weeks, players will be heading to tryouts to show their stuff, and coaches will be trying to determine which players will give them the best chance of achieving their goals next season.
I've provided some hints to successful tryouts in the past, both here and in my Softball Magazine articles. But there's one I haven't covered before (at least that I remember) that players trying out should keep in mind: at a tryout, there's always someone watching.
What I've noticed over the years is that when you're running players through a drill, most will give 100%. Let's take fielding fly balls in the outfield. Coaches hit the ball, or fire one out of a pitching machine, and players run after it. Normally what you'll see is what you'd expect -- good hustle, a sprint to it, and maybe now and then even a slide or a dive.
Really, though, those are table stakes. What I want to see is what players do when they aren't being given a specific test. Like when they're sent out to shag balls during batting practice.
I don't know about other coaches, but when a ball is hit well, I usually want to give the fielders time to catch it before bringing the next pitch. So what do I do? I turn around and watch the fielders.
It's amazing how many of them laze after the ball, sort of trotting to it and letting it drop in front of them instead of bringing that great effort they showed a few minutes before in the outfield portion of the tryout.
That tells me a lot about their attitude and makeup as a player. You know what I'd love to see? The kid who sprints full out to try to get to the ball, and maybe slides in or dives to get one that might seem out of reach. I see that and it's going to catch my attention. I now know that player is serious about her game, and will play hard all the time. Because if she'll go for it while "just" shagging BP, imagine what she'll do when the game is on the line.
One of the big keys to tryouts is to do something memorable. You want to find a way to separate yourself from the pack. Especially at the older ages, everyone has skills. Or at least nearly everyone does. The way to stand out is to show you have something extra, a fire inside you that inspires you to always do your best, not just when you think someone is watching.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Let's hear from some other coaches. Do you watch what happens away from the main action? How much does this sort of thing influence your decision, especially when you're coming down to the last couple of roster spots?