Facts, Myths, and Tips for Baseball and Softball Tryouts
by Greg Nesbitt
During this time of year, why are parents laying wide awake at night with anxiety and wonder? Nervous about their taxes? Nope.
Stressed about their March Madness bracket? Nada.
Figuring out their commute time with the snow dump job? Never.
It is baseball and softball tryout season time. A magical time of speculation, prediction, over analysis and sometimes downright praying for what team their son or daughter will make for the summer.
I draw on my experience as a player in travel baseball in the Burnsville system. I started travel baseball at 13s and made the AA team (B back then). My second year I was more prepared for tryouts, knew what to expect, and made the AAA team.
My last year of travel baseball at 15s I remember my dad was very nervous before tryouts and the days following tryouts. Now my dad was one of the calmest, most laid back dads ever. My dad was a police officer and detective for 25 years. He arrested some bad dudes, 4 professional wrestlers, Boss Hog and Daisy Duke, and even worked for a short time on the Jacob Wetterling case. Up until that year, I don’t think I had ever seen my dad nervous, but here he was pacing back and forth, wanting every detail about tryouts, and losing sleep every night.
When I finally asked him why he was acting like this he said:
“It has nothing to do with you. I know that you did your best because that is what your mother and I have instilled in you. And I also know this will sound dumb and you won’t understand until you are older. But I am anxious because I want to know who I will be spending my time with this summer. Who will I be watching, supporting, and interacting with? This is my summer as well”.
He was right, I didn’t get it at the time. A part of me still doesn’t. But it made me realize that it wasn’t only myself who was invested in this, that my parents were invested in this as well.
With that, I will share with you Facts, Myths, and Tips for Baseball and Softball tryouts. These ideas are based off of my 23 years of coaching baseball from ages 12 to 18.
Your player’s attitude, work ethic, and coachability will boost your player’s stock more than anything else.
All tryouts are opinion based. This is important to remember this because you can easily disagree with someone’s opinion, it is a whole another thing to attempt to change a person’s opinion.
High school coaches and College coaches do not care what level (AAA, AA, A) your son or daughter played in the past. They care what your son or daughter can do right now and the years to follow.
Your son or daughter’s level of play does not define who they are as a person or their value in your family and society. It sounds like a really simple concept, but I have had a great number of players who have felt and shared their mom or dad will only be proud of them or love them if they are on the top team.
With youth sports becoming more and more competitive in regards to roster spots, tryouts cannot be the 1st time that your ballplayer picks up a ball to throw or swing a bat. Tryouts are essentially a job interview. You need to be prepared going into a job interview to give yourself the best shot of landing the position. That doesn’t mean that every waking moment is spent training or they need to quit other activities to prepare for tryouts. But they do need to carve out some time each week to knock the rust off and sharpen their skills. The 1st timers or rusty players are always the easiest to spot at tryouts.
“Hitting is the only skillset that matters at tryouts.”. FALSE! Hitting is easily the most enjoyable activity to practice and probably the most fun to evaluate. However, hitting is only ½ of the game. As you get older hitting becomes ⅓ of the game with greater importance put on pitching. If you neglect your defensive skill work it will show and as you get older it becomes impossible to “hide” them. There is only 1 position for players that are a defensive liability, DH.
“Only 1 coach or evaluator makes the decisions for teams so they just need to do well in front of that 1 person.”. WRONG! This might be geared more towards high school, but I can’t name 1 high school/traveling association/etc that forms teams based strictly off of 1 person’s opinion. Assistant coaches get a say in team roster decisions. In my experience, my assistants made most of the decisions and I would weigh in when there was a group impasse. However, every year my assistants would tell me that whenever I was present at the evaluation station the players would always tighten up, as soon as I would leave they would all relax. When the whole time my 2-3 assistant coaches that were working the evaluation group were evaluating them the whole time.
“It is all politics and a deep-rooted conspiracy is taking place, that is why my son/daughter didn’t make the team.”. NEGATIVE! There is no deep state or Illuminati like organization at work here to harm or hold back your child. These are mostly volunteers who are doing the best job that they can. Now, has it ever happened, yes I am sure that it has. But that is an outlier, not the norm. But also think about what that teaches your athlete. What are they learning from that behavior? I am all for supporting your children. Support them and teach them to learn from and ride out the losses in order to enjoy future victories.
Tryout Tip #1
Always encourage your athlete to show they can and want to play multiple positions, including pitching. Every year coaches are looking for pitching and you can never have enough pitchers. Coaches want players with multiple options, not a player and line-up limitations.
Tryout Tip #2
Exit velocity is all the rage when it comes to hitting evaluation. Everybody is using it as 1 of their evaluation tool, myself included. In order to achieve the best exit velocity whether it is off the tee or front tossed have your player focus on hitting through the ball and hitting straight up the middle. That strategy gives you the greatest chance of achieving maximum exit velocity. If they try to pull it can produce a high exit velocity, but also gives you a greater chance of miss hitting the ball and lowering their exit velocity.
Tryout Tip #3
Run through the base/line. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to remind players to SPRINT through the base/line when measuring speed. No tryout is set up to gauge a players speed by having them run and then gradually slow down before they get to the finish line. Anytime we had a player do that we would mark it as it showed lack of hustle, effort, and focus.
Tryout Tip #4
For defensive evaluation, if it is 1 player at a time don’t be the 1st player. Let some other guys go first to learn the format and routine of the defensive evaluation. Is there a pattern that they are hitting the groundballs? Where do I need to make all my throws to? Learn from the players in front of you. When you are next, make sure you are completely ready to go (physically & mentally) and hustle out to the spot to be ready to shine.
Tryout Tip #5
No player has ever been cut or devalued because they “hustled too much”. No coach, teacher, or boss has every thought that. So work hard, do your best, and let the chips fall where they may. Best of luck to all athletes and parents this tryout season. Enjoy your summer experience.
If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact Greg Nesbitt by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have additional questions regarding Starters Sports Training please email email@example.com or call us at (952)-233-7378
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