Ask plenty of questions
Don’t be afraid to grill the people associated with the program. What is the cost per year per player? How many games will be played in a season? What is the practice schedule? When will practice start? Will there be off season practice/conditioning? How much traveling will be involved? How old is the program? What is its history? Who will the coached be and how experienced are they? Will your child lose playing time when games or practices are missed because of school or family obligations? How about when participating in other sports? Is this program all about winning or is it about providing a positive experience and developing young athletes? Will some kids sit the bench or is equal playing time the goal? Are kids encouraged to participate in other sports or is this frowned upon? Ask and you shall receive the knowledge you need to find a team that fits your family in regard to philosophy, scheduling, travel and budget.
Get to know the coaches
You need to feel like you can get along with the coaching staff. So again, it’s important to ask a lot of questions. What specific qualifications do they have in the sport? Are there parent-coaches involved with the team? Will any parents be coaching the team? If coaches with kids on the team bothered you in a less-competitive situation, the same scenario will probably be exaggerated within the select team structure. Ask, too, if the coaches have connections to certain high school teams. That could become an issue (good or bad) down the road as your ballplayer gets ready for high school ball.
Relax and have fun
This is not always easy because there is some stress associated with these tryouts. Parents need to encourage kids to relax and enjoy the tryout without worrying too much about the outcome. Having a friend along to try out for the same team can help to ease tension. Just don’t make it any more stressful than it already is. Maybe it’s better if you wait in the car or take a walk during your child’s tryout. Just consider what is going to keep things as loose as possible.
Make sure you are clear on the expenses
If you are making the jump from YMCA ball or Junior Saltdogs, you might be in for some sticker shock. It can cost hundreds (yes, sometimes thousands) of dollars to be part of a select program. Make sure you know the damage to your bank account before you sign up. What does it cost to play with this team? What does that cost include? Is it just the registration fee and then later on will I will be asked to cover more costs for uniforms, indoor practices, tournament fees, etc., or are those all rolled into the registration cost? That should be clearly spelled out before you accept an invitation to join a team. If they are not sure about the total cost, that might be a sign that they have other organizational issues. Ask about the extent of travel. How far will that travel extend? Will we be staying in hotels frequently or will we be close enough to home to avoid hotel costs? Farther away tournaments can require the use of vacation days for the parent. Is there ways to reduce my out of pocket expenses? Some programs have fundraisers to help with expenses. Ask about that, too.
Try to get to as many tryouts as possible
The experience will help, and it will also increase your chances of being selected to a team. Some teams might only be looking for a few players to fill their roster. Also, it will give you an opportunity to ask questions of the different organizations and learn about the different levels of play and practice that exist in the select ball community.
Keep negative emotions in check
A coach might not want a player who gets upset after dropping a ball, making a wild throw or missing a pitch at the plate. It happens. Displaying composure when it does happen can send a strong message about a player’s maturity level.
Very important. Arrive with all of the equipment needed, including water. And come rested. Bring a lot of enthusiasm. Coaches want players who hustle and players who show determination and drive.
Hustle is key
It is important for the kids trying out to be aggressive at every opportunity because you don’t know how many repetitions will be offered for each participant. The kids will often be rated on how hard they hustle, whether it’s running the bases or running to get their glove out of their bag.
Note the differences between programs
Not all select baseball and softball programs are alike. Some teams might practice once a week and play a 30-game schedule. Other teams will practice or condition three nights a week and play a schedule more in the neighborhood of 100 games. Some teams travel to out-of-town tournaments more than others. Some hardly travel at all. Some programs like kids who play other sports. Some do not. You need to make sure the program you pick is right for you in all or most of these areas. That is especially true if you are considering a new program that is just starting up. Make sure they have a good plan to get their organization off the ground. If they can’t answer your questions with confidence, you might want to consider other options.
Dress for success and be courteous
It is not vital that your ballplayer look like Derek Jeter, but it doesn’t hurt to look like you are ready to play select ball. The proper attire and equipment is important. Not sure what to wear or what to bring? Contact the tryout organizer for information. And when the tryout is over, it doesn’t hurt to say thanks to the coaches. That can be difficult for a shy youngster, but it can make a difference.
Know that there are other options
Select ball is not for everyone. You might decide that you can’t afford the experience right now. You might decide that you aren’t ready for the commitment right now. Or your child might not get picked for a team. We are fortunate to have other softball and baseball options in our community. Check out www.ymcalincoln.org, www.juniorsaltdogs.com or lincoln.baberuthonline.com for more information about their baseball and softball programs.