Step 1 - Go to the local area league website to gather information. On the league website, you can obtain information on the teams, tryout schedules, the coach's contact info, the records of the various teams, the number of games each team plays, directions to the team's practice and game facilities, etc.
Step 2 Create a spreadsheet to record any information that you collect from the league website, other parents and coaches. I created a spreadsheet with the following columns; 1) Team Name, 2) Competition Level, 3) 2010 record, 4) Number of games played, 5) Number of kids on the roster, 6) Team needs, coaches may let you know what positions they are looking to fill, 7) Tryout Dates and Locations, 8) Practice field location, 9) Driving distance from your home to practice or home games, 10) Coach's Name, 11) Coach's email, 12) Coach's Phone, 13) Coach's experience, 14) Notes and 15) Current status.
Step 3 Write down your goals and preferences. Think through the following; 1) What level of competition do you want your kid to play, 2) How many games do you want your kid to play, 3) How far are you willing to drive, 4) What kind of coach do you want, 5) Do you want your son to play a particular position, 6) Cost you are willing to pay, 7) Where are your kids friends playing, etc.
Step 4 Match up the information in your spreadsheet to your goals and preferences. This will help you prioritize which teams you want to target. Check the tryout schedule. You may find that several teams have tryouts on the same day and time. If this happens, go to the first choice tryout and call the coach of the other team and request a private evaluation. Coaches are looking for talent so they often go out of their way to evaluate kids.
Step 5 Prepare for the tryouts. A typical tryout will have several stations.
- Running: The coach will evaluate speed and base running technique
- Hitting: The coach will be looking for kids who go with the pitch and hit the ball hard to all fields
- Bunting: The coach will be looking for proper form and execution. Bunt the ball up the lines. Know how to do a sacrifice, suicide squeeze, safety squeeze, slug bunt, quick bunt for hit, etc.
- Fielding (infield): Be prepared to take grounders at third, short and second base. Also be prepared to play first especially if you are a lefty. Coaches are looking for proper technique and strong and accurate throws.
- Fielding (outfield): Be prepared to shag fly balls. Coaches are looking for speed tracking down balls, proper technique and positioning and strong, accurate throws.
- Pitching: Be prepared to pitch whether you are a pitcher or not, however, the coach may not evaluate everyone at pitching. If your son or daughter is a pitcher, they should let the coach know that you are interested in showcasing their pitching skills. The coach will be looking for proper form, velocity, control, the pitches you know, etc.
- Catching: Your son or daughter should be prepared to showcase their catching skills if they are interested in making the team as a catcher. The coach will be looking for proper footwork on throws to first, second and third, arm strength and accuracy, blocking technique, etc.
Step 6 Go to a batting cage before the tryout. If the tryout has 40+ kids, each kid will get a very limited number of pitches to showcase their hitting and bunting. Take your son or daughter to a batting cage prior to the tryout to getting their timing down. Have them practice bunting while they are in the cage.
Step 7 Wear something that will standout in a crowd. First of all, wear something that makes you look like a ballplayer. For example, don't wear a concert t-shirt. My son wore the jersey of his former select team to all tryouts. His former team had a great reputation so wearing the shirt signaled that he had played at a high level before. Note: at most tryouts, the current team players will wear their uniforms. To stand out, I would recommend wearing another color. For example, if the team you are trying out for is black and white, then wear something red.
Step 8 Get to the tryout early, 30+ minutes early. Coaches will love the enthusiasm and dedication. Make sure your son or daughter warms up their arm during this time. Kids tend to throw extra hard in tryouts to impress, if they are not properly warmed up this could lead to an injury. If your son or daughter is late, they often jump right into drills with no warm up at all, or they miss reps while they are warming up. I recommend hitting grounders to your son or daughter before everyone gets to the tryout.
Step 9 Talk on the field and show leadership. One thing that every coach noticed and commented on to me after the tryouts was my son's leadership. My son had been coached very well. He had been taught to talk on the field. I got it, mine mine mine, two, two, two (that means to throw it to second), etc. It seems like a little thing but it shows confidence and knowledge of the game.
Step 10 Hustle from station to station. I saw too many kids walking during the tryout. Make sure your kid hustles from drill to drill.
Step 11 Introduce yourself to the head coach after the tryout. Tell the evaluator your name and your kid's name. Point your kid out. Coaches will often reveal if they were impressed with your kid. Ask questions to evaluate the situation. It is important to listen, don't talk too much. I heard one parent trying to explain why his son did not do well. The coach told the guy the kid played well, the only concern was his defeated attitude. The dad said, "He has always been that way. He just lacks confidence." Why offer up this information. Through your conversations with coaches, you can learn a lot about the politics of the team and other teams (coaches talk to other coaches). Put the info in your spreadsheet.
Step 12 Once you get your offers refer back to your goals and preferences. Evaluate all the information that you have gathered against your goals and preferences. Stay true to them as this will be the place the you and your kid will be most happy. And happiness leads to success.
The Main Point
Making a select team takes standout skills, the confidence to use those skills while trying out, the energy to showcase the skills, the ability to standout in a crowd and a demonstrated passion of the sport. Good luck.