How to Run Better Lacrosse Tryouts: Less Is More!

By Mike Muetzel,

I used to dread the one- or two-day tryout. As a coach, I always felt as though tryouts were kind of a political necessity, a mandatory process to give every kid a chance. When in fact in my heart, I knew the majority of the roster, from returning players, and I hated to use the critical time that may have been better spent devoted to practice. And tryouts take a lot of planning, time, and energy, and often we had 60 or more players on the field at the same time, which alone was a huge challenge.

Perhaps like you, we had numerous stations, numerous evaluators, logistical issues of trying to run the activity and evaluate talent, trying to watch and write at the same time, and a mixture of talent levels from kids that could really play down to kids who struggled to throw and catch.

Over the years, I have learned a few things. First, less is more. At least for me, having fewer stations, fewer activities, and a far simpler evaluation form has made the process so much easier. I also have learned a lot from Joel Franklin and Tony Souza, who invited me to be a part of the Adidas National Tryouts here in Georgia. They run many tryouts across the country, and I will reference a number of their philosophies. Here are some ideas that might very well improve the process for you as well. The unique form they use to do the evaluations is awesome, and I cover it at the end of the article.

Evaluation Team

Before discussing the basics, let me first suggest the most important step is to line up your evaluation team. It is impossible to give 60 kids a fair look with two coaches. Remember that this is a tryout, not a display of your strategies or proprietary offensive and defensive philosophies. So having outsiders is a positive for the tryout. There are more options than you might think. And at the end of the day, the number of bubble' players will be only a handful compared to the total trying out, and you as head coach still have the final call. In addition to your staff coaches, you have some options:

1. Former players
2. Local club coaches
3. Rec coaches
4. Local referees
5. Girls' team coaches

I have been blessed with having great players who also turn into great former players. Having three or four returning starters can be a huge benefit and build the culture of your program. If yours is a rec team, having local high school players on the evaluation team can also be a tremendous asset. You will need no less than five or six evaluators, although seven is the optimum. This allows more eyes on each player as well as a coach to run the stations while the others evaluate.

Preparation Basics

The basics of preparation also include a detailed practice plan and a number of copies for evaluators or even over-zealous parents interested in the process. Also have the appropriate number of clipboards, extra whistles, pens, and extra evaluation sheets. You also need to inform the tryout candidates to bring a penny, if you do not have 60 dedicated pennies.

But most importantly, and I cannot stress it enough, you need a different number assigned to each player. If you do not have enough individually numbered pennies, then use large numbered sheets of paper safety-pinned to the jersey. And we will need two sheets, one pinned to each side of the jersey or penny. In my tryout recommendations, the evaluation record for each player is done by listing only the number. A registration record of each player and their assigned number is also needed, as we will reference the list at the midway point of the full-field scrimmage. Remember, many evaluators do not know the players by name, and that is a good thing.

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