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New to Club - Understanding Tryouts?

Understanding Everything about Club Tryouts

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  1. Which clubs to try out for?  There is a perceived ‘hierarchy’ of clubs.  Nothing is formally published, and the ladder changes from year to year.  Some clubs are known as the top clubs, and attract those girls seeking to play college Division 1 volleyball.  Other clubs cater to the girl that will never be a D1 player, but loves to play the game, and has hopes to play in high school.  The perceived “top-rated” clubs are generally more expensive, and travel to tournaments outside our region.  Remember, girls will improve their game at any club, not just the ones on the top of the hierarchy.
    1. Do not sell your daughter short!  The top clubs have multiple teams at each age group.  Do not rule out making any club until you check it out. 
    2. Do not be wooed by a club name.  Understand what you really want from the club volleyball experience.  Is playing time important?  High pressure vs having fun?  Do you want the ability to play multiple sports?  
    3. Investigate the coach’s background.  The biggest thing you should be paying for at Club volleyball is the quality of the coaching, and the expectation that your player will improve.  Where else does the coach work?  Do they run a well-respected school program?  You can find a good coach at a cheaper club, as well as find a bad coach at an expensive club.  The common wisdom says that you are paying for the quality coaching, and not paying for playing time at a tournament.  Ask around to find someone that has played for the coach before.  Does the coach alter the lineup or never make changes? Know your coach before you commit to a team.
    4. Make sure the coaches style matches what you are looking for.  Do not focus just on the coach’s resume and list of certifications.  Speak to girls and parents that have played for that coach.   Do former players like the coach.  Is the coach a screamer or an encourager?
    5. Get to know the club director.  Is he/she transparent?  Open and honest?  Do they care about developing players or winning tournaments?  Will they be attentive if you have an issue?  Will they help you get recruited?  Will they help you create a video resume?  Is he/she approachable if you have a concern, or are they shielded from the parents?  Do they know your name?  Daughter's name?  The culture of the club is a direct result of the club director.  Make sure you choose a good culture fit for your player and family.  There is no one size fits all.
    6. Browse the club website.  The website is a good indication of how organized the club directors are.  If the website seems dis-jointed or vague, the communication from the club leadership may be the same.  If the club does not have a website, then they are not serious about communication.  If the website brags about all of the medals the club has won, then they may only be focused on winning and the individual player.  
    7. Browse the club's Social Media.  Photos and Posts from previous seasons will give you an idea of the vibe of the club.  Are they fun?  Do they engage the players?  Are they serious about having players continue into college?  Between the website and Social media, you can get a great idea of what is important to the club. 
    8. Practice times.  Some days may not work for you for practice.  Know when your team will practice.
    9. Location.  Where does the club practice?  How is the commute during practice time?  Consider traffic as part of the equation.  Is the facility clean?  Well lit?  Ample parking?
    10. Ask around.  Past players/parents are a very good resource to tell you about a club.
    11. Will you know anyone else on the team?  Having a friend can help the nerves and help with transportation / carpooling.
    12. Exposure to College Recruiters.  College coaches typically attend Club Tournaments for many reasons. Primarily because High School season is at the same time that the college is playing.  They also prefer to attend club tournaments because they can watch a number of players in one location. For these reasons, most colleges now recruit directly from club programs.

  2. How to get ready for tryouts?
    1. Attend Open gyms!  Play as much volleyball as you can before tryouts. Understand that on tryout day there could be between 50-100+ girls trying out for a club.  
    2. Attend a tryout prep clinic.  Some local coaches will offer sessions aimed at preparing the girls for tryout day to teach them what coaches are looking for at the tryout.  These sessions also give the coaches a preview of the players.  Going to a prep clinic for the club you hope to make shows your interest and allows coaches to know who you are on tryout day.  Some clubs offer their own tryout prep clinics for an additional fee.  If you really want to make that club, you should seriously consider paying the club for the prep clinics.  They are the equivalent of a non-free open gym.
    3. Sign up online in advance.  In addition to being cheaper, signing up online prior to the tryout gets your name in the club’s registration system.  Club directors will print off a list of the girls registered prior to the tryout.  These are the lists that the coaches use to evaluate players.  If a girl signs up in person, they may be handwritten on the bottom of the list.  Many clubs print the list and send it to the coaches a few days early to help them prepare.  Register at least a week in advance to get on that list.  Sometimes, that even saves you a few bucks.

  3. How do tryouts work?
    1. Be prepared for the most stressful days of your girl’s life! #NotKidding.
    2. Most clubs hold their tryouts during the same 2-week period, and sometimes on the same days. 
    3. Girls should arrive 30-60 minutes early to check in and get adjusted.  It will be a mad rush to sign-in and get their number.  Figure out which court you will be using as many tryouts have multiple age groups all at once.  Find some friends.  Have mom or dad find a good location to watch if they are staying.  Parents, Think Dance Moms.  Many clubs do not permit the parents in the gym and have a waiting room for them.  Parents are probably just as nervous as the players as nobody wants to experience the rejection of not getting an offer. 
    4. Parents need to be the calming influence because the girls will be incredibly nervous. 
    5. Tryouts will be controlled drills focusing on specific skills coaches want to evaluate.  Coaches will all be walking around with clipboard taking notes.  In addition to drills, there will be scrimmage play to show how a girl performs in a game environment.  Hopefully the coaches are taking accurate notes on the players, but not always.
    6. During the tryouts, some parents may be called over by coaches in the middle of the tryout.  Some clubs have a coach talk directly to a parent, while other clubs insist on calling a parent on the cell phone to avoid the uncomfortable situation of trying to find the parent in the crowd.  Some clubs will present their offer before you leave the gym.  Some clubs make offers directly to the girls in the middle of tryouts…  Really.  Some clubs do not make offers until all tryouts are over. 
    7. There will be girls coming and going during the tryouts as other clubs will have their tryouts at the same time / same days.  Girls should not be penalized for leaving early or coming late, but all clubs want to feel like they are your first choice.  It is possible that an offer will not be extended to a talented player if the club feels she would rather play elsewhere.  
    8. Many clubs offer make-up tryout sessions during the week.  Be sure to understand if the club offers a make-up tryout and whether the make-up tryout is by invitation only, or if all girls are welcome to attend.  The make-up tryout could be the difference between getting an offer and not getting an offer.  When in doubt, go to the make-up tryout, even if not invited specifically.  Many times, clubs will know if girls are choosing to play for another club by the time they have their make-up tryout.  Spots may even open up during the make-up tryout.  If you really want to make that team, go to the callback session, even if you are not specifically told to attend.  Treat the make-up tryout session as a clean slate and don't worry about any previous tryouts.
    9. Do not put all of your eggs in one club’s basket.  As annoying as it may be on tryout day, go to multiple club tryouts to increase your chances of getting an offer, even if a club coach promised you a spot.

  4. Some clubs offer spots on their teams before tryouts.
    1. First thing you should learn is if a club has extended offers already and how many.  You do not want to pay a tryout fee if the team is only looking for a middle, and your player is a libero.
    2. Second - If the club has extended early offers, keep in mind that many of their top team positions may be filled.  If you were hoping to get a fair chance to make the "A" team and they extend offers early, chances are the "A" team may already be full.
  5. Manage tryout conflicts
    1. Many clubs have overlapping tryouts.  The beginning part of the tryout is more important than the end of the tryout.  Some clubs try to extend all their offers before the end of the tryout.  If you are trying out for multiple clubs, and know of a conflict, communicate with the club director so your daughter is not overlooked.  Showing up for the second tryout, unannounced, is a guaranteed way to get overlooked.
    2. Clubs will also offer make-up tryouts.  Find out if make-up tryouts are by invitation only, or if they are for all girls still  looking for a team.  Make-up tryouts will have far fewer players and can be the difference between receiving an offer and not receiving an offer.  Girls that are accepting offers at other clubs may have declined an offer prior to the make-up tryout.  Be sure to talk to someone at the club to find out if they have make-up tryouts, and if your daughter can attend the make-up tryout.

  6. What are coaches looking for during tryouts?  Each club/coach may have a different value system.  Here are a few items that they notice:
    1. Height.  Face it, you cannot teach tall.  Taller players will naturally stand out and be noticed as soon as they enter the gym.
    2. Hustle.  A girl that is hustling on the court may get noticed.  A girl that hustles to and from water breaks, back into line, picking up balls, etc, will get noticed.  Be the first girl back from break and the first girl in line.  Make sure the coach notices that you are first in line.
    3. Versatility.  Coaches love a player that is able (and willing) to play multiple positions.  Girls are usually asked to specify which positions they are looking to play as part of the tryout registration.  Multiple positions will help your chances of making a team.  When a coach asks what position you play, answering “Whatever you need” and truly meaning it goes a long way.
    4. Specific skills.  A coach may have a particularly good idea of who will be given an offer for their team and could be looking for a specific position in tryouts.  The 2 most popular positions going into a tryout are Outside Hitter (OH) and Libero.  Middle Blocker (MB) and Opposite Hitter (OPP) are positions that tend to have far fewer girls.  Indicating that your daughter could play either of these positions could place you in a position to get noticed quicker.  Left-handed hitters that play OPP are always in short demand and will certainly be noticed.  Setters are extremely important and may get longer looks from coaches.
    5. Willingness to compromise.  A girl may be convinced that she wants to play OH, but may only get an offer if she is willing to play as an OPP.  Telling a coach that you will not play a position limits your chances and could leave a negative impression on the coach.
    6. Potential.  Coaches will rarely notice that a girl gets every serve in-bounds during the tryout but will notice a girl with  an exceptionally hard jump serve for example.  Girls should not 'play it safe' during the tryout.  A hard spike out of bounds is much more memorable than a soft hit to the middle of the court.  Nobody is keeping score, so let 'er rip!
    7. Coaches only have a limited time to assess everyone’s skills.  Make sure you are memorable. 

  7. How to dress for tryouts?
    1. Wear something that makes you stand out.  You will probably be given a number when you arrive, so consider wearing a sparkly headband, neon spandex, colored shoelaces, etc to stand out.
    2. The girl wearing the club tryout shirt, black spandex, and her hair in a ponytail may blend in with the rest of the girls.  Wearing the club colors in non-matching you get it.
    3. Know who the head coach is for the age group you are trying out for.  Have your daughter introduce herself to the coach at some point during the tryout if they have not already met at an open gym.  Tell the coach where you have played before, and which coaches you have played for.  Make a connection.  A coach needs to place a name with a face.  
    4. Remember, there will be A LOT of girls trying out for the age group. 

  8. How are teams chosen?
    1. Each club makes offers slightly different.  Some offer on the spot, and others make calls at night, and some send texts or emails.
    2. All clubs are in a race to fill their rosters as soon as possible. If a club likes you, they may make you an offer on the spot during tryouts to get you to commit to their club immediately. This is understandable because standout players will receive offers from multiple clubs and the club wants those players to know “they Want You”. But if a club tells you that you will not get a place on the roster if you do not say YES on the spot, ask yourself if you want to join a club that operates this way.
    3. Club Teams will first try to fill a starting lineup and will search by position:  Setter, Middle Blocker, Outside Hitter, Libero, Defensive Specialist, Opposite Hitter.   Try out for multiple positions to increase your chances of getting an offer.  Libero tends to be the most competitive position on tryout day.  Opposite tends to be the position with the fewest players, but some clubs may use an OH as the OPP.  Presenting the ability to play setter is a big advantage.
    4. Some clubs allow the coaches to pick the team, while other clubs will have more involvement from the club director.  Try to get to know the coach and the club director.
    5. Coaches will have an idea which girls they are targeting prior to the tryout but will also be looking for girls that stand out during the tryout.  Girls that do not attend open gyms are at a clear disadvantage on tryout day.
    6. When a girl declines to accept an offer from another club, the club whose offer was declined will act fast to fill that vacancy.  Final team rosters are not finalized until at least a week (or two) after the first tryout.  Club directors and coaches will be always carrying their ranked list with them and will immediately call the next girl on their list if they receive a decline.