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10 Tips for Terrific Tryouts

Tryout season can be tough! It feels like the school year has just begun, and already your tweens and teens are being asked to put themselves out there in front of their coaches. Tryouts can be a huge source of anxiety for your child.

Here is some great advice you can pass on to them to help ease the jitters:

1. Dont focus on making the team.

If you walk in to a tryout thinking, I have to make this team. I must make this team, my goal is to make this team, you will send your pressure gauge through the roof. While making the team may be something you really want, using it as a goal is not going to be effective.

The truth is you are not 100 per cent in control of making the team. What you are in control of is the way you play and your attitude, so why not focus on these things instead? Choose a goal and choose carefully. Goals can be extremely calming and focusing if you choose the right kind. Try goals like: ‘No matter what happens today, I will stay positive’ or ‘Today I will skate hard.’ In short, make sure your goals are about the process of what you need to do out there, and the things that you can control. This will help keep your mind where it is most effective - and, yes, up your chances significantly of making the team.

2. Review your strengths.

When you attend a tryout, obviously, you are going to want to shine. Everyone does this in a different way because everyone has different strengths. Focus on what you have to offer.

Make a list of why you are prepared to do your best this season. Maybe your level of fitness has improved; maybe you are a more positive person. Perhaps your ability to influence your team has grown. Choose your top three strengths from this list and write them on a cue card to keep in your bag. Take your strengths with you, literally.

3. Show your team skills.

Being a good team player goes a long way. This means knowing how to communicate with and work with your fellow athletes, even if you participate in an individual sport.

Showing your team skills is good for everybody. When you encourage other players, you are doing a number of things. You’re showing your ability to be a team leader. Positive talk helps you stay positive. It can really decrease those butterflies as it takes the focus off you and places it on what is happening around you. That’s good for playing too!

4. Start fresh every day.

Often tryouts take place over more than one day. That means you might have a bad tryout day and then have to go back and try again. The last thing you want is to drag that bad day of tryouts with you to the next day. This can leave you feeling mentally and physically tired, and focused on the negative.

So make a point of doing a quick review. I like to call this the “2/2 Formula.” Choose two things you were proud of, and two things that need ‘sharpening’ for the next day. Then allow yourself to move along and relax with something non-sport related. Remember the motto: ‘Every day is a fresh start’ - meaning this new day is full of opportunity.

5. Watch your language.

Make sure you have positive self-statements at the ready. Stress naturally causes us to focus on the negative. Choose a key word to keep coming back to for the day, something that reminds you where you want your focus to be. Choose words like ‘fast’; ‘commit’; or a phrase like: ‘Do your best and forget the rest’ or, ‘Stay in the here and now.’ If you have positive language ready, you are less likely to have headspace for that nasty gremlin of doubt.

6. Focus on your own page.

There is no doubt that when you walk in to a tryout you will want to check out who is there, your competition. Do I know them? Have I played with them before? But this can quickly turn into, Are they better than me? What if they are better than me? There are only so many spots on the team. I cannot blow this. Not exactly helpful thoughts when it comes to bringing out your best. Remember how they taught you in school to focus on your own page? Do just that. Focus on what you came there to do and do it well. Do not give your attention to the next person, you’ll just be handing them an advantage over you. Instead, keep your energy and your focus on yourself.

7. Be prepared to accept mistakes.

There is no way anyone gets through life, sport, and certainly a tryout without making a mistake. It is not the end; it is only one moment in time. In fact, it could be that some mistakes are made because you are showing your ability to take risks. Coaches tend to like that sort of thing. When you do make a mistake, have a reboot strategy ready so you can get over it and get on with the tryout.

8: Forget perfection.

Perfection is not an ideal; it’s not even possible. So what happens when you start to focus on the impossible? You become frustrated, impatient, and angry with yourself. As you can guess, this means you will likely not perform to your full potential. Think of a new ideal to go after: excellence, mastery of skills, continuous improvement. If your mindset is positive and possible, you will get the best from yourself.

9. Everyone is human.

Don’t forget that the fellow competitor next to you is likely as nervous as you are. Superstars do not surround you; only others with strengths and weaknesses, just like you. Whew!

10. And if you dont make it 

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Keep it in perspective, and be sure to get some help and support. Talk to people you trust. You will probably want to understand as best you can why it happened so you can go forward and set new goals. And that’s the good news: there are always new goals to set.

April Clay, R. Psych., is a Calgary-based sport and counseling psychologist who works extensively with youth sport. Find out more by visiting her website,

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