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Running Tryouts

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Here are a few suggestions to help you prepare for tryouts

Purpose of Tryouts

  • Help as many kids as possible participate

  • Group players according to skill level - Long experience has proven that youth progress the most when competing with, and against those of comparable skill. Tryouts help coaches align athletes into these similar groups, allowing them the best opportunities for growth.  Players develop at different rates and tryouts give coaches the opportunity to adjust teams, ensuring each athlete is in the best situation for them to excel.

  • Try to create an 'A' team consisting of the top players in your grade.  We want to create competitive teams that perform well now, but we also want to prepare players for success at the next level and having athletes play together for years prior to high school will eventually pay huge dividends for the LHS programs.

Before Tryouts Start

  • Have a coaches meeting first - Coach Lewis holds a Coach's meeting each year the week before tryouts.  During this meeting you will get to sit down with others who have signed up to coach your grade so you can spend some time together before tryouts to iron out your collective approach and responsibilities.  Talk about how you might split up the teams among coaches and what roles each of you might play (head vs assistant), although its often best to finalize those details after seeing the best way to split the kids into teams.  Make sure to show up for tryouts a little early to set up and review with each other how you will run tryouts.

  • List of players - We will provide a list of all players that sign up for your tryouts, however you will have walk-ins as well.  Make sure to get each kid's information, including parent's contact info, as they come in.

  • Set expectations - Explain to parents and youth how the the tryouts will be handled.  Explain how many will make each team and how many teams there will be (good time to solicit for more good coaches).  Explain how callbacks will work (if necessary) and how players will be notified about rosters.

  • Ensure commitment -   We often have kids come for the experience of attending a tryout that don't really intend to participate in the teams.  Perhaps they are just investigating the program, or want to see how their kids stack up, or are unaware of the costs involved.  This is fine, but make sure you know this before they leave tryouts the first night that they are unavailable for teams.  There is nothing more frustrating than announcing rosters only to have a player back out on you.  Addressing this early can save huge headaches later.  Explain to parents the commitment and cost required to participate and request that they let you know before leaving if they should not be assigned to a team.

  • Solicit for additional coaches - You will usually have more athletes than teams based on the number of coaches you have.  We would like to have 3-4 competitive teams at each grade.  If we do not have enough coaches, explain to parents that each additional volunteer can help 8 or more additional kids participate. However, make sure they understand the commitment involved (finding practice facilities, registering teams etc) and basic qualifications so that you don't have disappointed kids later.  You may need to help them get things organized in the beginning.

What to Bring

  • Basketballs - kids will usually bring their own, but its good to bring as many as you can.

  • Evaluation Forms - Create your own or use the one found here

  • Tryout Numbers - To take adequate notes, you need to be able to identify the athlete, and you probably won't know their names.  Pinning or taping a number to their shirts is a great way to easily tell them apart and be able to keep notes.  Race bibs work well as do large adhesive labels, but both can be expensive. Numbers printed on card stock and safety pinned on work nearly as well (like this example). Good tape, paper and a marker can work in a pinch.  Make sure to record the number you give them on your evaluation form.

  • Misc - Whistle, Cones etc

Running Tryouts

  • Get Help - When possible, it helps to have someone else running the drills so coaches can sit back and take notes.  Coach Lewis can sometimes send high school players to help.  If not, recruit the help of a parent or two.

  • Make drills challenging  - Some common drills may be too simple to differentiate the athletes.  Try to make your drills challenging and imitate game-like situations.  For instance, rather than doing simple layup lines, do full court layups or even add a trailing defender.

  • Keep the kids moving - You never want to have 60 kids standing watching while 1​ does a drill.  Break the kids into multiple groups and have each group at a different basket to give each kid as many reps as possible.

  • Recommended Schedule - We recommend splitting your tryouts into three roughly equal parts.

    • Individual Skill Drills - ​These are drills that give you a chance to evaluate each individual's aptitude at skills such as ball handling, layups, shooting, and defense.  1 on 1 drills (such as close-outs) are also excellent because you get to evaluate two players at a time.

    • Competitive Drills - You will often learn a lot more about the players when you put them in competitive game-like scenarios.  2v2, 3v3, even full 5v5.

    • Separate into groups by skill level - By this point you will probably have a pretty good idea of who should be on your team, but it can be difficult to make sure you have fully evaluated each candidate when looking at 60+ kids.  A good approach is to spend the last portion of tryouts with the kids separated into rough teams already.  For instance, group the kids you think are the top 10-12 into one group, the next 12 in another group and so on.  Then have the A team coach run the 1st group, the B team coach run the 2nd etc.  Once separated, run competitive drills such as "3v3 Winners Stay".  Keep your eye on the group just below yours to see if you might have overlooked someone.  Make adjustments as you go by moving kids into different groups if they end up in a group that is much too easy or difficult for them.  By doing this, you will likely have your teams nearly finalized by the end of tryouts.

  • Example Drills 

    • Individual Skill Drills

      • Dribbling Lines - Have them line up in 3-4 lines and dribble down court full speed using both hands.  After a few turns, add in jump stops and direction changes such as cross overs and behind the back.  Focus on making them go as fast as they can.

      • Close Outs - These allow you to evaluate both offensive and defensive abilities.  Make sure to teach them correct close-out form and offer instruction as they go.  Teachability is also a key skill.

      • Layups - both hands.  Make them more game like by having them go full speed, full court and adding a trailing defender.

      • Defensive Slides - have them chop their feet until you point in a direction, then they have to touch a predetermined line and get back to the middle and start chopping their feet again.  Focus on footwork and athleticism.  Are they staying down?  Crossing their feet?  Do they go full speed and change directions quickly?

      • 3 on 2, 2 on 1 - this can be challenging for younger grades, but shows real game skills

      • Speed / Knock Out - it's fun, and it shows you who can finish under pressure

    • Competitive Drills​

      • 3 on 3 Scrimmages - or 1 v 1, 2 v 2, 4 v 4, 5 v 5 etc.  Game situations are extremely valuable.  You will usually find that someone who did not stand out at all during drills suddenly flourishes in game-like scenarios, and vice-versa.  Make games short, such as playing to 3 (or even 1) so that kids who are off don't have to wait too long.

      • 3 on 3 Winner Stays - Create 3 lines on the baseline (middle and two wings).  The first 3 pop out to the 3pt line.  The next 3 throws one of them a ball and then closes out.  If the offense scores, they stay out and the D goes to the back of the line.  If the defense gets a stop or a rebound, they go to offense, and the O goes to the back of the line.

After Tryouts

  • Select Teams - Using your notes from the evaluation forms, meet with other coaches and rank the players from top to bottom.  Try to group the players into teams of comparable skill levels, getting a good mix of skill positions on each team.  With younger teams, positions may not be as important, but you will regret it if you don't get a rebounder or two on your team.  In general, the best 8-10 should be on the first team, the next 8-10 on the next team and so on.  You can be a little flexible to ensure that each team gets a good mix of size and speed and to accommodate situations like having next door neighbors play together but make sure to avoid having too large of a skill discrepancy on a team which can significantly limit the progress of all players

  • Select Coaches - You may already have this worked out before tryouts, but once the players are split into the most logical teams, split the coaches up to cover those teams based on where their kid ends up.  If two or more coaches have kids on the same team and an adjacent team does not have a coach, you may need to make adjustments to move a kid up or down so that each team has a coach.

  • Publish Rosters - Communicate your rosters to your grade manager and we will post them on this website.  However, it's usually a good idea to email out rosters to everyone who tried out - both those who make the teams and those who do not.  


  • Set expectations that tryouts will occur every year.  Although the nucleus of your team may stay fairly constant year over year, there will always be move-ins, move-outs and kids that need to be adjusted up or down to help them progress.  Setting this expectation early helps avoid awkward conversations later.

  • Make new guys feel welcome - tryouts can be intimidating enough without feeling like the coach knows everyone but you.  Its hard, but try to interact with the new guys the same way you do with your team members from the previous year - such as calling all of them by their number or last names.

  • Determine who is "next up" - you will occasionally lose one or two players after "finalizing" rosters, so its a good idea to know who the next in line is and how you will adjust the teams if someone bails.

  • Don't just focus on offense - Just like players, inexperienced coaches sometimes focus too much on who can make a jump shot.  To compete, you will need rebounders, ball handling, defense etc.  Coach Yeager, a previous Lehi head coach, frequently said that he rarely had his 5 best shooters on the floor, but he always had 5 good defenders in.  Aggressiveness is especially important in young ages and can make up for a lot of shortcomings in other areas.

  • Don't worry about "A" vs "B" team - The most important thing is for players to progress, have fun, and have a really good experience - all of which can be hampered by being on a team too far above or below their skill level.  Over the years, kids will move up or down based on their skill to help keep them progressing, but in the end, the team letter does not matter much.  After all, the high school varsity team currently has multiple boys on it that never played on the "A" team throughout their youth. 


Tryout dates have been set for the 2017/18 season! To view when and where your tryouts will be, click here

Players, don't forget

to register!

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