August is the month of tryouts across the country! Girls are changing teams, coaches are looking for new players, and there is a lot of migrating.
It's important as a parent and as a player to think of some questions to ask the coach of the team who you are trying out for. Just as much as your daughter may be trying out for a team, that team should also be trying out for your daughter. It's not a one way street.
Being on a team is like being in a relationship, and the goals of the team must align with the goals you have for yourself as a player and for your daughter.
You represent a team just as much as the team represents you.
What does the team believe in?
Are the coaches fully committed to the team?
Are they fully committed to upholding standards/values?
How do they coach?
Have you watched this team play?
There is so much moving around/quitting teams that occurs during the actual season, and maybe some of this could be limited if you asked the right questions BEFORE you committed to playing on a team.
A parent and a player have every right to ask coaches of the team questions before committing to the team. In fact, it's not out of the question to do some research before ever trying out for a team.
Don't rely on what OTHERS are saying about a certain team. The best way for you to see if a team is a good fit is to go out and watch the team play/interact yourself. You can pick up on certain energies and coaching tactics by going out and watching a team play in a tournament.
It takes some extra effort and legwork, but it's important that this process is THOROUGH, as you don't want to waste a year on a team that is not a good fit. Every year is critical in development - mentally and physically - and every year is critical to use wisely to take steps toward playing at the next level!
Here are some questions I always suggest asking!
1) How many girls do you plan on carrying?
More girls = less playing time. Always. There might be the 2-3 KEY players who are undoubtedly going to play every single inning of every single game, but the rest leaves room for rotation and sharing of innings.
2) Which tournaments are you planning on playing in in the fall, summer (and spring)?
This especially plays a big part once the girls get to high school and start thinking about the college recruiting process. There are so many college exposure tournaments and round robins that are played in the fall and in the summer, and it's important the your team is going to some, if not all, of these tournaments in order to give your daughter the maximum exposure to college coaches' eyes so she can play at the next level.
Also, the best teams from across the nation are at these tournaments, which is what draws in the college coaches to begin with.
They want to see the best playing the best.
So not only is your daughter performing in front of college coaches, but also competing against the best talent from around the country - which makes her BETTER.
Another awesome part about playing in more competitive tournaments is that even if a college coach doesn't know about your daughter or your team, they might show up to a game to specifically watch a team you are playing or a player on a team you are playing. Then, indirectly, they could see your daughter, even though that wasn't the main point that brought them to the game. Playing better teams in more competitive tournaments gives many more chances to be seen by a college, even if your team is not the marquee team.
There is no better way to prepare her for what she is about to go up against when she takes her game to the next level.
3) How many girls do you have returning to your team?
4) What kind of college contacts do you and your coaching staff have?
Does this coach have many contacts from across the nation and various schools or are they limited to regional contacts?
What school does YOUR daughter want to play college at and does the team you're trying out with have access to communicate with that college coach and a relationship already formed? You can also look to not just one coach, but the entire coaching staff and see the collection of college contacts that they have acquired over the years. The more college coaches they know, the better, and also the more diverse group of college coaches the staff knows as a whole, the better.
Under this same umbrella, there will be younger, newer coaches just getting into the game who may not have the collection of college contacts like the veteran teams. We all have to start somewhere with our networking right? If this is the case, ask how this new coach plans on getting to know college coaches! Ask how much time the coach plans on dedicating to getting his/her name out in the college coach community in order to meet as many college staffs as possible.
5) Have you watched this team play? What kind of energy do they have?
The best way to understand the feel and energy of a team is to actually show up at one of their games and watch them play.
Watch the energy of the girls on the field and in the dugout and watch the way the girls/coaches interact with each other in between games and most importantly DURING the game. You want to pay attention to the atmosphere that is created there within that organization and get a feel for if you feel like your daughter would flourish or take steps back if she played for them.
Is it serious, focused business? Are players talking to their parents in the stands? Are uniforms tucked in? Are girls hustling to their positions? Are players throwing their equipment in the dugout? Are players engaged in the game in the dugout?
What a team looks like when no one is watching should reflect your priorities/values as a family and as an individual player.
Every player is different. Every coaching staff is different. And instead of asking other parents or players, go watch for yourself. That's genuinely the best way to determine if that organization fits with the needs of your daughter and puts her on the right path to succeed.
6) Parent involvement in the organization, more hands on or stand back?
Are you one of those parents that likes to take initiative at the practices and be very involved in the stands in the game? Every team's rules are different for the involvement of their parents.
Make sure you know what you WANT for your involvement to be and what is accepted on that team, so that there are no speed bumps along the way.
7) How do you see my daughter fitting into your system? How will she be utilized?
THIS IS THE BIGGEST ONE! Especially for players who are athletes and can play multiple positions and can showcase their talents in different ways. For example... A catcher who is also a great short stop. A second baseman who also is a great centerfielder. A pitcher who is also a great third baseman.
Another topic under this same question is if a pitcher will be allowed to hit. A pitcher who hits makes for an IDEAL candidate for a college coach to want to recruit because it's like getting a 2 for 1 special. However, you will come across select team coaches who discourage their pitchers from hitting and do not put them in the lineup. If you are just as passionate about hitting as you are about pitching, it's vital you go to a team that is going to allow you to do both.
To prevent problems from occurring, go ahead and clear the air and understand what the coach's philosophy is on his/her pitchers hitting and pitching at the same time. Some coaches won't budge. Some coaches have wiggle room. And some coaches are all for hitting pitches. You see it vary with travel ball coaches as well as college coaches!
8) Philosophy on playing time v philosophy on winning? Winning Championships v Individual player development?
9) If your daughter is a pitcher, who calls the pitches?
Pitch calling is critical and is a tool that needs to be practiced just like throwing a rise or a drop ball. Pitch calling can either help or hurt a pitcher in a game. As a pitching instructor, I personally think it's important that a pitcher is able to shake off pitches during the game if she doesn't feel 100% comfortable in throwing the pitch.
It's more important to be 100% behind the pitch and WANT to throw it, than just going through the motions and looking at the signal that is dropped down and rolling through it. I want a pitcher to be involved in the game, and what better way to tell me that they are thinking about the situation and how they feel than to shake off a pitch?
With pitch calling, if the coach is calling pitches from in the dugout, I think it's important for the pitcher/catcher battery and the coach calling pitches to have a relationship and to be able to communicate in between innings about different situations and what worked well/didn't work well. The pitch caller, if called from within the dugout, must be approachable and give out the energy that everyone is working together as a team and it's not a dictatorship.
10) In the event of a disagreement or something occurring that's not ideal, how does this team suggest handling it? Scheduling a player - coach meeting? A phone call? A player-coach-parent meeting?
Talk about this at the beginning, so there is a path to be followed if something goes wrong and doesn't feel right. Open lines of communication and a set proactive plan are always important.
Make sure you go to a team fully informed; you have every right to do so. It's your money and more importantly your daughter's future that is at stake. There are always different goals of going to a new team, so make sure you identify what those goals are to make sure that the team's goals align with the goals of your daughter's and your family's.