Brief tryout period creates stress for high school basketball coaches and players

Tuesday is the second day of the toughest week of the season for high school basketball players and coaches.

It is the week coaches have to select their rosters for the 2014-15 season.

These are the days that will end in excitement for some players and for others it will end in disappointment.

Some coaches will have to cut many players, some just a few, as they select their varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams.

Prior to the Maine Principals’ Association shortening the preseason from five weeks to three, coaches had two or three more days to pick their teams. With only 15 days, coaches are rushed to pick their teams and provide the needed conditioning, offensive and defensive systems as they get ready for the opening game the first weekend in December.

When players tried out at Bangor High School in the mid 1950s, there was a full week to run candidates through a four-item skill test for time and run a lot of 3-on-1 and 3-on-2 full-court, continuous fast-break drills which gave the players a chance to demonstrate their physical and mental basketball skills.

There were over 125 candidates trying out from three grades, all looking to be one of 12 for the varsity and others for the 12 spots the junior varsity team.

At the time, boys basketball was the only winter sport and the competition for those 24 spots was extremely competitive. Some candidates that did not make either squad could easily have made teams at other schools.

If you didn’t make either team, the only basketball available was the high school intramural program or the Bangor YMCA’s Church League, vacation week tournaments and free gym time.

In the early ’70s, summer basketball was available and teams still had five weeks of preseason until the mid ’70s and still over 100 candidates tried out. The skills test and other fast-break drills were used as they were in the ’50s.

Currently at Bangor High, 60 to 70 candidates are trying out for three teams from four grades. The biggest reason for the drop in the number of candidates trying out is the number of options students have for winter sports.

Trying to be fair to all candidates during just a one- or two-day tryout session is frustrating for both the coaches and the players. However, coaches do have summer basketball to help them make these difficult decisions.

Here are some suggestions to help coaches ease this difficult process.

1. Don’t cut seniors who try out if they have been in your program the three previous years. Loyalty counts.

2. Have a meeting of players that are cut and allow them to ask why they were not selected.

3. Tell the candidates during the first tryout session that there are never any final cuts. Many things happen that could cause a coach to have to add players during the season.

4. Run drills that not only show basketball skills but also how coachable each candidate is.

During my 40-plus-year coaching career I had to cut 100s of players.

As difficult as it is for coaches to agonize over making the selections, it is harder for the players that do not make a team.

I can speak from personal experience as a player who was cut once.

I know how devastated and disappointed I was after the first tryout, not seeing my name on the list my sophomore year. I was lucky, as I was called in and told that a mistake had been made and that I was still on the list.

That feeling stayed with me as a coach and it made me even more concerned in selecting the rosters.

Good luck to all the candidates in their efforts to make a team for this coming season.