It is tryout time again in these parts. It seems as if the season just ended and here we are, getting ready for next season. This year, as I add the dates to my calendar and look at how different organizations run tryouts, I keep wondering why there is an assumption that all of the power resides with the coaches and the organization running the tryouts? Don’t the kids have some say in where they play and who they play for, as well?
I am seeing a trend around here where the organization charges a tryout fee (that is fine) and then, at some point during tryouts, such as before the kids come back for the second day, they want a deposit of hundreds of dollars to be paid. The policy is then that if your child does not make the team, they rip up the check or refund you the money. If your child makes the team, they keep the money and apply it towards your registration fee. Sounds great, right?
There is a catch, however. If your child is offered a spot but chooses not to accept it, the organization keeps your money. These organizations claim that your child is taking a spot from someone else and that is not fair, thus they want a commitment ahead of time.
I call BS on that one!!
First of all, there is such a thing as a waiting list. When you post tryout results, also post an alternate list. Then those kids will know that they are being considered and will hear from the coach if a spot comes available. I know that, for some, this is akin to being cut, and they may chose to move on and try to play elsewhere. That is perfectly fine – but it also gives some kids a heads up that they are still in the running and that may be what they need to know.
Secondly, when a player chooses to go elsewhere, the team will most likely fill that spot and the player will pay the fees. So the money is simply a punishment (or, perhaps, a form of blackmail?), not something that is needed for “lost revenue” if a kid doesn’t take the spot and leaves the team high and dry.
And lastly, this type of policy flies in the face of the idea that the player (and his or her family) also has a say in where he or she is going to play. Sure, there are players who are going to “shop around” for the best team, but there are also times when a player just wants to find out more about the organization and tryouts are a reasonable time to do so. Players and families can get a feel for the rink, the coaches, the other parents, and the other kids during tryouts (especially since they now seem to take place over 3-4 days) , see if and how they might be a fit for the team, and then decide if THEY want to play there.
Radical idea, I know.
We live in a consumer-driven society. Like it or not, that is how it is. Players may be interested in a team and want to learn more. Perhaps they will end up playing there. Perhaps they will end up playing somewhere else. But isn’t it better to let them “try it out” ahead of time before investing a significant amount of money for what is a very long season? Shouldn’t youth sports teams be more interested in fostering a love of the game and exploration to help kids reach their full potential as players and as people than in forcing a commitment (from kids as young as 7 or 8) or driving them away from the game?
Until we do away with the scorn some hold for those families or players that they feel are just “shopping around” for a good team and those organizations that require monetary commitment before team selections are even made, we are doing more to harm youth sports than help.
I know that those in charge of tryouts will likely see this issue much differently and argue that the time and energy it takes to run tryouts and make decisions and the feelings of those who are cut and then approached to take a vacant spot need to be considered. I agree that tryouts are hard for everyone. And I agree that tryouts result in tough conversations, but that is part of the process. You can’t force loyalty – it has to come naturally, from good coaching, good relationships within the organization, good communication, and a well organized season.
Organizations should spend their time on those things and less on coming up with ways to maintain all the power in their relationships with players and families.
That’s my two cents…