Soon, Minnesota high school dance coaches will be moving into their first full week of practices. Most will start off that week with a tryout of some kind – either to determine their team or to finalize their roster for Varsity, junior varsity and beyond. Tryouts can be stressful for everyone involved, but the best way to handle this is to over-prepare. Here are some thoughts that might be helpful!
Communicating with dancers and parents is paramount and the information needs to be simple and clear – best done in writing. If plans for tryouts can be written down and shared with everyone, it will save hours of emails and phone calls later on. Check the plan with the AD and the coaching staff, too, so you have their support.
- If you are able to quantify parts of tryouts, share that with dancers and parents – for example, Varsity dancers must be able to: execute a triple pirouette, have right and left splits flat, hold a two minute plank, demonstrate four sets of pre-set unlinked kicks with proper technique, show three jumps/leaps. It’s ok to say that small exceptions may be made and it’s also important to tell them that effort and attitude play a part in the selection process.
- If kids didn’t make the cut, do you have any personal feedback you can share with them? Some tryout panels have one person dedicated to taking notes that can be shared back to students, other coaches provide a list of local alternatives like studios or other dance programs.
- Everyone looks at Varsity as the place to be, but it’s important for dancers to understand their placement has to be appropriate – age, maturity, responsibility and attitude is just as important as skills. You may even have kids who don’t want a Varsity position because of injury or time commitment. Does your program have ways to allow those students to continue to participate? Be sure you’re giving the Varsity positions to the right people!
- Prepare everyone for the possibility they may not make the team – some kids walk into your tryouts thinking they are “in” – they may not have ever had to try out for anything before.
- Most kids participate in sports to spend time with their friends – do you consider friendships when creating your rosters?
Finally, communicate an outlet for issues so you are in control of what happens after tryouts. Having a cooling off period – 24 hours – before contacting the coach is a good way to manage some of the initial anger. Any process you choose will work as long as you let everyone know what the process is and then you follow through.
- Know your Limits
Every coach has some parameters to work within – it could be space constraints for practice – if you have a space that only accommodates 16 bodies, you cannot take on 19 dancers. If you are the only coach, you need to be realistic on how many dancers you can serve all alone. Do you have a veteran coaching staff or are you mentoring new coaches, too? If you have a young team with lots of rookie dancers, you need to factor that into your decisions. If you’re in a long-term coaching situation, you will want to think about the program as a whole. Heavy on seniors this year? What will your team look like next season? Can you consider taking more underclassmen this year to plan ahead for next year? How many “projects” can you take on? The time and attention of the coaching staff cannot be overlooked in the plan for the season – you only have so much time! Be realistic about what your coaching staff can take on because it can help you be more successful later.
So whether limits are space, time or coach related, you’ll know what you can handle ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.
- Stick to the Plan
If you have a plan for tryouts, a process for issues, a limit in mind for team size – you have to stick to the plan. It can be difficult when you are sitting down to write out those final numbers or lists of names for teams. Don’t change the plan. If you tell someone you’ll respond to them after 24, be sure you follow up. Stick to the plan – or designate some of this type of responsibility to a member of your coaching staff. If you find yourself making decisions that are hard, it’s ok to sleep on it. Most kids show you their very best at tryouts. Judge them for what they are showing you.
Good luck to all teams & coaches during tryouts!
MADT Board of Directors