The best advice I ever got at a tryout was from Gavin Moore. I was mentally beating myself up for an on-field error at a Dingoes tryout when he gave it to me. And while I wish he hadn’t waited so long into my Ultimate career to deliver this message, it's something I've kept in mind ever since.
“Everyone makes mistakes. It's how you deal with them that sets you apart.”
(As an aside, I don't think we pay enough homage to our role models in this sport, so quick shout out to Gavin for teaching me an aggression useful in winning games.)
Tryouts can be one of the most difficult environments to perform well in. You often don't know any of the other players, are in a foreign environment and being asked to perform at an elite level by unfamiliar coaches. On top of this, you're shitting bricks.
In an ideal scenario, you would perform at a perfect level, delivering on all selection criteria outlined by the coaches while also not making any skill errors. But if you take a step back and look the process with a rational mind, not only is this extremely unlikely, it would be completely unreasonable for selectors to require this of every player selected for the team.
Take a minute and put yourself in the selector's shoes. It’s likely you will want individuals that are resistant to adversity, enjoy challenging themselves and seek feedback rather than shun it.
The vast majority of players picked for the team will inevitably mess up many times over the tryout process. What the coaches and selectors are really looking for is how players deal with those mistakes.
What not to do
We've all seen it before - a player makes a mistake, spikes their hat, shouts loudly and stalks off the field, ignoring the outstretched high-five hands of their teammates. They then stay quiet and in their own head on the sideline and have a relatively uninspiring rest of the day.
What to do
Resist adversity, don’t cave to it — If you make a mistake or you get roasted by another player, double down and put in more effort to try and overcome the challenge in front of you. Whether you succeed or not is largely irrelevant, the selectors will be viewing tryouts with the whole season in mind. Showing a ‘never say die’ attitude bodes well for your long-term development.
Enjoy the challenge, don’t be disheartened by it — Further to the last point, take a minute to realise that if you really want to make this team, the reason you’re here is to challenge yourself. Enjoy the process and show the team this to the selectors. When the chips are down in a game at some point later in the season, which inevitably they will be, the selectors will want players on their side who relish the challenge, rather than find it disheartening.
Seek feedback, don’t shun it — This one should be done proactively, rather than waiting till after you’ve screwed up. Identify the selectors and senior players on the team and tell them you’re looking to improve on X, Y, Z etc. Make it clear they should approach you if they see something worth mentioning over the course of the tryouts. Keep it relatively specific to why you’re going to be selected for the team: “I’m looking to improve my dump defence” rather than, “If you have any feedback, let me know”. This works in your favour in a few ways:
Shows you’re hungry for feedback, which is a large part of what makes a player coachable
Pulls you out of the crowd as someone to watch
Identifies that you’re focused and intent on improving specific areas of your game, another good sign of a coachable player
So if you get knocked down at tryouts this weekend, get back up with a smile on your face. You’ve signed up for this journey to challenge yourself so realise this is exactly where you want to be.