The first selection camp for the 2019 Australian Under 24 teams is coming up and club selections are just around the corner. Going through the selection process is a high-pressure, often stressful experience. If you’re successful, you’ve opened the doorway to a collection of new experiences and further learning. If you fall short, you’re on track for an assault to the confidence and some salty solitude.
Never fear! Based on my experience as a player, coach and selector, here are a few of my key tips and tricks for being more successful at tryouts.
Know your strengths
Go into a selection event knowing what to do to showcase your own talent. If you’re a defensive handler, go out, shut down some matchups and throw some breaks. If you’re talented in the air, get downfield and sky some people. People don’t get selected for roles they’ve never performed before. It’s a fairy tale that you’ll have to leave behind with the rest of the childhood fables like the tooth fairy and home ownership.
If you’re struggling to establish what your strengths are – ask a selector or coach. There’s a reason you’re in the talent pool of players in the first place. Return to your strengths if you’re feeling a bit lost in the process or your confidence wavers.
Stick to who you know
There’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re playing with people for the first time. A turnover because no one is running for your floaty, thrower-initiated break shot can make selectors question your decision-making. Miscues on a reset, misreads because of unknown throwers or players left unmarked from missed switches and miscommunications are all small examples where no one wins.
Do your best to play with people who share some chemistry. It could be from playing on the same team for years or having a matching style of play. If this isn’t possible, be aware of the areas of your game that could look unsavoury without the right support cast - modify them or leave them at the door. And if you’re in a totally new group, communicating your skills and preferences to others could help reduce or prevent these miscues.
Being able to play with new people of different experiences is a skill and can be practiced too. If you’re feeling a bit anxious because there aren’t many familiar faces, grab someone and have a throw before or during the selection event. You’d be amazed what you can learn from a person in just a few throws.
There’ll be times where, purely because of the situation, it’s going to be difficult to look good. An example that comes to mind is ending up in a scrimmage in a team of only receivers without any handlers (sidebar: this sounds like a chorus by Alanis Morissette). Everyone will be quietly staring at their shoes when the question goes out “Who wants to handle?”. Don’t try to be the hero - make sure you’re playing your preferred role as much as possible. You might not win the scrimmage but from a selector’s point of view, you’ll look good if you performed your role well.
Sure, there’ll be times where selectors will specifically put you outside of your comfort zone, either to test your reactions to adversity or for a sense of your skills in other areas. Embrace the challenge and give yourself a good crack. Play to your strengths in as many situations as possible and don’t be a victim to awkward silence.
Selections are, by necessity and design, often data-driven exercises. The issue is that some of the traits in players that we say are highly desirable for teams don’t show up easily on a stats sheet.
If you’re a shut-down defender that’s crushing your match-ups each point, this can very easily look like nothing. We’re attracted to the blocks, drops, throw-aways and stall-outs. The humble maiden is easy to miss. It can be the same as a safe pair of hands. You could have fifty touches in a game at a 98% completion rate but find you’re tarred with the single turnover when talking to a selector later on.
My advice is: don’t be afraid to sell yourself. In your one-on-one time with selectors, remember to highlight the good things that you did, especially if they’re easy to miss. And if you’re asking for feedback, make it specific to draw their eye to that scenario next time you’re in it (by asking “what would you like me to take away on an open side dump?” for example). Selectors are always trying to do their best to pick-up on these things, but a little extra help might be the difference between a Green and Gold jersey, or a scissors emoji.
Just remember, it ain’t over until it’s over. Stay positive, engage with other players, learn new content, show-off a little and enjoy yourself!