Athletic tryouts challenge students’ motivation and spirit

by Paige Heiden and Trevor Skanes
Though only five basketball players can be on the court at one time, 29 freshmen attended this season’s tryouts. Three made junior varsity and 12 made the freshman team, leaving 14 students to be cut. It’s just a fact: some aspiring athletes will not be able to continue playing the sport they love at the high school level.
Students react to being cut in different ways. Some resolve to improve for the following year while others decide to give up on the sport.

When asked if he planned to try out next year, a student who was cut from the basketball team said, “No, because I put in a lot of work and didn’t make it. My best isn’t good enough, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
This feeling of powerlessness is made worse for some students who question the fairness of the tryout process. “I remember finding out on the last day of tryouts that the coaches didn’t even know my name. I was just kind of pushed aside and it just made me think that I never had a chance at making any team,” said another student.
While an athlete’s self-confidence can take a beating during the tryout process, the possibility of being cut is part of the reality teens face at this age and level.
Most coaches have to balance the needs of the team with those of individuals trying out.
“We are trying to identify kids who will make varsity someday when they first come in as freshman,” said one coach. “I’m sure I’ve made mistakes before in terms of people I’ve let go, since I have only watched them play for a limited time. A kid can improve, and if he truly loves the sport, he is going to keep working at it.”
The boys and girls tennis teams follow a no-cut policy that allows every player to make the team, though playing time is not shared equally.
“No-cut programs allow a higher volume of participation, and by theoretical extension, more school pride and spirit,” said Ryan Miller, vice principal and athletic director.
However, not every sport lends itself to a no-cut policy, and some coaches believe competition in the tryout process is an important part of sports.
“While high school athletics is not the real world, there is an element in the cut process of being prepared to participate, learning how to be selected and learning how to be let go,” said Miller. “All of these are life skills that are important to becoming successful in the world.”