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Tips to Dominate Tryouts

by Ryan Thomas
From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Coach Ryan Thomas trains basketball players, working at Breakthrough Basketball. He is a former college player (Concordia and Central Michigan) with over 13 years of coaching experience, and has trained many youth, high school, college and professional players.

Coach Ryan Thomas
Ryan Thomas

You've spent the offseason fine tuning your strengths and improving any glaring holes in your game. It is now time to let your hard work shine. You must take pride and trust in the work that you have put in since last season. However, the job is not done yet!

Below we will give you 6 simple tips to help you stand out at tryouts. These tips will help you set the tone for a successful new season.

No matter what level of player you are, everyone from the star player to the last person on the bench has a role on the team. If you implement the tips below, they will help you to star in your current role and even grow into the expanded role you are working for.

  • 1. Be early and stay late
  • 2. Be in control of the controllables
  • 3. Be the best communicator in the gym
  • 4. Be first in line (LEAD)
  • 5. Be the hardest worker in the gym
  • 6. BE YOU


1. Be early and stay late

If you are early you are on time. If you are on time you are late. Coaches love players that show initiative and are serious about the game. Show up early and take advantage of the extra time you gain in the gym. It is crucial that you prepare for practice, don't just wait for practice.

It is easy to see who takes the game seriously and who doesn't. Look around the gym 10 minutes before practice starts. You will see a distinct difference in the mindsets between those that take the game seriously and those that do not. The average players are still in slides, with headphones on, staring at their phones, laughing and joking around. The serious players are already fully dressed, shoes tied and probably sweating from their own personal warmup. Stand out with your preparation before the first whistle is blown.

As everyone else is rushing for the exit at the end of practice grab a ball and get some extra shots up. This small effort shows the coach that you are serious about your game and getting extra reps. Great players don't leave the gym; they get the lights turned off on them. Be the last one in the gym as the coach is turning out the lights to go home.

Tryout tip: show up 30min early (10min stretch, 5min jump rope, 5min stationary ball handling, 10min form shooting).

2. Be in control of the controllables

The only two things that you can truly control in basketball (and life) are EFFORT and ATTITUDE. These two controllable attributes impact everything you do. That impact can either be negative or positive. The interesting thing about effort and attitude is that they are extremely contagious. Coaches love players that spread great effort and positive attitude.

Lead with your effort and always focus on displaying great body language. One of the very first things you will hear coaches say at some of the best basketball camps in the country is the importance of "EFFORT and ATTITUDE".

  • YOUR EFFORT is solely up to you. If you give up that control you are giving up the one thing that can separate you from everyone else in the gym. It doesn't matter how tall, strong, fast or even how skilled you are, there is no reason someone should outwork you. Sustained consistent effort over long periods of time is the great equalizer. Effort can make up for many deficiencies. Effort is also the factor that separates good from great.
  • YOUR ATTITUDE - Everything starts and ends here. If you bring the right attitude everyday everything else will fall in line. Successful people have an uncommon ability to block out distractions and adversities to remain focused on a common goal. Clear your mind, leave all outside noise behind you and focus on the task at hand. Bring enthusiasm that people love to be around. Be the teammate that players love to play with.

Tryout tip: Focus on lifting up your teammates. Make it a goal to average 1 touch per min. Do this by high fiving or fist bumping 1 teammate on average every minute.

3. Be the best communicator in the gym

Talking while playing offense and defense is a nonnegotiable for winning basketball. One of the all time greatest coaches, Pat Summitt, was known for kicking players out of practice who refused to talk as it was seen as a sign of selfishness.

Communication is about effectively sending and receiving messages to accomplish a goal. Focus on positive, assertive and clear communication. This type of communication will show a coach that you are invested in being a great teammate, you have a high basketball IQ, you can handle adversity and you are hungry to win.

Tryout tip: Seek out players that are struggling with a drill and talk them through it.

4. Be first in line (LEAD)

Coaches love leaders. Volunteer to go first in drills even if this means getting outside of your comfort zone. Make sure that when you lead that you lead in the right direction. Pay attention to the details, know the expectations of the coach, and give great energy. All eyes will be on you so this is a great time to show the coaches what you are about. This will also give you extra time to show your skill set.

Tryout tip: While other players run to the back of the line run to the front. Volunteer and lead every drill.

5. Be the hardest worker in the gym

The top 50 players in the NBA right now have one thing in common, they take pride in being in great shape. Your mind will tell you that you are tired way before your body will. Train your brain and body to push through "the wall" that many players hit and think they have nothing more to give.

Don't let fatigue be the reason that you can't execute. You must have the discipline to make sacrifices that others aren't willing to make. You will make a huge impression on a coaching staff if you can consistently sit down and defend, take a charge, dive on the floor, and win sprints while others are looking to take the easy way out.

Tryout tip: Avoid false hustle such as unnecessary reaching, cheap fouls, gambling or flopping.


Many players spend too much time trying to prove to teammates, coaches and themselves that they can do things that they aren't accustomed to doing. They end up forcing action and expose their weaknesses.

When it comes to tryouts, team practices and games focus on what you do best. Showcase your skills by playing under control and operating in your comfort zone. Use structured player development time to work on expanding your game and trying new things.

Tryout Tip: Do what you do best.

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