What to Expect at Basketball Tryouts

Be more confident and prepared for your upcoming basketball tryouts with help from these tips.

Butterflies in your stomach. Sweat on your brow. The feeling that everyone is watching your every little move.

Tryouts can be stressful.

Your coach will challenge you both physically and mentally at a tryout. You will encounter drills that test your shooting, dribbling, defense and rebounding skills. You may have to run through some offensive or defensive plays. You might even play in a scrimmage.

“When walking into a tryout, coaches are looking for players with a work ethic,” said DICK’S Sporting Goods Associate Maureen Lawrence, a former Division I player and coach. “They want players with a willingness to go through drills and will look at skill sets.”

So, throw on your favorite shoes, grab your water bottle and get ready to hit the court. Tryouts can be tough, but DICK’S Pro Tips is here to help you head into the experience with some added confidence.

HONE YOUR SKILLS

Every coach looks for something different. But there are always certain skills you can work on to stand out.

Executing basic offensive skills like layups, jump shots and free throws are all crucial.

When working on layups, try to get comfortable using either hand to score. You will tend to only shoot jump shots with your dominant hand. But when it comes to layups and scoring in the paint, there are times you will use your dominant hand and other times you will need to use your other hand. This is a skill coaches seek out in players.

When you’re working on your shot, have a friend help you out.

“Anyone can shoot for an hour and hit 100 baskets,” said DICK’S Sporting Goods Associate Derek Liebert, a former coach at the collegiate level. “[But] it is totally different from shooting with someone guarding you with a hand in your face. It is also important to be able to shoot off the dribble as well as catch and shoot.”

Rebounding, dribbling, passing, footwork and defensive skills are all going to be tested at a tryout as well. You can work on these during the offseason to help improve each skill set. Even dribbling a basketball to the end of your driveway and back can be turned into a mini practice session by adding a second basketball to the mix and working on two-ball dribbling drills or set up cones to dribble around.

Keep in mind the position you play as well. If you’re a guard, focus a little more on your jump shot and ball handling. If you typically play in the post near the basket, work on your jump hook or drop step.

It’s also important to come physically prepared to play. Tryouts are a draining experience, so working on your conditioning weeks in advance is a must.

“Be in shape when heading into a tryout,” said DICK’S Sporting Goods Associate Nick Rivers, a former Division I player. “That is one major thing coaches can identify. They want players who can run up and down the court, who are in shape and who prepared for this moment.”

Discover a variety of basketball drills to try to help you train and develop before heading to the tryout.

BE READY TO BE TESTED

You have put in countless hours of work getting ready for your tryout. You’ve fine-tuned your offense and defense and you are ready for the big day.

But what exactly should you expect?

Coaches will use a variety of drills to test your skill level. Every coach will have their own way of running a tryout, but the skills tested probably won’t vary too greatly. Coaches will want to see what you can do with shooting, ball handling, defense, passing, rebounding and footwork.

When it comes to testing your offense, a coach may give you a set amount of time to make layups with both hands.

“You can expect some kind of shooting drill,” Liebert said. “There are some drills that will test your ability to catch and shoot. There might be another drill where you catch the ball on the wing, take two dribbles and shoot. A lot of coaches will do anything they can to test your skills by putting you in game situations.”

Your ball-handling skills will also be put to the test. This can include dribbling around cones, full-court dribbling, zig zag drills and stationary drills too.

“There is the 3-man weave [drill] that is all about passing and communicating,” Liebert said. “You will need to make good, crisp passes as well as communicate to make a layup at the other end.”

A popular drill in tryouts that tests players passing, floor vision, transition game, offense and defense is the 3-on-2/2-on-1. The drill starts with three players on offense coming down the court attempting to score against two waiting defenders. The player who attempts the shot, whether it is made or not, will then get back to play defense, while the two original defensive players now attempt to score.

Many coaches may also incorporate some sort of scrimmage during the tryout. Whether it is 5-on-5, 4-on-4 or 3-on-3, you can count on playing in some sort of game. This is a time when a lot of skills are being tested, and coaches can get a feel for how you’d react in game-like situations. They’ll also test for skills like passing, shooting and rebounding.

“Most coaches believe rebounding is 90 percent effort and 10 percent skill and positioning,” Lawrence said. “Rebounding is something coaches will throw in during a tryout to see what effort and toughness the potential players will have.”

ATTITUDE COUNTS

Your basketball skills can take you a long way in a tryout, but so will your attitude. Coaches want players who are willing to learn and put it all on the court, so make sure you are ready to hustle and show some grit.

“If it ever comes down to two players, I will go with the one who plays the hardest, someone who talks the loudest and someone who shows they are selfless and wants to be part of a team,” Liebert said. “That kind of stuff will make me want to take someone with a little lesser skill if they are going to work hard.”

Remember: a good first impression goes a long way — introduce yourself to the coach before getting started and remain well-mannered throughout the tryout. If the coach calls everyone in to say something, move quickly — rather than walk — to where they are.

Coaches take notes on players. Things like work ethic, aggressive play on defense and rebounding, and the player’s support of the other athletes can go a long way.

“You want to bring up other players when they get down,” Rivers said. “Coaches want players who can be coaches on the court. Coaches won’t always be there to tell the team what to do, so you want to be a player who can pick the team up and keep them focused.”

Get to the tryout a little early to get warmed up and ready to go. This will also show the coach that you are dependable and can be relied upon to show up on time.

STAY POSITIVE!

This is what it may all come down to. Don’t beat yourself up over a bad pass or a missed shot. It happens to everyone. Coaches will be watching to see you handle to setbacks.

Don’t let that one bad play stick with you. You can erase that from everyone’s minds a minute later by coming up with a big rebound or sinking your next shot. Having this mentality is not only key for the tryout, but for the entire season.

“You need to treat each possession on offense and defense as a new possession. A team is only as strong as its weakest link.  Once a player loses confidence, it can bring the whole team down,” Liebert said.

When you head into tryouts, don’t sweat the small stuff. Come prepared, be confident and ready to give 100 percent. It’s time to show the coach how you’ll be an asset to the team.