Assembling the Team


The venerable Tim Larsen asked me what I was looking for in tryouts? My snap response what “players”. It’s the same response that the regional ODP director gave to the parents last Saturday morning in Gainesville. See my previous blog on “The Five Attributes of a Player”.

As I continued talking, I realized the analysis is not that simple. Particularly in the high school setting talent is limited, and what I am looking for becomes a multi-tiered puzzle.

A few summers ago, I was speaking to current Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson during an AAU tournament at Disney. He was heading into his second season as coach of his alma mater Princeton, after a difficult first season. He felt several players in the game we were watching could play at Princeton or in the Ivy League, but he didn’t have much interest. The reason was the players before us where threshold players for the league, but not difference makers. To push Princeton out of the doldrums he needed players that created problems for the rest of the league. He needed difference makers. At any level, the first thing you are looking for is someone that your competition will have a problem dealing with. The more, the merrier.

The next tier is the core. Players that will start and/or play signficant minutes for you on a nightly basis. These will be players that have a balance of the “Five Attributes“, and show an inclination to buy in to your vision of the team. They are the believers, and will determine the strength of your team through their daily commitment to work and the bonds they develop amongst themselves.

The final tier are peripheral guys and the last man standing. These are players that will not play on a regular basis, sometimes not at all for long stretches. This portion of the roster is about expectation management. You must be honest with these players up front about their role, or lack thereof. These players must be honest with you and more importantly themselves in responding. In some instances this can be a young player who has the potential to move up a tier or two, but usually this is a player who, must have an interest in being on the team that transcends playing time in games. Some potential profiles for these players include two sport players with a greater investment in the other sport, players who despite limited abilities genuinely aspire to coach, or sociable kids, who have the requisite skills to get through practice and derive most of their enjoyment simply from belonging to the team.

The profiles to avoid are low energy loners or delusional players that believe they should have a far more significant role.

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