How To Prepare Young Kids For Their First Tryout

Tryouts.

This word stirs up a range of emotions for many of us. From nervousness to excitement, disappointment to triumph, tryouts are one of those life experiences we will never forget. Even first practices or low key evaluations for younger kids are a big deal. Read how about our errors and how we fixed them when it came to our daughter’s first Little League softball tryouts.
 

Softball

Our recent Saturday morning went like this:

0830 The kids stagger out for breakfast, fighting over who gets the “the best stool”, then giggling about how their oatmeal is “goopy gloppy”.

0900 I get a few household chores done, bathe the baby, and the older two kids play. 

1130 The sun comes out! A BIG deal in Washington during February. The next 30 minutes involve trips to the bathroom for everyone, getting into presentable play clothes (versus mismatched pjs/sweats), hair brushed and fixed, baby’s diaper changed, mom changes into “nicer” athleisure and applies fresh mascara, three pairs of shoes, socks and jackets on little bodies, sports equipment in the car, snacks and water packed in case we are out for hours, and three bodies into the car. Wait, FOUR bodies into the car. 

1200 Finally depart house.

1215 Drive past ball fields on the way to the park and see kids throwing baseballs and softballs…

1216 WAS THAT LITTLE LEAGUE TRYOUTS?! Call my friend, tryouts are at 1230. Yikes.

1217 Drive back to house for ball glove as quickly and safely as possible, and proceed to talk to my six year old daughter like this…

“Do you want to play softball? Do you want to go to tryouts? They are right now, well, in 10 minutes. So let’s go over throwing… you know how to throw a ball, like in the backyard? Left foot forward, don’t place the ball, follow through, throw it hard enough, hit them in the chest, don’t worry you’ll be fine. We will work on catching tomorrow.  You haven’t done that much so do your best. You’ve hit off the tee a lot, so just remember EVERYTHING we’ve ever told you. You know, line up on the plate correctly, hold the bat correctly, keep your bat up and back, watch the ball, swing like you mean it, wait for the ball, don’t lunge at it, throw your hands, come all the way through, let your back foot pivot, and remember, watch the ball. K, how do you feel? You ready??”

My daughter responds with, “Umm, I’m nervous and excited?”

1232 We arrive at the field and discover that we missed her age group and we will return for makeup evaluations on Tuesday. The whirlwind and craziness comes to an end, for now, and we go back to our original plan of park playing. 

We probably aren’t the only ones to miss sports tryouts or registrations. Maybe there are even some other parents like me who have made the error of trying to over-complicate and overload kids with information at the last minute. I basically tried to teach her how to throw and bat in a 15 minute car ride. Really effective, Holly.


Tee practice

We want to avoid this scenario in the future, so I gave it some thought and came up with a plan to better prepare for new sports seasons.

Here are a few ways to prepare younger kids for their first tryouts or first practices in a new sport:

  • Make a registration calendar right now of all sports you’re interested in signing up for. Include sign up deadlines and tryout dates. Plug it into your phone or whatever calendar you use. Plan and budget for each activity.
  • Talk to your kids and ask them about their interests, see what they want to participate in, then use your parental judgment and decide on activities that you’re both on board with.
  • Month before evaluations: lf your kid hasn’t had exposure to the sport, begin going over basics a month or so before tryouts/evaluations. You do not need anything fancy but get the proper equipment necessary for their success. If you’re familiar with the sport, teach them the basics. If you don’t know the basics, look them up on YouTube or email us for info. Spend time together watching games on tv to familiarize them with the game. 
  • Day before evaluations or their first practice: Let them know that tomorrow is the day! Again, there is no need to go out and buy anything fancy, but make sure your kid has appropriate clothing (dress in layers) for their sport. Remind them to drink water throughout their day. Dinner should provide good sources of complex carbohydrates, protein, and nutrients found in fruits and veggies. Help them get good night sleep and talk about how fun it will be to start their new sport the next day.
  • Day of evaluations or their first practice: Help them mentally prepare by being positive, and remember that there is no need to stress! Give them a snack about an hour before, and be sure to send their water bottle with them. Remind them to be respectful of the coaches and other players, and to do their best. Have a plan for pickup, give them a fist bump, and let them do their thing!

Your kid isn't trying out for the Yankees yet, so maintain proper perspective and pay attention to your child’s needs. Each kid is different and approaches challenges differently. Your job is to promote participation in sports because it promotes activity, teaches new skills and provides new experiences. Keep asking the questions, “Is this fun? Are you still having fun?”

Throw practice

To end our story of softball tryouts:

Over the weekend we reviewed the basics in the backyard, keeping things light hearted but teaching correct fundamentals. She attended makeup tryouts the following Tuesday. I watched her from behind the chain link fence and took note of the things I could help her with at home. As tryouts ended and we walked to the car, she was skipping around saying, “I really like softball! I REALLY want to do it. Can we do it? Can we come back? I liked hitting the balls the most…”

Her behavior tells me we are on the right track of positively promoting sports participation. Play ball!