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Try This Out


Over the past two weekends, I have spent 20+ hours in a gym watching hundreds of kids ages 10-18 go through a pre-tryout practice for club volleyball. It is amazing, heart-wrenching, and inspiring to watch a hodgepodge of boys/young men engage in an event with so many challenges socially, physically, and mentally.

As soon as they start piling into the gym you begin to see an array of behaviors and personalities revealed. The ones that are familiar with the club, process, and players are comfortable and engage with each other. The gregarious ones can easily jump into a conversation or a game of short court. Then there are the introverts who roam around, discomfort and possibly some fear in their eyes, maybe hoping that someone will rope them into some pepper or hitting lines. Who knows, they could just want to be alone so they can charge up their battery before the onslaught of social stimulation. They love volleyball but fear the social barriers that stand before them. They’re good at volleyball but the thought of a gym full of unfamiliar faces kept them up the night before.

Along with the social challenges, the pressure of impressing a coach enough to attract some interest and maybe get an offer to join a team is palpable. I see eyes roaming around to see if a coach is watching after both a bad play and a spectacular play. It's intense!

Tryouts are a great challenge much like a job interview. Here are some ideas that athletes can think about before their tryout that may be helpful this weekend or later in life:

1. If you are too comfortable, look to get uncomfortable.

Shy people will mosey around the outskirts of where the action is happening. That is comfort. If you are an introvert (like me), find a way to engage with just one person in a conversation or warm up with them. Who knows, you may make a connection that will last a lifetime.

If you know you have a great chance of making a team, don’t play with people you are familiar with. There is always a court at a tryout where there are the “leftovers”. Go to that court, raise the level of the players there, and maybe improve someone's chances on that court to be seen and make a team. By putting yourself in someone else's shoes, you create an opportunity to grow as a player and leader.

2. What do you love about yourself and how can you make it shine at your tryout?

I think a lot of young athletes focus so much on the negative things about themselves that it overshadows the positive. I had a mom approach me convinced that coaches favor the taller players over her shorter son. That may be true in some cases but if we focus too much on physical stature, we’ll overlook the great qualities we have that can have a huge impact.

3. Do the things that others aren’t willing to do and do them at a high level.

I believe this is how I made the team at Hawaii. I tried to be the best shagger and floor wiper. I hustled to get to the gym early so I could help set up the nets. I celebrated my teammates more than I celebrated myself. I wasn’t the most skilled person so I knew I had to contribute to the team in other ways. That can be the difference maker when a coach is trying to decide between players.

Best of luck to all the players trying out! If you do not make a team, there are many ways you can still play the sport you love and learn and grow. If you do have the privilege of making a team, you have one of the best opportunities to learn and grow ahead of you. Let that be your guide for your upcoming journey!

With Love, Daniel

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I read this passage in a book titled 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think: Fear doesn't mean a desire to escape. It means you're interested. The emotion most associated with fear is interes


Aug 16, 2023

Thank you for this! Wonderful perspective.


Aug 15, 2023

Love this!


Aug 14, 2023

Amazing that you recognize the intense social aspect of the tryout process. This can be especially difficult as you mentioned as an introvert. I hope everyone involved in the tryout process from Coaches, players and parents read this to try and understand our kids are going through and how we can better support them.

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