Photo: Staci Klemmer
We live in the North Penn School District. My oldest son, who is now a tenth grader, will graduate in a class with over 1100 other students. The high school only has room for grades 10-12; 9th grade stays at the Junior High with 7th and 8th grade.
For an average athlete, playing high school sports is a given. Most schools, including the one I teach at, have maybe 40 to 50 kids come out for soccer and often all of the players are taken. Sure, you may not make varsity, you may not get much playing time, but there at least is a seat on the bench for you.
At North Penn, there is, in theory, a rule on how many 9th graders are taken for the JV/Varsity teams. The year before my son was a 9th grader, they took four.
Last summer, I forced (mean mom!) my son to try out for the team. I told him, you aren’t going to make it, but it will be good experience. Keep in mind, I already knew three of the four 9th graders they were going to take , so I figured there was no way that my kid would be the 4th.
Over 80 players tried out for the team. 15+ were 9th graders. The second day they have to do a timed 2 mile run. In theory, to stand a chance of making the cut, you have to run it in under 13:30, so I had dragged my son out to the local track over the summer to time him. He was averaging around that time.
The list of those who have made the cut is posted on Friday, the last day of tryouts. By that time, realizing that the level of competition is beyond their skills, a few of the kids trying out have already dropped out.
I don’t know who was more surprised to see his name on the list, me or my son. It was one of those moments when you can say to your kid, “See, hard work does pay off.” Yes, I did kinda sort of burst into tears.
The JV team ended up with six 9th graders — the most ever taken — and they had a great season. The downside was that there were 28 players on the team. The good news was that the coach did a great job of rotating so just about everyone got playing time. And as a proud mom, I can say my son was starting half way through the season.
This year, tryouts were a lot less stressful. While some 80+ kids tried out for the team, I knew my son’s spot was his to lose. In fact, after the first day, they pulled him up to train with varsity. In the end, he made JV and he’s OK with that. He’s started all three preseason games and has gotten plenty of playing time.
Tryouts can be a crap shoot. Coaches have such a short time to evaluate everyone’s skills. This week my younger son is trying out for the 7th grade team. The only advice my eldest had to give to him was when you do the run, make sure you are in the front of the pack.
I’ve had a few discussions with other parents about this need to only evaluate kids on their speed rather than their ball skills or how they read the game. I understand that when you have 30+ kids that have to be cut, you need a way to weed them out, but it seems pretty one dimensional to rely just on how fast a kid can run two miles.
So all you PSP high school/middle school coaches, how do you evaluate players? What are you looking for? Does the player who works his butt off in tryouts have a leg up on someone who doesn’t work as hard, but might be faster?
For now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping my younger keeps up on the run and makes the team.