So you want to make the basketball team? No problem, you’ve got this! Today we’ll share how to stand out at basketball try outs. We’ll reveal a few simple secrets that can help your put your best foot forward – because that’s all you can do! Control the controllables. Let’s get after it!
From basics such as doing the dirty work (hello, floor ball dives!) to being in good condition, to more advanced skills such as displaying some versatility, here are a few ideas to keep in mind to put your best foot forward. You can also use the post-practice checklist in our basketball journal to reflect on your practices and games to improve.
First – and most importantly – and most obviously: be on time! Get there early, lace up, warm up, and be ready to go. This shows you respect the coach’s time and that you are serious about making the team. Here are a few simple ways to ensure you show up to practice on time:
If you need help with your nerves ahead of practice, here are a few tips for getting calm.
When you’re in good shape, that’s the foundation for performing your best. Follow a structured workout plan during pre-season that includes a combination of strength training, cardio, and basketball-specific exercises. Here’s an example of a workout plan:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday:
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday:
Additionally, getting enough rest and good sleep, eating a healthy diet, and staying hydrated are major keys to ensuring the work you put in pays off.
Make the unselfish play! As NBA superstar Bill Russell said, “The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I’d made my teammates play.” Show the coach that you know what it takes for the team to win, and that you’re not most concerned with your personal highlight reel. Make sure you’re playing for the best shot on the court, not just your shot. Set hard screens to free up their teammates for open shots, and pass the ball.
Work well with others by being a leader in the example you set and vocally. If you feel comfortable doing so, encourage your teammates, talk on the floor, and communicate on defense. Or take the time to help a (future) teammate with a specific skill they are struggling with.
Do the dirty work! Bring intensity on every play. Boxout, rebound, dive for the ball, or take a charge. Show you’re willing to put in extra effort and make sacrifices for the good of the team. Be the first one on the court, and the last one off.
Even the NBA G League coaches look for this kind of thing. “More than anything we are looking for individuals who can improve the intensity of our team and our practices,” said director of scouting operations for the Brooklyn Nets, Matt Riccardi to a group of tryout hopefuls. “There are a lot of success stories, especially in our area in New York. We have some pretty good basketball players, so if we can find anyone in this setting that can help our roster that can make our team, come to training camp and compete, we would love it. I know we mentioned it earlier, but we are looking for unselfish play, high-character guys, good teammates, high IQ and competitors.”
Knowing the drills and plays is half the battle. Be sure when a coach is talking you give them your full attention, and aren’t talking over them. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. Once the drill starts, you need to be fully ready to go.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be coachable! Approach the game with the belief that your abilities can be developed through effort and practice. Listen to constructive feedback from your coach, and make the adjustments as quickly as you can. In short, show that you’re very willing to learn and improve.
For example, if you struggle with getting your shot blocked, instead of getting discouraged and giving up, seek out extra practice and coaching to improve your technique. Look for opportunities to practice your driving in game-like situations. Try to view this struggle as a challenge and an opportunity to grow, rather than as a setback or a reflection of your innate abilities.
As Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Smiling is contagious – pass it on! Be enthusiastic and stay positive, even if things aren’t going your way during tryouts. Bring energy to the court every time you step on it by clapping, communicating, and hustling. Show that you bring enthusiasm to the team by cheering for teammates even if you’re on the bench.
Make sure your coach knows your name. In fact, make sure everyone knows your name. Introduce yourself before or after practice. Speak clearly, and make eye contact.
There’s only one you! Showcase your strengths and unique abilities. If you’re good at stealing the ball, focus on doing that. The trick is to find the way to tap into your unique abilities within your coach’s system. If you’re a shooter and you miss your first few shots, keep shooting (as long as you’re open). Trust that the ball will fall.
As WNBA pro Skylar Diggins-Smith said, “You don’t have to be the best…but you have to be your best.”
Watch film. Know the team’s history and plays. Bring a coach’s mindset. Show that you have a deep understanding of the game by being able to analyze plays, point out different strategies, and discuss what’s working and what’s not regarding different plays with your teammates and the coach. Obviously don’t try to contradict the coach or tell them what plays they need to run. We’re suggesting in situations such as when the coach asks for feedback, when you’re able to scrimmage 5 vs. 5 without too many set plays, when to run the counter play, etc.
You can also develop your basketball IQ anytime, anywhere, with our fun basketball IQ card game (here for beginners and here for advanced), created in partnership with a Nike basketball trainer!
You can show versatility within a role: Show that you can use your strong and weak hands. (Here are some drills to help improve that off hand by the way.) Show that you’re both an offensive and defensive threat. And/or you can show you can play multiple positions. If you can play at guard and big roles, you can help fill gaps on the team even better. No matter what position you get the chance to demonstrate your skills at, seize that opportunity, even if it’s not what you’re used to or where you wanted to be.
As you probably know by now (but it’s worth reminding you!) Michael Jordan, widely considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, did not make his high school varsity basketball team during his sophomore year at Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was reportedly cut from the team because he was deemed too short at the time, standing at 5’11”. However, this rejection motivated Michael to work harder and improve his game. He spent the summer after his sophomore year growing four inches and practicing relentlessly. He made the varsity team the following year as a junior, and went on to have a successful high school basketball career, earning all-state honors and leading his team to the state championship. Plus, he made quite an impact on the NBA. The point is, even if you don’t make it this year, don’t give up if it’s your dream.
Up next learn how to get more playing time in basketball.