For Little League® managers to get the most out of player tryouts takes some planning and preparation.
Each local league conducts some form of player evaluation. As each Little Leaguer® is judged individually, against others in their age group or division, the manager who knows what to look for will have a better chance of building a talent list that offers a variety of options to choose from during the selection meeting (player draft).
To help set some parameters for skill assessment, your invited to uses these tips. Be sure to keep in mind that it is likely that most players are coming into the tryout having not picked up a bat or ball in many months.
Note: For a player to be eligible to be drafted to a Little League team, he/she must tryout.
What to Know Before Player Tryouts
Your league’s maximum regular-season roster size and league-age range for the division you are coaching will establish the talent pool. This information will be important as you assemble a list of players you are interested in selecting for your regular-season team.
Ask the league’s Player Agent, Vice President of the division, or the division’s coordinator if a list of registered players, organized by age, will be available and/or provided before the tryout. If yes, review the list and identify players you are familiar with, as well as, siblings; and children with parents who may make quality assistant coaches, or support staff members.
Identify the league age of each of the rostered players.
Seek out the division’s Vice President or Coordinator to get an explanation of the tryout process. Find out who will be overseeing the tryout(s), instructs the players during the tryout(s), and conducts the drills that will be evaluated.
If your league does not annually re-draft entire rosters, and you are a returning manager, account for the returning players in order to focus on what, and how many, positions you will need to fill for the coming season. First-year managers inheriting a partial roster can improve their evaluation prospects by speaking with the former manager and/or coaches to identify areas of need
What to Look for During Player Tryouts
For those managers with established players on the roster, and a certain number of roster spots to fill, try to identify players that can step in for this season, or the following season.
Managers drafting a new team each year are encouraged to start with pitching and defense. The reason why is simple: If a team can’t score against you, then all you need is one run to win the game.
Three Skills to Evaluate During Player Tryouts
Each player tryout will showcase basic skills. So, whether you are a baseball or softball manager, consider the types of drills that are being executed, and how a player’s performance will translate on to the field.
After watching tryouts and making your list of potential draftees, speak with the current players on the team to get their opinion the incoming players. Finally, the emotions of a child are a very important to evaluate. Be sure to consider your impression of the player’s personality and watch how he/she reacts to their performance. So often, a Little Leaguer’s willingness to have fun and be a good teammate will far exceed physical talent.
Always consider a Little Leaguer’s versatility, then begin by rating defensive fundamentals.
How does the player move to the ball? Watch the footwork when fielding ground balls and fly balls.
How does the player field the ball? Are their hands positioned properly, and does the player transfer the ball quickly to their throwing hand.
How accurate and strong is the player’s throwing arm? Assuming the player is properly warmed up, how far does the ball travel, and how well can the player put the throw on target.
When it comes time to rate offense, look beyond bat-ball contact to determine if the player is a hitter.
If the tryout is held in a gym or a playing field, the player’s swing will be influenced by the environment, the pitcher, and the number of pitches received.
Regardless if player hits the ball, look at the position in the batter’s box and body language when the ball is pitched. If a player shows the ability to track the ball to the plate, stay in the batter’s box and/or steps toward the pitcher when swinging, and does not shy away from the ball, then there is potential to develop that player’s hitting skills.
Speed is the third skill. It can’t be taught, but it can be the difference between a hit and an out.
During a base-running drill, sprints, or defensive drills, gauge the player’s reaction time. A player with speed and quick reflexes, especially a younger player, is worth drafting, knowing that the other areas of the game will develop with coaching and experience.