I previously posted some volleyball try-out drill ideas for use in assessing prospective players. It is worth backing things up a bit, however. We need to a think about just what we should be looking at or for during try-outs. It’s easy enough to say I want to pick the best X players for the team. The reality on the ground is rarely that simple, though. Very often we have to consider returning players, politics, social and/or family relationships, and any number of other factors along the way. Below are some of the things to think about when you’re trying to select players.

Filling holes or building a new team?

If you are picking a team essentially from scratch you have to address things differently than if you’re just looking to fill some spaces on roster. In the latter case it’s more than just about picking the best players. You need to think about the chemistry and personality of the team you already have in place, as well as finding the players to fit the openings in the roster. This isn’t to say that chemistry is not important when picking a whole team. It’s just that you’re more likely to be putting skill at the top of the list. Player personality then becomes a second level judgement. When filling holes – especially when it’s not in the starting line-up – personality considerations may play a larger role.

Win Now or Development?

It is definitely a different type of assessment process when looking for players to help you win right away than when looking for those you can develop to hopefully become good players in the future. This isn’t always a clear-cut sort of decision, though. Sometimes you have to keep both objectives in mind. If you’re making decisions based on developmental needs, you’ll likely be putting physical attributes at the top of the list – like height, quickness, speed, explosiveness. You’ll also be looking at work ethic, attitude, and other indications of both the willingness and ability to learn and improve. No doubt you’ll also be looking at some of the same characteristics in a win-now situation, but the item at the top of the list is current playing ability.

Where are your coaching strengths?

When picking players it’s also worth considering your own strengths and weaknesses as a coach. If you’re good at coaching hitting, but not so good at coaching defense, it would probably be best for you to try to identify good defending players with the potential to develop as hitters. If player motivation is not your strong suit, you should maybe favor players who are self-motivated. In other words, cover your weaknesses and play toward your strengths.

These are just some of the things near the top of my mind when preparing for try-outs. What about you? In your situation what sorts of things weigh most heavily on your player selection process?

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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