Running an Efficient Selection Trial

Posted on Oct 27 2021

With many organisations, associations and clubs about to commence trials for 2022 teams and programs, we look at some ideas that may assist in running an efficient selection trial.

As with most aspects of coaching, running an efficient and successful selection trial starts with two elements – questions and planning.

The first step is to identify the key questions, work through some solutions and apply it to the planning. Some key questions might be –

  • Landscape – how many trialling, how many baskets/courts, how many coaches?
  • Time – how long are sessions, how many sessions?
  • Resources – do you have a manager/administrator to assist with organisation, will there be a sports trainer/physio on site?

Once you have these aspects covered, the next phase of questions is around what will happen on court –

  • Athletes – who are our trialists, who is returning, who is new?
  • The Who – what sort of players are we looking for, who fits our system of play?
  • Technical – what are we going to do in the trial, what do we need to see?
  • Priorities – what do we want in a player?

By sitting with your assistant coaches or coaching panel and discussing these and other questions, you provide a strong platform for the trial/s and not only how you want to approach, but also driving an outcome.

This will allow for consistency and clarity of messaging within your coaching group. Usually, we don’t feel we have enough time for trials, so ensuring the message from coaches is consistent is an important aspect of organising your trial.

Basketball ACT High Performance Manager and former AIS Women’s Basketball Head Coach Phil Brown recently conducted a webinar for BACT coaches on efficient training session and many of the points and concepts can also be related to the running of trials. Thanks to Phil and BACT for sharing this valuable resource.

Some elements of consistent messaging will be –

  • Language – be as consistent trial to trial, coach to coach as possible
  • Priorities – the messaging from coaches has to be linked to the trial priorities
  • More observation, less talk – while we always want to take the chance to teach and coach, be mindful the learning doesn’t get in the way of the doing
  • Tone and volume – players will be nervous enough, be aware of your tone and volume in the teaching and instruction

The Technical –

With time at such a premium in selection trials, efficiency in the technical program is perhaps the most crucial part of your planning and delivery.

Coaches naturally have a proclivity to teach and want to ensure they are creating a positive learning environment. But with the clock ticking, balancing this with being able to see what players can do is valuable.

Some coaches will say “we want to see who can learn” and that is certainly part of the evaluation process. But perfecting a forward lead or understanding a pick and roll concept in detail may not provide the coach with a feel for what the player can do in the heat of battle.

In essence, you want to get a feel for what players can do in settings such as –

  • Execute skill under pressure/game-like environments
  • Make decisions in a game-like environment
  • Create for themselves and others
  • Defend individually and in the collective

That doesn’t mean roll the balls and simply play for thew entire trial. Players need some parameters and there is a value in seeing who can listen and problem solve when being exposed to new information or concepts.

But seeing how well a player executes footwork on a 1 v 0 curl cut shooting drill doesn’t provide a lot of value in the evaluation process.

Using small sided-games or advantage/disadvantage drills allows for the players to enjoy some level of success and also provides the coaches a more realistic setting to evaluate who can do what on the floor.

Documenting what you see –

At most trials, you will see an army of coaches patrolling the sidelines with clipboards in hand, furiously writing notes as they see a player make a basket or take a charge.

Documenting the process is important for when your coaching panel sits down to make final assessments and selections. But there has to be consistency in the notes being taken and how they are interpreted.

As with the consistency of messaging, having a clear idea of the evaluation process and priorities are important areas when you sit down to make final selection.

And a word of caution to coaches at trials – if you write something down, expect it to be see and read by others! Be circumspect on your comments; there are many examples of when a folder has been inadvertently left lying around and an athlete or parent has read comments

Of course, filming trials is a valuable way to ensure you are making educated decisions at the selection table. The ability to

Running selections trials is never easy, hopefully some of these ideas and concepts make it a little bit easier.

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