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Elite Team Tryouts: Harsh Reality With A Silver Lining

Editor’s Note: Barry Marenberg is heavily involved in youth lacrosse in New Jersey.  His kids are full-on lax die hards, and when he’s not working, Barry stays busy getting more than his fair share of lacrosse.  BM stops by to offer up some thoughts on Elite travel team tryouts, and we think it’s important that he did.  There are more and more elite travel teams out there every day, so players and parents need to understand expectations, and how things work.  Barry was kind enough to lend his direct experience with this to us, the LAS Nation!

Are you a player, parent or coach?  Have something to say?  Can you write half as well as Barry?  Then we want you!  Email your potential story ideas to and we’ll get you rolling!


Summer elite team tryout season is rapidly approaching.  As the boys get to the middle school age they start to consider playing on the Summer travel elite teams and begin to undergo the trials and tribulations of numerous elite team tryouts.  Typically these tryouts take place in October and November, in order to select players for a team that starts practicing and playing the following June.  Most of the time there is a substantial fee (oftentimes exceeding $50) just to attend the tryout.

I have been coaching youth boy’s lacrosse for many years, at a bunch of different grade levels. I have also personally attended a number of these summer elite team tryouts with my son who has played on a number of different summer elite teams.  While I tend to keep to myself at these tryouts, observe what takes place, and hope my son does well, I am constantly confronted by parents after the tryout ends who lament about the whole tryout process and its seemingly inherent unfairness.

There are never-ending complaints about the difficulty and intensity of the tryouts, the cost, and the subjectivity of the player selections by the coaches.  I have witnessed team tryouts where 100+ boys were vying for what I eventually learned were just 6-10 openings on the roster.  The parents then protested that the team holding the tryout was robbing them by charging a fee and encouraging mass attendance at the tryouts, when the coaches and team knew in advance that over 90% of those in attendance had almost no chance of making the team.

I do admit that is a harsh reality.  As a father of a player who attends these tryouts I concede that such a reality is difficult to stomach.  As a coach and a businessman, who has been involved in the lacrosse world in a number of different capacities, I can say first-off that these tryouts are part of running the business of a team and organization.  The private lacrosse teams are “for-profit” businesses and we are its “customers”.  While I believe wholeheartedly that these lacrosse organizations have a genuine interest in providing a great lacrosse experience for their players, training them, helping them improve and fielding winning teams, this is all done as part of a business.

And how does a business grow? By providing quality products or services.  When a lacrosse organization continuously fields winning teams and helps to train players for playing with top-notch collegiate teams, more and more attention is focused upon this organization and the attraction of playing for that organization grows.  So each year more and more players show up for the tryouts hoping to become a part of this winning organization.  But the team does not turn over all their players every year and usually a majority of players return from the previous year.  As such, there are only a few true openings on the roster that the coaches are seeking to fill.

Tenacious Turtles elite youth lacrosse club travel team
The Tenacious Turtles are an elite youth lacrosse team.

Photo courtesy Amy Keogh’s SmugMug.

Despite what many disgruntled players and parents might lead us to believe, it’s not actually a scam. Its often true that the actual number of open roster spots are few, but that should be expected in a winning organization where turnover is minimal.  Nobody forces any player to sign up and pay for these tryouts.  Coaches within these lacrosse organizations are genuinely interested in putting together a team of the BEST players available to them and one of the best ways to find these players is to watch them perform at a tryout.  That being said, parents and players also need to know exactly what they’re getting into.

Holding such a tryout has numerous intrinsic costs.  A tryout requires the presence of many coaches, the rental of a field or indoor facility, a sports trainer and/or EMT, marketing and promotion, etc.  This all costs money.  Every player that attends a tryout has a “chance” to make the team.  However, it’s up to the player to demonstrate that they have the skills the coaches are seeking.  If not, they get cut.  Parents and players cannot then cry sour grapes, because nothing is really being hidden from you.

There is a flip side to all of this that many players and their parents very often forget.  Again, I am not unmindful that some of these tryouts are expensive and run for just 90 minutes or 2 hours. Can a player’s true skills be seen in such a short period of time in a seeming “cattle call” of players?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  The hope is that that every player who voluntarily attends a tryout brings his “A” game, and puts forth his best effort in the time he is provided to show his skills.  If such efforts did not warrant him an invite to a particular team, perhaps there is another team that might provide a better opportunity.

Additionlly, instead of ranting, raving and complaining about the process and about the price, about the seeming unfairness and about not making the team, there is an enormous opportunity to learn and grow from the experience!

Participating in the tryout, but not making the team, still provided the opportunity to see (first-hand) the level of play by others necessary to make that team.  Hopefully, what is gleaned from participation in a tryout can provide encouragement to work harder, practice more and take additional steps to raise a player’s level of play for the next tryout or the next year.  So instead of getting upset about all this and looking to place blame on a seemingly unfair process, look at the silver lining in the opportunity that has been provided, and then learn and grow from it.

For more of Barry’s blogging, make sure to check out his site: BJMLaxBlog!