What I Learned From Getting Cut From The Team... The Second Time

Kevin High School photo

If you have been following Beyond Your Limits you already know that I was cut from my high school junior varsity team twice. With this season just getting underway I was reflecting on some valuable lessons I learned throughout the process of being cut from the team. Coming into my freshman year in high school I thought I was really prepared to make the team and start my basketball career. After being cut my freshman year it was an eye opener, maybe I wasn't as good as I thought, maybe I had an off two days, maybe I needed to work harder on improving my game. So that summer I woke up every morning at 5am and ran 3 miles for my conditioning. I did toe raises, I thought would increase my vertical, and I also did ball handling drills that I saw on a Magic Johnson video. I worked on all of my weaknesses to get them up to par. So when tryouts came around my sophomore year I knew that I worked hard and was ready to show the coach my new improved skill level. I even had a Jordan basketball card in my sock because I heard he got cut from his high school team to. So on the third day after our 2 day tryout the names of the people who made the team would be posted in the gym. I got to school early to see the list and to my surprise my name was not on it. I had a terrible day and after school I went home to my room and cried because I worked so hard for a goal and I didn't reach it. Thank God I didn't give up on basketball at that time because if I did I would have missed out on becoming an All-City and All-State basketball player. I would have missed out on leading the nation in scoring and being a junior college All-American. I would have missed out on being offered over 10 division 1 scholarship offers. I would have missed out on playing professional basketball and being paid to travel around the world and play a game I love. I would have missed out on countless relationships with teammates and fans and worst of all I probably would not have met my wife who was also an athlete at Wright State. So without further ado here is what I learned from being cut the second time.

#1 Get To Know The Coach

The first time the coach sees you should not be at the tryouts. If I had it to do over I would be in the coaches office every chance I got, picking his brain. I would ask him what he looked for in a point guard or shooting guard (the positions I would have played in tenth grade). I would show him I had a interest in playing on the team and let him know that I was working hard to make the team. Later I found out that they were having preseason conditioning the weeks leading up to tryouts. Had I been communicating with the coach I would have known that. Bottom line is if the coach doesn't know you its easy for him to cut you. Also if it comes down to choosing you or a player with a similar skill set, the coach will choose the guy he knows a little bit about.  I went to the biggest public school in Detroit at the time and we had about 100 people tryout for the team. We had to pin numbers on our shorts to keep track of everyone, I was just a face in the crowd. The coach did not know me and it was easy for him to cut me, but if we had talked before the tryout he would have at least taken a look to see if I was worth keeping. You should make sure the coach knows you. Don't be a nuisance but stop by a few times to say hello and let them now that you intend to be their starting point guard for the upcoming season.

#2 You are Not Good If No One Knows Your Good

Play with confidence, don't be afraid to show what you got. I remember to start the tryout coach came up and asked can anyone dunk? Four kids came up to try and dunk only one of them made the dunk but all four made the team. Coincidence, I think not. Now at this point in time I could not dunk but I could grab the the rim and have an impressive miss. And thats exactly what I would do if I could do it again. Next the coach said can anyone here make a three pointer? This time six kids came up to attempt a three pointer. At this time shooting was probably the strongest part of my game but my lack of confidence kept me in my seat. Now all six kids missed their three pointers and two of them made the team. Those are pretty good odds for there being a 100 people there. I did okay throughout the drills and once we started playing 5 on 5, I would bring the ball up the court pass it to the wing and disappear for the rest of the possession. I didn't have the confidence to show my game. In reality, I was better than most of the people at tryouts but if you were watching from the sideline you could not tell. I didn't make any mistakes but I also didn't make anything positive happen. And it was to my detriment that I did not stand out. So at your next tryout make sure you try to make plays on offense and defense even if you make a mistake. Try to penetrate, create space to get your shot, or play pressure defense, what ever you're good at, make sure it shines throughout the tryouts.

#3 Play To Your Strengths

Like I mentioned earlier I spent the whole year after I got cut in the ninth grade working on my game, but my biggest problem was that I spent it working on the wrong things. I focused in on the weakest parts of my game and I worked my tail off to make those parts of my game respectable. In the tenth grade my biggest strength was my jump shot. I was an above average shooter but I spent exactly zero time working on my shot. Actually my shot could have been my ticket onto the team. It's good that I worked on my weaknesses to make them respectable, but the bad thing is that no one cares about average. People only take note of the exceptional, instead I should have spent that time making myself into an elite shooter. I should have worked on creating space to get my shot off, perfecting my form to get my shot off quicker, and running of screens. If I came into tryouts and shot the lights out no one would have cared that I was a below average ball handler, there would have been a spot on the team for me as a specialist. And later I could have gradually brought the other parts of my game to a respectable level. Its important to have a well rounded game, but there is always a spot for someone who is one of the best at what they do.

Let Frustration Be Your Fuel

Actually I'm happy that I got cut that second time. It showed me a lot about myself and my character that I might not have found out until much later. I went home and cried that day and you know what happened after that? I got up at 5am and started working even harder. This was a point where I could have given up on my dreams and no one would have blamed me for it. But I didn't give up because this was something that I wanted so badly that I was not going to let anything or anyone stop me from getting it, and you know what? God seems to open doors and give opportunities to people who don't take no for an answer and are passionate and willing to do whatever it takes to make their dream a reality. So my advice to you is don't let a bump in the road stop you, just work smarter and harder to see your dreams become a reality. I'm not telling you what I heard I'm telling you what I lived. It is possible for you to get whatever you want out of basketball, and it all starts with you believing it is possible for you. 

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(Book Recommendations)The Fab Five: Basketball Trash Talk the American Dream by Mitch Albom bit.ly/fab-five-albom this is the first chapter book I ever read were it wasn't required by school. Or you can listen to them if you don't like to read bit.ly/no-reading

*** Making The Team Tips *** 

1. Get To Know The Coach

2. You Are Not Good If No One Knows Your Good

3. Play To Your Strengths

4. Let Frustration Be Your Fuel

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