How to go wrong with National Team tryouts without trying.

Dear gentle reader, the season of tryouts is upon us, and this author would lie if the gore and drama were not the true highlight of it all. For many, it was such a great morning to have their inbox implode with a rejection email for the next week tryouts. Most players were looking forward to at least getting rejected right after the first tryouts. Spoiler alert for the unaware: they didn’t even make it through the tryouts to the actual tryouts. International experience skyrocketed the others into National Team eligibility with a golden ticket. Experience usually unattainable for regular Ringo players. What could possibly go wrong?

tryout season

A true story based on people’s experiences over the years of trying to perfect their game and skills but not being mainstream ultimate frisbee players.

Why should you even bother with tryouts?

Tryouts are a perfect way for all players willing to take up the challenge to see how they progress with their skills and what requires work. Going to the tryouts is a value in itself. You can learn new skills from more experienced players, find out what skills to work on, and possibly go to an International event. Many players don’t have that chance. Sometimes, they may not even have access to experienced players locally. That’s how they’re stuck in the limbo of forever underskilled in the Ultimate backcountry. So they take up the challenge. They become the legendary hero of their local community and go on a life-changing (and wallet-affecting) quest! The tryouts for the National team and the secret knowledge!

However, it’s not only self-improvement that matters. Your team also reaps the rewards, because they get to learn from you.  Then perhaps you can convince them to go to the tryouts themselves! With so much skill and effort, you’re pretty much on a collision course with a golden medal sometime in the undefined future. Welcome to the perfect world, which…well, doesn’t exist. Sorry to be such a killjoy.

Tryout system changing for the er…better.

In a galaxy far, far away, on planet Earth, somewhere in the northern hemisphere, bloomed an idea of tryouts accessible for all the players. You know, equality, skills, effort, and almost an infinite well of Ultimate Frisbee talent to shape and direct. That’s when a new tryout program was brought to life, along with surveys on players’ interests in National teams. It seemed like finally a chance for a mere mortal to be able to take part in something like this! Hype.

Usually, the opinion about the tryouts among regular players was that if you’re not friends with someone, you’re not getting farther than the first tryout session. Let’s not mention the slightly unwelcome vibe. How are you, right? You might as well give it up, as the squads are ready. Some get a golden ticket, and they can actually pack their ultimate frisbee gear for the next European or World Championships destination.

When the words “change” and “accessible to every player” made it into the playground, it seemed like a true glimmer of hope. A unicorn spotted for the first time in the wild. A Bifrost to the gates of Asgard for mere mortals. The hype grew. Then the form submission deadline got an extension to encourage more players. They could truly believe they had the chance. A staggering number of 200 players applied, which should be considered a great success and a sign of trust in the Federation. At last!

However, that unicorn turned out to be just a trojan horse with the new system, old rules and a dream-shattering e-mail.

 “Sorry, I don’t know you, so, we’re not inviting you to the tryouts, which we declared as open for everyone. Players with international experience (who are our friends) are more important. Maybe you’ll get a chance in the second round. Probably not. Maybe they’ll be no second round. Don’t count on it. And don’t complain. Ever. Also, see you never.”

What did go wrong with the tryouts?

Considering the vast disappointment of the players living in that certain Northern Hemisphere, in the undisclosed location, one may wonder what changed. Almost a week before the tryouts, no less. They were supposed to be open to everyone. Accessible, without a clear distinction between good/bad players at the very beginning for scouting the talents.

With that in mind, if you want an invitation to the tryouts, you should:

  • Submit your tryout form to take part in the process (that’s very understandable),
  • Be or become friends with the National Team selectors,
  • Be an international player (and probably have a few international friends to sign your letter of eligibility),
  • Be an injured player (wipe your tears away and don’t get too confident).

These days to go through tryouts, you need to first get through the tryouts OF the tryouts. So cross your fingers and hope it goes well. You may also get pointers from the Hollywood stars and try working on the audition tapes. Also, you could go through the Ninja Warrior course while showing some mad Frisbee skills simultaneously. You could also become an influencer because this seems to be going so well for everyone. At least they’ll know your name. No questions asked.

If it doesn’t work, perhaps the players should scout the selectors. Then you can find a way to become besties. Don’t take any pointers from Netflix Joe Goldberg (You), who was madly efficient in learning about other people’s lives.

What if you just got married and changed your last name? Will anyone even bother to think if they know you? Or should you enclose a letter proving your identity and Ultimate Frisbee history? You’re lucky enough if you sent the form with your previous last name. Or not… if you get rejected anyway. A double burn.

What about some talents who never went to an international tournament? Perhaps it’s just like on the job market. Because it’s just as vicious. To get a job in your 20s, you only need 50 years of experience and a willingness to work for almost free. The parallels are quite similar as your wallet is one of the guarantees of making the team.

In all honesty, if you want to blame someone other than yourself, look toward the sky. It’s the Rain. Who would have thought that it’ll rain and flood the fields on the brink of autumn? Seriously. Think about it. If the rain is the culprit and the fields resemble Atlantis, then perhaps it’s a good idea to take a rain check on the whole event and do it later. The off-season is a great opportunity to challenge the players to work hard through and see what they’ve got in the spring.

How to avoid disappointing Ultimate Frisbee players in your Federation?

The number one bulletproof rule is communication. The word itself is very simple and clear. It’s the execution that brings on an avalanche of problems, mistakes, and room for improvement.

tryout decision gone wrong

So, just like in a perfect corporate world, lets take a look at 6 Ifs of okay communication:

  1. If you say that the tryouts are accessible for everyone, make them so. Just don’t change the rules when it’s too late.
  2. If the players ask you for information on the tryouts, prepare a FAQ list and share it. At least, you may keep up some semblance of a conversation. It shows you care. You also don’t leave them on “Read”.
  3. If there is no communication, do update the players on the process. It keeps up the transparency, and your private inbox is much calmer.
  4. If there is confusion, make your information as clear as possible to avoid unnecessary drama. A carefully crafted message is the Holy Grail of any PR crisis.
  5. If you plan to invite just some players, let others know. You’ll avoid disappointment and creating false expectations.
  6. If there are issues arising that are hard to fix, let others know. You’re avoiding the anger and inviting understanding and maybe even compassion. A supportive community is easier to maintain, and the probability of someone volunteering to help out skyrockets.

So, let’s say you didn’t plan to invite everyone to the first tryouts. Or at all. You could just have said so. The overall message could also indicate less of the International experience is the only thing that matters. Or at least give an impression of leveling out the tryouts by randomizing the list of attendees. That way:

  • You avoid a raising tide of disappointment,
  • You count on less room for open-fire discussion and the “It isn’t working.” narrative (And no. “So why won’t you get involved yourself!” is not a valid argument.),
  • People wouldn’t book the train tickets and hostels (and cancel them a week before the event),
  • People could plan their time differently. For example, go to a birthday party of that non-frisbee person who grows ever so distant. (Because their person is engulfed by frisbee beyond the point of no return.)
  • Be a master of communication skills and have people be just happy and oblivious.
tryout disappointment

If you’re an ambitious ultimate frisbee player, prepare to be disa-freaking-pointed. Do yourself a favor and spend those club team money for a popcorn machine. At least the next time, you’ll be ready to tune into the drama with a good snack. It is what it is. So, Dear Federations, please, do yourself a favor and start treating your players right. As a result, everyone’s lives will be easier. Perhaps Ultimate Frisbee could finally be seen as a sport.

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