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The City Journals

Surviving the final cut

Nov 03, 2017 12:42PM ● By Brian Shaw

Riverton junior Mike Erickson (#10) scored points in only two varsity games last season, yet still tried to contribute his best every day in practice. (Dave Sanderson/

For one week in the middle of November the entire high school hinges on the decisions of a few coaches. A select few players find their names printed on the list hanging on the coach’s door signaling triumph. They made it, but for most it means disappointment.

What can be done to improve your chances of making the team?

“Getting ready for tryouts can be important. The reason we have open gyms, weights and conditioning is to help them have a better chance to make the team,” Cyprus head boys basketball coach Tre Smith said. “During this time the coaches are able to get familiar with the player and his game.”

Many high school coaches offer open gym and practice for those interested in playing basketball. Taylorsville’s girls started working together before school ended last summer. They spent several weeks during the spring and summer months practicing two times a week and entered into a spring high school league hosted by Highland High School. 

“We are a 6A high school varsity basketball program so we compete against the very best athletes in the state of Utah. We are looking for the most skilled players that our school has to offer. We want unique attributes that can help us win games,” Taylorsville girls head coach Jodi Lee said.

Riverton High coaches enter their varsity, junior varsity and sophomore teams into the summer Big Mountain Jam held at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy every July.

Many coaches find playing games the best way to help the players improve.

“I think skill development is the best thing for players in the off-season. Playing games is important, but focus on your weakness when you have the time to concentrate on it,” Smith said. “I come from an athletic background, and I think it is extremely important for kids to play multiple sports. All sports can help you become a better athlete to a certain degree. Being in the gym five to six times per week will help if they have the dream of playing college basketball.” 

Coaches are interested in the commitment the player will demonstrate in tryouts and before.

“I think it is important for the kids to focus beforehand and make sure their grades are good. The first day of tryouts I ask for grades and GPA (grade point average), it tells how committed they are,” first year West Jordan girls head coach Loimatasialei Lolohea said.

According to Utah High School Activities Association rules, each player must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA and have not more than one failing grade. Some schools alter these rules to maintain a higher standard of academic excellence. 

The UHSAA also requires athletes to visit a doctor and have a physical examination once a year. One physical can be used to play multiple sports. 

Participating in work outs before tryout week can be important, but coaches say the week of tryouts is also important. 

“I think the players should focus on what they do well. If you are a good rebounder, then grab every rebound. If you’re a good shooter, then shoot when you are open. If three point shooting is not your thing, don’t step out and take one during tryouts,” Lolohea said.

Every season coaches hear from upset players or parents.

“I hear it every season, ‘the team is already picked.’ I go into every season with an open mind. I want kids that are dedicated to excellence in the program,” Smith said. “Can they can take it serious? Kids that have been on my roster on previous years know that it is a new beginning. They need to be improved to make the roster again.” 

Getting cut from the team is not the end of a basketball career. Learning and improving for the next time is important.

“Be a good teammate, stand out, we look for leaders. Communicate with your team, dive on the floor, box out on every shot, sprint down the court. This is what I think is important.” Lolohea said.