Friday, October 2, 2009

A New England CDP's Approach to Try-outs

RT Staff Note: This week, we have detailed the timeline of freshman through senior years. One of our suggestions is to find a solid College Development Program to help in your overall development as a player and competitor. One such program that produces results is the New England Ruffnecks. On their web site is a article that details their process and spells out what to expect and how to prepare. I like their honest, transparent, no guarantee approach.

Selection for the 2010 Ruffnecks Teams: The Role of Tryouts and Player Evaluation

For many players and families it may seem surprising and somewhat confusing when they hear that the Ruffnecks program does not hold "tryouts." Of course we consider new candidates for all of our teams. However, we believe that the "tryout" spotlight is at best inefficient, and more often than not, a poor way to judge players. Most importantly, we recognize that our judgements regarding 13 and 14 year olds don't necessarily predict success. We simply prefer to evaluate players while they experience the Ruffnecks through a combination of games, workouts, and activities... mixing new candidates with returners; older players with younger players. When we offer a roster spot, we rarely put a deadline on the family's decision. We trust them to make an informed decision. A reasonable period of time tells both parties whether the Ruffnecks makes sense.

The Challenge of Introducing the Ruffnecks

Each year we confront the challenge of how to introduce ourselves to a new class of 13 year olds, which is our entry point to the program. We hope the talented player seeks us out, finds us, and makes the Ruffnecks his first choice. But we will not engage in the frenzie of recruiting or "grabbing" kids barely out of Little League.

In particular, the 13U year is cluttered with too many choices... too many teams calling themselves something they may or may not be... confusion and poorly defined objectives by some well-meaning coaches. Unfortunately, there is also a "herding mentality" among friends and teammates transitioning from small diamond heroics and memories to the more difficult developmental path of real baseball. These players and families are vulnerable to not-so-well intentioned groups trying to "recruit" the next champions or meet some other business objective. Surely there are other very good programs in our area. The discerning parent and player will find the handful with a solid record of development. We hope talented players discover us early and become core contributors as they experience the layers of development in our program over time.

Inquiries and Referrals: We Are Not For Everyone

We appreciate the inquiries we get. We also rely on referrals from trusted baseball associates, friends, and families of current and past Ruffnecks. Our program doesn't always work out for every player. Sometimes we fail... but we always work hard to try to do right by those who make our teams. We experience attrition, though very little. Some are lost to "natural selection" or self-selection. Fortunately we can evaluate quality kids doing it our way, without traditional tryouts. In the end we "assemble" our teams with returners and new candidates. Players outside of our program are welcome as new candidates if they are serious about taking their development to the next level. In particular, we welcome a handful of new high school varsity-level candidates each year. They will have a chance to join confident players developed in our system... players who welcome solid contributors.

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