Each season at every level, water polo athletes are faced with a selection process that will determine
the future of their development. At the club level, athletes are chosen to the A, B, or C age group teams.
At the high school level, there are varsity and junior varsity team tryouts. At the collegiate level, there
are team tryouts. At the national team level, there are selection team tryouts. Every level is essentially
the same with different formats for team selection.
Tryouts even continue after teams have been created as well. As teams form, coaches have decision
points to make on who to start, who to substitute into games at appropriate times, and which players to
reserve for practice duties only. There is always a “cut” that requires a consistently high level of
performance and coaches approval to survive. It is always there and never goes away.
Great players don’t see the “cut” they look beyond it. The problems athletes face are not the actual
“cut” or times when the coaches select the team. The problems they face are the types of expectations
and motivations before the tryout process even begins. There is a saying in sport psychology circles that
rings truer for this scenario than almost every other.
“Control the controllables!”
Making the “cut” for team selection or playing time is a goal that does motivate and drive action for
people to an extent, but the type of extrinsic motivation for these goals make success too superficial to
have long lasting impact on the satisfaction the players experience. What’s next for the athlete that
makes the team and accomplishes their goal? Another important aspect in terms of controlling what’s
controllable is the fact that coaches and competing athletes actions are completely outside of one’s
control. How do you measure your progress toward realizing your potential if your goal is only to make a
team or outplay an opponent? Usually you end up playing to the level of your opponent or your coach’s
Surviving the “cut” is about more than what your competition or coaches say or do. It’s about doing
more than what’s expected on a constant and continual basis. Push the boundaries of your own
potential in an effort to find out how great you can actually become in your position and on your team.
Work-ethic, commitment in and out of the pool, determination through all challenges to excel, and
unwavering belief in a level of potential you have never experienced will lead you through the “cut” to
the other side as a champion. If you prepare as a champion, compete and perform as a champion, and
then respond to results as a champion, you will continue to move forward as a champion.
Commit to doing more than what’s expected from coaches, parents, media, and competition. Prepare to
be at your best before tryouts and practices with performance goals focused on process. Look for the
learning opportunities from every result and ask questions of people who have more experience and
knowledge than you in order to listen with the intent of gaining self-awareness and being positively.
If you are interested in one on one mental skills coaching or for team building, you can contact Brian Alexander via email: Alexander.firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.athletementalskillscoach.com. Also follow him on Twitter @BA_POS_MINDon Facebook (Athlete Mental Skills Coach) and LinkedIn.