Building their Teams


Growing up, usually around the age of six or seven, children first discover an interest they may have in sports. Soon after, they get signed up by their parents, put into little leagues where they play for fun and earn participation trophies. But, as people grow and improve their athletic skills, the stakes get higher. Athletes must try out for the team of their choice, competing against friends, and earning their place on the team. But how do coaches choose their players, and what are they looking for when it comes to tryouts?

At Lake Ridge, there is a wide range of athletic programs that students have the opportunity to participate in ranging from dance, golf, football, and weightlifting. Each sport and each team requires a set number of skills and experience. Like any other sport, the soccer season always begins with a tryout. It sets the tone, bringing in new players and welcoming back the old. Tryouts last three days, giving the coaches enough time to look at each player and their individual skill set. Head soccer coach Cory Elolf, has to pay attention to many players at once, focusing on finding the specific skills housed by each player. During the tryouts, players are separated into groups where they demonstrate various positions on the field and different exercises. Simultaneously, the coaches are evaluating how the players perform in these tasks, looking for aspects such as team concepts, individual concepts, how the player moves with the ball, how the move without it, and their adjustability. All these factors help Elolf make his final decision on a player.

“Are you going to be a varsity player? And if you can check that box then you’re gonna make the team and if you’re not a varsity player then it’s really hard to make even the JV because there is so much talent,” said Elolf. 

Of course, there are other sports offered at Lake Ridge, each different from one another, each requiring a different set of skills and different tryouts. For swim, tryouts last for a period of three days with one day dedicated to the JV swimmers, one to varsity, and the last day for the new freshman planning to join the team. Each day of tryouts, the coaches are given one hour to evaluate the student’s skills, making the decision of whether or not each athlete makes the team. At tryouts, each swimmer is expected to demonstrate swimming 50 yards of each stroke, butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle, which is two laps of the MISD Natatorium. Along with showing their ability to swim all four strokes at a well mannered and efficient pace, students are also required to participate in a “test set.” The basis for each test set is 20 sets of 100 yards of freestyle at a set interval. Though test sets can be difficult, the coaches of the Swimming and Diving Team are welcome to new members. Head coach Blake Kahla welcomes new swimmers each year, advertising for the team on almost every public site he can.

“Anyone can try out for the swimming and diving team. I send messages out via twitter, remind, and through the natatorium website. Swimmers also need to realize there is a test set and not everyone who tries out makes the team,” states Kahla.

Along with tryouts for the swim part of the team, there are also tryouts for diving. Coach Kahla stated how even though both teams function together, much fewer people try out for the diving team, making the acceptance rate much higher than that if the swim team.

“This year 41 tried out for the swim team,  37  made it so four swimmers did not make the team. However, in diving, because of the low participation numbers, most people make the team,” says Kahla.

The tryouts of swimming and soccer compared to the tryouts of the football team are very different in contrast. Football tryouts last much longer, lasting a total of 15 practices where players do various drills and scrimmages. The odds of getting in the football team are much higher as well, compared to those if swim and soccer. Of course, it is important that the students know how to play, but as long as the students attend every practice and display good behavior, they are more than likely to get a spot in the team. Head football coach Kirk Thor welcomes anyone new to the team to help provide them with the depth they need to be successful. 

“Each position is evaluated by attitude, effort, and production. We view JV as an opportunity for playing time and to maximize each other’s development,” states Thor.

Though there is quite the difference between the tryouts of each sports team, it can be seen that each team and coach look for a lot of the same qualities in their athletes. Yes, playing experience is important but they also value good worth ethic, dedication, and understanding of the sport as highly as their playing ability.