With high school basketball season under way, coaches are busy evaluating tryouts.
Most basketball people know that every one of the more than 200 boys and girls varsity teams in Maine except the eight state champions are going to end their seasons on a tough note. They are either going to lose the last game they play or they are not going to qualify for postseason. Another tough thing for coaches is dealing with parents about their children’s playing time.
However, these were not the toughest days for me, the toughest were those first three days of preseason before Thanksgiving Day when I had to select my varsity teams and cut students very quickly. Varsity coaches only have 15 days to get ready for the opening weekend of Dec. 9-10.
We used to start the first Monday in November, which gave us five weeks to not have to rush our squad selections and preseason. The Maine Principals’ Association Sports Season Policy shortened the preseason by two weeks in the early 1970s.
I know personally these were the toughest days for me as I was making decisions that effected the lives of many high school students. I know this also from a personal experience of being cut as a sophomore on the first day of tryouts as more than 100 candidates turned out for 24 spots on the varsity and JVs at my school, Bangor High. Being cut was devastating as I had played basketball ever since the second grade and always made the school teams at the elementary and junior high levels.
However, I was lucky, my misery only lasted 24 hours from the cut list posted on Tuesday morning until I got to school on Wednesday morning when the coach told me that a mistake was made and that I should not have been cut. It had been one of the most miserable 24 hours of my life.
This made me extra conscious about the effects of a student being cut, this is why it was always my toughest coaching days. I have coached at a school were I had 125-plus students try out for 12 varsity spots and 12 JV spots and I have coached at a school where I didn’t have to cut at all as only 37 players tried out and we placed them all on a varsity, JV or freshmen team.
Most coaches’ schools fall somewhere in the middle between not having to cut to having to cut many. Regardless, cutting just two or cutting a 100, it is all the same to the students being cut. For many it may mean the end of a dream.
Many times varsity cuts have to be made before Thanksgiving in order to get ready for preseason games on Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Most coaches know who their first six or seven players are going to be because of their summer programs. However, the difficulty comes in filling out their varsity rosters.
Head coaches can take more time with approving selections for their JV and freshmen squads because they usually do not have preseason games.
Good luck to all the candidates and coaches, but as tough as it is for the coaches, it is far tougher on the candidates who get cut. Many a Thanksgiving has been ruined because of team selections. Coaches, please remember that all the students want from you is for you to be fair in your selection process.
Happy Thanksgiving Day everyone.
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Bob Cimbollek is a retired high school basketball coach and is a basketball official.