Basketball season has started and it’s one of the most exciting times of the year for coaches. For coaches, this is like Christmas. It’s exciting and you can’t wait for it to get here. However, despite all of the excitement, there’s always the one thing we as coaches hate: making cuts. This week we’ll discuss this process and how best to handle it.
Making cuts is a necessary evil that is both bad and good. Making cuts is the worst part of coaching. There is not one coach who likes to cut players. We tend tot think the ideal situation would be having ten players without having to cut anyone. On the other hand I think having to make cuts can be seen as a positive. Why? It shows a good program. When there’s enough interest in a program to have more kids try out than for spots available, it shows something is going right. Kids want to be a part of it. However, that brings the bad. Having to make cuts is something we as coaches dread. It’s part of the job at times but we never look forward to that day. I think there is common misconception with coaches and making cuts from the public. Trust me when I say it’s something we dread, and lose sleep over.
With that being said, let’s discuss the process and what goes into this decision. When shaping team rosters, a decision needs to made based upon what’s best for all. Honesty is the best policy. Sometimes this will allow the kid to make the decision. By the end of the second day of tryouts I always discuss with kids who may get cut where they stand and what type of role they may be looking at. An example would be discussing the possibility that the athlete will put in a lot of practice time and might not get many game minutes. When I’m honest a kid can decide if they want to invest the time, knowing game minutes can be scarce. I believe coaches owe it to the kids to be honest about playing time. This can be hard because we hate to hurt kids’ feelings, but by saying one thing and doing another during the season, we will cause more hurt.
A couple of factors that must be considered when deciding to cut a player are their age, their skill level, and the total number of kids on the team and in the program. I’ll provide insight here as a varsity head coach. First, age is a consideration and any coach who says otherwise is lying. A younger player with the same or higher skill level will always play over an older player who is only somewhat committed. If an upperclassman has a lower skill level than the younger player, it’s best to play the younger athlete for the program’s future. Skill level is a major consideration when making cuts. Does the player’s skill level put them at a competitive disadvantage? By having them on the court, do they present an injury risk to themselves or others? Does the skill level impede the level, quality, or tempo of practice? If the answer is yes to these questions, it’s best to cut the player.
When the decision has been made and players have been cut, coaches need to show the utmost care, concern, and empathy. This is an emotional day for all parties involved. Coaches should never post anything saying, “Here are the players cut.” When posting rosters, simply put the names of the athletes who have made the team. Never put a kid’s name up on a list for not having made a team. Something I highly recommend doing is writing each player who has been cut a personal letter. This is something I do the day the rosters are posted because it’s often too difficult and emotional for the player to meet in person. I have been doing this for many years and have had great success with this. The letter should thank the athlete for coming out, compliment him or her on the positive characteristics they have, briefly explain the decision, and offer an opportunity to remain in the program in some capacity. I’ve been fortunate to work with some great team managers after they have been cut as players, so I always offer an opportunity to help manage if they’ve taken the time to try out.
The worst thing a coach can do is to cut somebody and offer no explanation. If the player is a underclassman, provide a few suggestions on how they can become a better player if they choose to try out next season. I would also suggest offering to have a brief meeting with the player to discuss the decision. Honesty and transparency are the best policies. Another practice I would recommend is having a brief team meeting once rosters have been set. In this meeting I would acknowledge the time and effort of those players who were cut. I make it clear that the athletes who’ve made the team should be proud and also remember they’re fortunate to be here. There are people who wanted to be here and no longer are, so the remaining players must earn it every day.
Coaches, I am always looking to get better. What are some of your best practices when it comes to making cuts? I’d love to hear what some of you do to handle this difficult situation.
As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!