Hope is Not a Strategy – If You (or your child) Expect to Make the Team or the Top11, You (they) Have to Put in the Work!

And after 25 years as an enterprise software sales executive, I have heard the phrase “Hope is Not a Strategy” on numerous occasions from various sales managers and leaders. The commentary around hope is not a strategy typically refers to reviewing a large opportunity or looking at a large business challenge and asking about the plan. In order to be successful, you have to have a plan. Plan the Work, Work the Plan. There is a common phrase that is attributed to Henry Ford that says “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.  Saying hope is not a strategy really means that you hope that you’re going to win the business or solve that business problem but may struggle to articulate the plan to turn that challenge into an expected outcome. The same is true of all areas of life and especially youth sports.


In a very short period of time over the next couple of weeks, several schools are going to start their tryout cycle for fall sports including Soccer. At the same time, club sports will begin. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard players say “I hope that I make the team” or “I hope that I start this year or play that position”. I hear similar comments from parents except that it is “I Hope that my Son/Daughter…He/She better make the team/start”, etc.

What I find surprising is how when I ask questions about how they have prepared or how they plan to approach the Tryout or Beginning of the Season, there is seemingly no clear path to contribute to their desired outcome. Put another way, there is excitement, anticipation, and Hope, but no real strategy. Sometimes I get blank stares or a shoulder shrug. There are are also players/parents who rattle off the list of camps/clinics/private training or even a resume of past performances and experiences.

Depending on the situation and the size of the school, the makeup of the team, etc. some players have an easier time than others. I typically hear either complete confidence or rationalization and defense in the event that they don’t make the desired team trying out for.  The comments range from, “well I/He/She made it last year or have played with that group of players for years” to “The Coach Always” or “The Coach Never” yadda, yadda.

There are multiple ways to prepare to increase the likelihood or provide the best chance of success. The real intent of this article is not to suggest what has to happen to put an athlete in a position to be prepared to have a successful tryout or result when team selections are made at the beginning of the season; but more a reminder that preparation in general, will provide a higher likelihood for success.

It is not too late to start and even a basic approach is better than hoping for a result. Here are some super simple things an athlete can get tighter on:

  • Nutrition – check the diet to ensure that the body is properly nourished from the perspective of fuel for the training as well as recovery.
  • Hydration – proper hydration will also support the tryout process but is important for all athletes, all the time.
  • Sleep/Rest – being an adolescent or teenager takes a tremendous amount of energy just to grow, say goodnight to the friends playing Fortnight and go to bed earlier.
  • Touches – get touches on the ball, alone or with friends. Get the rust off now instead of waiting for the first few sessions.
  • Move – just move the body and sweat. Going into the tryout fit is a much better option than trying to play into shape the first few weeks of the season and will also help to prevent injury that results from the sudden increase in heavy-duty activity.

As implied above, there is no magic bullet or secret sauce although there are plenty of coaches and trainers that will take a player’s money to help them prepare. Starting something now will not only help but may also put an athlete in the right frame of mind and provide the motivation to work even harder. The key is to do something and create some type of plan to be prepared.

Just as in business, if you want to be successful, if you want to solve a problem or win a big deal, you have to be smart about your plans. So parents, If your child wants to make the team, play the position that they desire, etc. you can and should encourage them to start now. Whether that’s participating in camps or clinics, getting private training alone or with teammates, put them in position to have a strong tryout and/or beginning of the season. Hoping that they will make the team and use the beginning of the season to get fit and shake the rust off will limit the ability to achieve the desired outcome.  If you are a player, get out there and Do The Work!

So, as we get closer to the tryout time or beginning of the season over these next couple of weeks, ask yourself or your son/daughter what has been done to prepare? If the answer is not much, there is still time to start working to give yourself or your son/daughter a better chance of success. Just waiting to see what happens and hoping to make the team, is not a strategy for the long term.

Good luck and have fun, and try to remember that after all, this is still in fact, a game.

In Soccer, In Sport, and In Life!

Coach Rich!