During The Off-Season Many Coaches Are Planning To Recruit New Players To Their Team And Host ‘Tryouts’ Or ‘Trials’ Events. This Is Done To Identify Potential Players To Add To Their Existing Squad, Or To Create New Teams Within The Club.
For some the ‘trial’ represents an opportunity to take the next step in a playing career. For others, it can mean disappointment and - worse - disillusionment. Because of this, ‘trial’ season can be fraught with stress for the Coach, Player and Parent alike.
So, here is some helpful advice for coaches when assessing potential players for your club or team as well as offer some crucial information for players and parents to help take the strain out of tryout season.
Why A Trial?
Some coaches and parents will argue that tryouts or trials for young players are unjust and that all children should have access to the game. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. Soccer is the most accessible team sport in the world and everybody should be given the opportunity to play the game as part of a well coached team.
Having said that, it is also important for individual development that players are properly challenged by competing at the right level. By grouping players of similar ability, coaches will be able to coach more appropriate progressions and this will help players improve faster, whatever their start point.
In addition to this, as players get into their teens, a very realistic pathway begins to open up for players to get into the professional game and this puts a much bigger focus on talent identification. In the UK, professional clubs will be recruiting the cream of the crop for their academies and, in the USA, club and high school programs will also start identifying the best talent to prepare for the college recruitment process.
However, for the majority of grassroots soccer coaches, identifying the ability of players and putting them in the right teams is done to ensure that the teams and players have the best opportunity to continue learning the game.
Preparing For Tryouts & Trials
One of the biggest mistakes that coaches make when putting ‘trials’ on, is that they don’t set the expectation levels with the players and parents who’ve been invited to attend and sometimes, even within their own club.
Establishing good communication with parents and players in the lead up to the event and ensuring that you have prepared the session properly and you have properly defined what the desired outcomes will be is crucial to running a successful ‘trial’.
Trials are seen by many as a ‘rite of passage’ and many players want to show that they are worthy of a place in the team to their peers, their family, to their coaches and to themselves. To this end, you want them to perform at their best.
Know What You Are Assessing Players On
Base your assessment of players on the philosophy of the club and what you require of players in general, taking into account specific positions. Coaches should be fully aware of the club’s player profiles and also be able to recognise this when watching players.
The practices that you set up for players during the trial should provide opportunities for players to perform the skills linked to the philosophy of the club. For example, if your philosophy is linked to players who can dominate 1 v 1 situations the trial may include a 1 v 1 practice so coaches can clearly observe players in this scenario.
Communicate With Players And Parents
It is beneficial to notify players and parents of the club’s philosophy and approach to developing players along with logistics around training times, venues and competitive fixtures and tournaments. This can be done prior to a trial event through email or by creating a club brochure or PDF sheet summarising what the club is about.
Ensure that, prior to the day, all of the information relating to the trial is shared with the attendees. Ensuring schedules, timings, logistics and equipment are all prepared well in advance can ensure that the players (and coaches) can focus entirely on events on the pitch on trial day.