While recreational teams take any player who shows up, competitive clubs and high school teams require players to pass a tryout. If you are a coach, you need to be organized and methodical in how you run your tryout. Well-run tryouts enable you to find the most suitable players to fill the roster and to deflect potential charges of favoritism by parents.
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List the tryout players in the left column of a sheet of paper. Add a column for the players’ natural position, with listings such as MF for “midfielder,” LD for “left defense” and STR for “striker right.”
Create headings for three to five of your most important selection criteria. These can be “positional skill,” “attitude and coachability,” “athleticism” and “potential,” recommends the American Youth Soccer Organization’s Lancaster, California, affiliate in its document “Soccer Tryout Secrets.” Add final columns for total rating scores, your “yes/no” decision on the player and notes.
Ask players to jog for five minutes around the field. Lead them in an additional five minutes of stretching. Work for 10 minutes on ball control, dribbling and shooting on keepers to warm up the candidates.
Pair up players, give them one ball and have them run around a cone 15 steps from a start cone to conduct a passing relay. The dribbler races to the turning cone and passes the ball to his waiting partner, who moves as necessary to receive the pass smoothly and runs to the turning cone as the first dribbler runs back to the start. Look for accurate, completed passes and efforts by the receiver to get to errant balls.
Set up an area marked by cones measuring 10 by 10 yards. Provide the paired players with a second ball for the fighting roosters drill. Direct each player to maintain control of her ball while trying to touch the other player’s ball with the toe of her foot. Note whether players keep their heads up to look where both balls are and try to get into their opponent’s space.
Divide a goal into six zones using masking tape. In each zone, set a large sheet of paper listing points the players receive for hitting the target zone. Mark a shooting line with cones several yards in front of the goal, setting its distance from the goal based on your players’ age and skill. Have players take turns running up to the line and shooting into the target, seeing who can score the most points.
Set up players in small-sided games. Start with a 2v2 game on a small area marked by cones with portable goals to see if any players work really well together. Work up to a 6v6 game, with players wearing practice vests of different colors. Allow each game to go at least 10 minutes.
Enter figures on the rating matrix for your players, add a yes or no by their name and inform them individually and promptly whether they made the team.