One of the most difficult jobs as a coach is to figure out which players would make the best additions to your team. Tryouts or player evaluations typically take place in one of the following scenarios:
Club Tryouts (already existing team)
Here, you are adding a set number of players to an already existing team. You know already where you are weak and where you are strong at certain positions. Having your basic team already in place is very helpful for a coach holding a tryout. You can even design tryout drills to mimic on-field situations that your team has trouble with and see how the potential players react to the situation and to their potential teammates. It is always helpful to explain to the potential players what position you are looking to fill and what you need to see from them.
Club Tryouts (brand-new team)
In this situation, you are starting a whole new club team from scratch. A typical roster (for a 11 v 11 game set-up) includes 18 players. You will want at least 2 and hopefully three capable goalkeepers, and field players who are capable of playing multiple positions (forward/midfielder or defense/midfielder combinations are common). You will not only need to select talented and capable players, but you will want to watch how these players react to one another and what the team chemistry will be like.
High School Tryouts
This scenario is similar to the Club Team tryout for an already-existing team but you will probably have more slots to fill, depending how many seniors have graduated. You may have just a varsity team or a junior varsity team as well. You will want to leave the main responsibility of picking your junior varsity squad up to your junior varsity coach; after all, this coach will be the ones dealing with the players on a daily basis. Again, you know where you will need players at certain positions; however, in this case, it is a good idea to recruit players at all positions in order to train them within the team structure as your players continue to graduate.
Rec Team Evaluation
Many recreational youth leagues hold player evaluation sessions in order to evenly distribute the “talent” among the rec teams so that one team doesn’t end up with all of the dominant players. Here, you are not looking to “make” a team, but rather to “rank” each player according to his or her ability and place them on a team where they will be able to perform well and work well with teammates.
At any tryout, you will be faced with selecting players who are very fast, aggressive, and athletic, but may not have all the footwork and ball skills of another player. It can be a good idea to take these players, regardless, because ball skills and footwork can be taught, whereas teaching speed is more difficult. Natural talent can be honed into technique, while it is more difficult to take technique and add athleticism.
As a coach, you will want to rate the players on athleticism by grading their physical qualities such as speed, aggressiveness, and strength, and you will also want to rate their technique by grading their ball handling skills, passing ability, and shooting skills. Other qualities you may want to “grade” include mental game, leadership, initiative, hustling, throw-ins, goal-kicks, set plays, and knowledge of soccer rules and fouls.
Tips on how to evaluate soccer players
- Have all players wear numbers, which makes it easier to take notes during the tryout.
- Hold at least 3 and up to 7 tryout sessions; you may or may not elect to hold a “first-cut.”
- When it is time to cut a player, hold a one-on-one conference and explain in-person why you won’t be taking them for the team this time around.
- Emphasize the positive and always invite the player back for another tryout next season.