goalWA.net is pleased to continue with a new columnist to our website. He’s Adam Nowland, founder of Bellevue / Mercer Island area’s Nowland Premier Soccer Academy. Adam addresses soccer topics from his point of view in the new series “Soccer Perspectives with Adam Nowland.”
by Adam Nowland
Tryouts can be such a stressful process for both players and parents and it can be difficult to focus on what elements are important for their preparation. I have been through quite a few tryouts over the course of my playing and coaching career, so I know a thing or two about what coaches are looking for in a player and their parents. Here are my top 5 tips for parents & players when approaching the potential minefield that is youth soccer tryouts.
Get on the Ball – It is imperative that your player gets in the habit of training on a regular basis if you want him/her to be successful in the game. Even if it is simply 30 minutes of passing a ball up against a wall or juggling, getting touches on the ball goes a long way. No one showcases well turning up to the field without some sort of preparation. The last thing you want your player to do is show up to a tryout with no comfort on the ball in a pressurized environment. Coaches can tell by a quick glance at who has been training and who hasn’t. If you want your child to perform well, encourage them to train with their peers. Reach out to local clubs that you are considering and ask for the opportunity for your player to join a practice or two with their age group. All the coaches in my club are encouraged to accept trialists when possible to showcase what our program is all about and to assess the player prior to tryouts.
Keep it simple – The common misconception is that players need to do something spectacular at tryouts to stand out when, in reality, coaches are looking for consistency in the basic fundamentals of the game. I was taught from a young age in England to always ‘stay in credit’ on the soccer field. This relates to my ball retention to give-away ratio. Maintain possession by playing the simple pass 4 or 5 times in a row and then go for something a little more difficult once you are in credit. This way coaches identify you as a high percentage player. If the difficult pass or dribble or shot comes off then you look like a world-beater. If, however, it does not happen the way you intended, it’s okay because you have consistently made good decisions and maintained possession for your team.
Be Realistic – This is the toughest tip to understand and accept. Parents need to take a step back and do their best to take an unbiased assessment of their child and accept what their expectations should be. Players don’t just magically walk out of the womb with all the intangibles a professional soccer player has. It is a long and strenuous process that takes tens of thousands of hours of dedication and practice. When I was a child, my mother had to drag me in when it was time for dinner because I couldn’t get enough of the soccer ball on my own in the back yard or with my friends playing on the local park. However, not every young player is able or even wants to put everything into being a soccer player but that doesn’t mean they can’t play the game for pure enjoyment or to keep fit or for the social aspect of the game. If this is the case that is okay and your player does not need to play for the best team in the state. Your child needs to play for the team that best fits his/her abilities and needs. Take the time to talk to your player and find out exactly what they want to get out of the game. This will help you choose the right path for them when it comes to rec, select or premier.
Be in the Know– It is important to understand and educate yourself on what your child is trying out for. Parents should do some research about the club before they register their child. Parents should have a clear understanding of what the club philosophy is, what level they compete at, and how the team(s) at their age group did last year. At the higher levels, it’s also important to understand what a certain coach is looking for in a player such as physicality, style of play, and the commitment level required. This information will give you and your player the proper gauge of what they are getting themselves into. If this research matches up with the intentions and level of your player, then you are in the right spot. Too often, I see players on the tryout field who are not ready for the premier environment and therefore, have not been set up for success. You don’t have to be the finished article by any means to tryout for premier level soccer but you do have to be willing and able to commit to the demands of the premier environment. Don’t just sign up your player because a certain club is the closest or because his/her friends all play there. If you truly want your child to be put in a place to succeed, spend some time researching and I’m sure you will be able to find the right fit!
Practice proper tryout etiquette – This one may be the most important tip of all. Tryouts are all about making a good impression. Coaches obviously want quality players, but more so, coaches want players who are reliable, coachable, respectful, and fun to work with. There are so many small, simple things players can do that will get a coach’s attention, such as introducing themselves, asking if the coaches need any help setting up, picking up the gear when asked, jogging into the coach when the coaches says “bring it in,” and dozens more. Coaches do take note of this when they evaluate. You would be surprised at how many quality players get turned away based upon these factors. If you show up late, can’t handle constructive criticism, have poor body language, or just go through the motions, your player is setting themselves up for failure.
As parents, you play a big part in this aspect of the tryouts. One of the key things I look for in parents is how involved they are during a tryout session. Once you have checked your player in, let them go and interact with other players and the coaching staff. They need to get comfortable with handling these social situations as early as possible so don’t ‘hold their hands’ throughout the process. Stay off the field during the tryout sessions and do not coach your player. Encouragement directed at your player and others on the field is fine but specific coaching instructions from parents is going to be red flag to a coach.
As we approach tryout season, NPSA is offering a ‘Prepare for Tryouts’ training program to get the players ready for their respective tryouts. With a curriculum developed and implemented by NSCAA Instructor and ‘A’ licensed coach, Erik Oman, this program is a must for any player that is looking to play Select or Premier soccer next season.
For more information or to register, visit the website at www.npsatitans.com