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Surviving Tryouts and the US Age Mandate - Second Edition

Every year, players and families have to make the decision of which team they should tryout for (a decision that will influence the next 12 months of soccer). Adding to that confusion this year, the US Soccer Age Mandate is officially starting for teams and birth years. With such an important decision made in such a short time and many families and players anxious about making the right decision, we wanted to create a QTSD© Tryout FAQ to help everyone make the most informed decisions possible!

1) What is the US Soccer Age Mandate? What happens with the new age change?

US Soccer has mandated that clubs and player must now register players in accordance to their birth year (as opposed to the previous school calendar year) to move in alignment with the rest of the world's age brackets. Depending on the club and specific teams, this change can have a large immediate impact; including:

  • Current teams of mixed birth years being split (or pushed up a year)

  • High school trapped players (8th grade to freshman and then again junior to senior)

Some clubs are choosing to split all teams and break into birth year teams while others are allowing for players to play up. Why does that matter?

  • Move to Strict Birth Year - Pros are immediately resetting and planning for the future of the teams and club. Cons are breaking team chemistry; players transferring to other clubs and resetting past accomplished development.

  • Jump to Higher Age Bracket - Pros are maintaining team chemistry and younger players gain experience against older competition. Cons are younger players lose a year of development by jumping and potentially become "trapped players" their 8th grade year (if older teammates choose high school over club).

There are no easy answers to the US Soccer change but it appears to be more a move towards developing players to align with club/academy and our global competition. Players that choose to play high school will have their club options limited due to the fracture between the sports governing policies and vice versa. Local club leagues are moving to allow club soccer year round for High School age brackets but it will be a decision that many athletes will have to make.

2) So my son/daughter will have to choose between playing high school and club?

Yes and no. Unfortunately, the US Soccer Mandate is going to start making that choice a much more real situation for many players but it will depend on their individual goals. If players are interested in pursuing collegiate ball, then staying consistent with their club year round will be a better option; as long as their club is competitive and players are dedicated. If they are not interested in college soccer, then high school would be a good option. The hard part is deciding how many players are interested to determine if their team plays year round.

Previously, this was not a major decision as only 1-2 clubs offered fall High School club for players who did not want to play high school soccer. Now Ohio South and many other soccer organizations are moving towards offering year round club soccer; directly competing with High School Soccer. There has not been an announcement of whether the year round high school age club will be grandfathered in but that would be the most efficient way to move forward.

3) What are coaches looking for?

Every coach and team is looking for something different. Some teams will be looking to fill specific positions, others will be looking to replace players that didn't fit the previous season or possibly expanding their roster. No matter the reason, good coaches should place a high value on players that can/have:

  • Technical speed, quickness and consistency

  • Individual tactical knowledge

  • Support their team first, individual goals second

  • Adapt to positional and tactical needs; even if it is not their favorite

  • Communicate properly with teammates; with purpose and constructively vs. harsh and insulting

  • Give 110% at every practice, game and tournament

  • Be willing to learn past what was taught them in previous years

  • Be willing to step outside their comfort zone to push themselves to improve

  • A supportive teammate; both on and off the field

  • Willing to train outside of practice to develop even further as an individual

  • Respectful of their teammates, coaches, parents, opponents and officials

  • Be able to step up as a positive leader on the team; helping inspire teammates to success

  • The ability to look past mistakes; to take risks of creativity when appropriate

4) How do I know if a club is a good fit for me (my athlete)?

Finding the right club can be a challenge. Every club has different aspects that need to be researched. What philosophy does a club have? Do they value development over winning at all costs or do they have a healthy balance of both? What education/curriculum do their coaches teach? How accountable does the club hold their coaches?

The easiest way to learn about a club? Ask questions! Ask current players why they like the club? Ask club coaches and directors about what the club teaches and why. Find out what the club requires of players, families and their coaches. The more questions you ask, the better picture you can paint of what a club can offer your child! Four great questions to ask are:

  1. What is your player development philosophy?

  2. What do you expect of your players?

  3. What are your expectations for your parents?

  4. How do your players earn playing time?

Be honest and educated of what the team, player and parents expectations are for the team you are trying out for. It will help form a better decision as well as ensure a smooth season later!

5) How many tryout sessions should I attend? Should I assume my son/daughter will make their current team?

The more tryouts you attend the better your chances are to make a team. The more often you are in front of your potential club's evaluators, the better chance you have to get noticed. That being said, it is wise to have a Plan B if your first choice does not work as planned. Players should attend 1-2 tryout sessions of their number one choice club while attending an additional tryout at their second choice club. There is nothing worse than attending every tryout session at one club only to not make the team and not have a second option to fall back on.

When I played club soccer, one of my coaches said something to me that has stuck with me my entire life: "No one is guaranteed a spot on this team." Did he say that to scare me into trying out for another team? No. What he meant was that every single player needs to work their hardest to earn a spot on the team. Does every coach believe that idea? Most likely not, but the point is that every athlete should go into tryouts trying to prove themselves. If a player heads into tryouts acting like they already have the right to a spot, the outcome can sometimes be very surprising (usually not in a positive way either).

If you are unsure of where your child stands currently on their team, a good suggestion is to inquire of their coach. Most coaches will give honest feedback based on your child's performance over the past season. They won't tell you if your athlete "will absolutely make the team" but most likely will help to give an idea if your player is "on the bubble" or not. Take this honest feedback and make the best of it for your player's development and mental approach.

6) What if my child doesn't make the team they were on last season?

Every year, team dynamics change. Players mature both physically & mentally, injuries happen, former stars fall behind while late bloomers develop on the field and much more. If a player is moved down a division, it could mean many different things:

  • Your athlete's current division may be too difficult to develop properly in.

  • Your athlete's team tactical approach may not be their strength. For example some players play better in possession soccer versus direct soccer.

  • Incoming players may be currently further developed than your athlete's current level of soccer experience.

  • Your player's retention rate and execution of learning points may not have developed along with their team's.

One of the most important things to remember is understanding the bigger picture if this situation occurs. If your player is moved down a team, it usually isn't a personal insult from the coach but rather an honest reflection of where your athlete fits into the competition level. A good coach will place a player where they can thrive developmentally; not where their ego and pride will cause them to struggle.

7) What if my child doesn't make the team they really wanted to make?

Once team assignments are made, it is now up to your athlete to make the decisions needed to accomplish their goals. If a player is assigned to team they did not want, their first job will be to make the best out of that upcoming season. They need to reflect and set goals for that season. Most importantly if they did not make the team they wanted, they need to honestly reflect WHY they did not make the cut. Was it their ability on the ball? Was it their communication with teammates? Were they able to adjust when required by their evaluators? How did they deal with failure during game play? More importantly, how can they use this upcoming season to push themselves harder to improve? Use this year to prove you deserve to be on the team you wanted to make! Good coaches notice these kinds of personal determination for the better!

8) What is the difference between "A" and "B" teams?

This is dependent on many factors. Playing on an "A" or "B" team does not always mean a player is a star or a poor athlete. From the professional level and down, clubs and teams have always had development teams and senior teams. The purpose behind this is to create a competitive atmosphere for the best players on the team to compete ("A" team) and developmental atmosphere for players to grow and improve ("B" team). The goal is to allow the "B" team players to develop the necessary skills, technical understanding and tactical knowledge required for success at the top level. While youth club soccer is structured slightly different, the idea is the same. Can players assigned to the "A" team handle the competitive requirements of that league and game speed? Can players assigned to the "B" team realize their potential by training as hard as possible to improve and possibly be called up to the top team when needed?

Does that mean that a player on the "B" team is guaranteed a spot on the "A" team after a certain amount of time? NO. It all depends on how hard they work, the amount of improvement they gain and honestly, the current "A" team's need for players.

Does that mean a player on the "A" team cannot be moved to the "B" team? NO. During the season, league regulations usually do not allow a change but if a player shows a lack of respect for their team, is not developing like they should or is causing issues with their team, many coaches will take this into consideration at tryout time.

In the end, having the opportunity to play for the "A" team is not given but earned. It is an opportunity, not a right. The top team is usually reserved for players that are more developed and dedicated; on the training field, at games and outside of practice. The players that want to compete with the top team will be the ones that don't just go to practice and games, but work harder on their own time to improve; both technically and mentally.

9) Should my athlete take the first offer they get from a team?

It all depends. If it is their number one club of choice, then I would suggest accepting the team offer. Many clubs are competing against time with only a week of tryouts each year. If your athlete likes the players on their team, is pushed to develop by their coach and overall enjoys the team, then the choice should be easy. That being said, there are many factors to consider if a player gets multiple offers from other clubs:

  • How can the club help your athlete develop; not only as a soccer player but as a person?

  • What is the coaching style like? Does the coach relate to players or does he/she berate them?

  • How many of your player's friends/teammates are on the team?

  • Has your athlete already learned a style of play rewarded by that team? Will a new team be considered a "restart" tactically?

  • How is the team environment when it comes to development and competition?

  • What does each club teach in regards to proper soccer education?

Rule of thumb? Wait for an offer from the club that you really want to make and then consider the alternative options available. Don't rush to make a decision just because a club or coach pressures you! 10) What is a club's true expense? If you look at the upcoming clubs advertisements and flyers, you will usually see clubs advertising the lowest price possible in order to attract players. Families must do their research here! Club A may only cost $450 a season and Club B may cost $1,500 a season. The big question is "What do those amounts cover?" Does the season cost cover:

  • Match uniforms

  • Warmup jackets and pants

  • Winter indoor soccer

  • Winter Development Training

  • Tournament costs

  • Goalkeeper Training

Each of those begin to add up quickly (not including potential travel costs). Ask the club what each cost includes to get a better overall picture of what you are (or potentially could be) paying for your athlete to join.

Another cost to consider is time. How often will your athlete be expected to train? Most clubs train 3-4 times a week, but the higher the level of competition, the more this can change. Time can cost families as much as fees do so parents and players must know how much time will be required each week during the season. 11) What should my player be doing right now to prepare for tryouts? With only a few weeks left until tryout season, the best thing a player can do is practice the fundamentals of soccer. Make sure you are the best at the basic required skills at this point. Work on your foot speed and control with the ball. Practice your consistency with passing & receiving. Work on your accuracy with your shots and finishing. At this point, players need to head into tryouts with as much confidence as possible. Coaches are not looking for the player that can hit the best trick shot or score off of bicycle kicks. They are looking for players that are consistent with the basics of soccer and have the potential to develop with the team. Whether you are training with a trainer/coach (or in your back yard), make sure you get the ball out to ensure you are comfortable with it come tryouts. Tryouts can be a stressful time for players, families and coaches! With so many options out there, the making the "correct" choice can be overwhelming. Our goal at Quick Touch Soccer Development (QTSD©) is to help players and families navigate the tryouts with confidence, composure and success. If you are working on your individual abilities and take the above tips into consideration, the next 2 weeks should go much smoother than expected! In the end, finding the right team for your athlete should have two major considerations: Will your player develop and will they continue to develop a love for soccer with this team?

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