By Joe Pennell - QTSD™ Director of Player Development
Each year, we start fielding questions about the the best time of the season - tryouts! The time were we all have a chance to relax, not worry about soccer, and take a deep breath ... yeah right! Just saying "tryouts" can cause anxiety in the most seasoned players and families. So we'd decided to help families ask the "Top 5 Questions YOU Need to Be Asking - 2023 Edition" for your player.
#1 - WHAT COACH IS ASSIGNED AND WHAT IS THEIR HISTORY/ EDUCATION?
This is the most important question you can ask. This soccer educator will be working with your player for the next 6-9 months. Recognize not every coach is the perfect fit for every soccer player. Different coaching styles will reach different players more effectively. The right coach for one player may not be the best for another. At tryouts, we stick to the following statement:
“At tryouts, coaches are looking for players they believe is the right fit for their team AND players are evaluating if a coach/team is the right fit for them. Two entities deciding if the other is a fit. It is a two way street.”
Ask the following questions:
Who is the assigned coach for your players specific team (not specific age group)?
How long has that coach been coaching the sport (experienced or new to managing teams)?
How long has that coach been with the club (consistent or bounce from club to club)?
What licensure/ certification do they have?
What is their approach to playing time?
Do they focus on this season's success OR are they aiming to help develop your player long term?
Do they have an attendance policy?
Be sure to have a conversation with that specific coach BEFORE accepting a spot. Don't let another coach/ staff answer questions for the coach assigned.
#2 - WHAT IS THE TRUE COST TO PLAY ON THIS TEAM?
Some clubs post a “One Cost” option that simplifies the club fees for the season (usually a bit higher) while other post low fees only to offer important aspects as “a la carte” for players. We recommend finding out what the total cost for a prospective club including:
Player season fees
Player jersey kits
Indoor space rental
Cost can add up quickly AFTER a player makes a team commitment if not properly researched.
Also, be sure to consider hotel costs if the team travels far. With hotel costs up, some weekends can cost upwards of $500+ for hotels alone!
#3 - HOW MUCH TRAVEL/ TRAINING FREQUENCY IS EXPECTED FOR THE TEAM?
With any season, you run into schedule balance for your athlete. Some athletes are busy in multiple sports/ hobbies while others fully commit to the sport they love. Different teams and leagues have different expectations. This is one of the most common complaints we hear. Teams forming and the expectations of practice attendance not being clearly stated/ reinforced. A serious team cannot improve if players are not in attendance. Alternatively, players that are multi-sport athletes may need to choose a lower level team to balance the expectations of the team (and teammate commitment).
Ask about how strict a coach/club will be about attendance. There is nothing worse than a team with 50/50 expectations. The players that want all-in teammates will be frustrated and players that are not all-in will get guilt trips from teammates; potentially burning out.
Also, learn about the travel expected for league matches and tournaments/showcases. Some leagues are local (OCL, MOSSL), some require medium travel (BPL, COPL, OSA) while others are multiple state travel (GLA/NPL, ECNL, GLC, OSSL, GA, etc.)
#4 - WHAT DOES THIS TEAM/ CLUB/ LEAGUE DO FOR MY COLLEGE DRIVEN PLAYER?
Many families and players are interested in the potential of college soccer. While about 1% of youth players go on to play college soccer, we believe their is a college out there for every serious player that puts in the effort to be recruited. Clubs do need to play a part in that journey. Ask the following questions:
Does this club actively educate families on the ever-evolving college recruiting process? We don't mean a once a year presentation, but more so active check-ins & conversations about the process at different steps.
Does the club attend college showcases AND ask players to take the required steps beforehand? Not just show up and play, but rather have players contact collegiate coaches, send film, etc.
Does the club assist in game footage? With the growth of camera software like Veo, Trace, and Hudl, getting quality footage of your athlete is easier than ever. And college coaches love realistic footage!
SIDE NOTE - The league your athlete competes in DOES NOT determine whether they can play in college or not. Some programs & leagues will boast that their players will get a college scholarship. But the reality is as long as players are competing AND developing their individual skills & IQ, college can be an option for them. Some high level leagues will naturally attract many D1 coaches from around the area. But we've also worked with dozens of players that competed in BPL, NPL/GLA, etc. that went on to play D1 - NAIA collegiate soccer. It all comes down to what YOUR player puts into their development.
#5 - CAN YOU ATTEND A TEAM PRACTICE BEFOREHAND?
The best way to get a feel for a team is to attend a training session. You have a chance to see if the sessions are well managed, the team chemistry is strong, and if the players feel challenged.
Always keep this in mind though - this is also on the minds of coaches and clubs. This is a time to show your “best”. Almost like showing your house before selling. Houses for sale are always clean … but were they well kept before OR were they speed cleaned just for the showing? There are many coaches who run great sessions year round and there are also some who may try to put on a “shiny clean” session just before tryouts. All we’re saying is just like when buying a house, look for all the small details before making a decision!
BONUS QUESTION - WHAT IS THE TEAM'S HISTORY?
It can be easy to expect your player will make an already established team; especially if they are further along in their soccer development. But that presents a challenge as established teams have less spots available for players. So when investigating a new team, find out what year they are in as a group. Rule of thumb for team history:
Year One - Biggest challenge was getting the team formed. The quality of players may be across the spectrum and winning results may be varied.
Year Two - The team has been established, players are building chemistry, and coaches are able to identify stronger roles while considering replacing players that may be better off at another team/level.
Year Three - A team should be strongly established and improving; both in player development and results.
Parents need to be honest here. Their player may fit into a top team and immediately make contributions. But for many, a newly formed team may give room for learning lessons and more playing time for their player’s future development and potential as well.
Our best tryout advice? Many families will always hear this club or that club is much better; basically the grass is greener on the other side. That isn’t always true. If you find a team/ coach that values your player, puts them in challenging learning situations, and helps them develop, it may be a good idea to commit to that team for another season.
Just remember - whatever team your child decides to commit to for the next year is never permanent. The process will start over again next year and both coaches and players can revisit their decisions. Good luck this year and as always, contact us if you have questions leading into tryouts!