Tryout Guidelines

Tryouts for youth soccer teams are never an easy or perfect process. However, we do have some recommendations for you that will hopefully make things easier.

We recommend a very simple tryout process in which there are no lines or stations.

It is most important that we evaluate players' ability to play the game of soccer. Evaluation of their technical skills and tactical proficiency will be done within small games. Technical skill done at 50-percent pace in isolation at a station is of no importance when it comes to playing during a game.

At the end of tryouts, it is our goal to find the most effective players in game situations to place on teams. Their ability to have an effect on the game is the most important variable. Technically proficient players who cannot perform in traffic or when under pressure should not be placed on top teams. In contrast, some players whose technical skills may not be as advanced as others, but whose athletic skills and understanding of the game are advanced, should be challenged in an optimal environment to develop technical skills and help the team.

Having players race in a sprint may not provide any useful information to an evaluator. Game speed is more important than pure running speed. This is why tryouts are not easy. In the end, the most impactful players in the game should be placed on the top teams. Sometimes, "impact" cannot be quantitatively measured. Having experienced coaches look for such immeasureables is key.

We recommend that non-team coaches rate players in the tryout process, in addition to the team coaches. This reduces any chance of personal bias and aids your club in proving to parents they are providing an impartial tryout process. We do feel that it is important for team coaches to help with tryouts in different age groups as well. This will provide them the opportunity to work with other professional coaches and help develop their player evaluation and coaching skills. This could only help your club and its players in the long run.

We recommend the following tryout format:

  1. Possession Warm-up (dribbling, passing and receiving)
  2. 3v3, 4v4 or 5v5 to small goals
  3. Larger-Sided Scrimmages (6v6 to 8v8)

We recommend an evaluation sheet that is straight forward.

We suggest using a rating system that ranges from 1 to 5 (1=lowest skill level; 5=highest skill level) in the following categories:

  1. Technical Skills – a player's comfort level with the ball
    • Dribbling, receiving, passing, heading, shooting, tackling (getting the ball back from the opponent or regaining possession of the ball)
  2. Tactical Decision Making – the decisions that a player makes
    • When, where, why and how to dribble, receive, pass, head, shoot and tackle the ball
    • What to do when our team has possession of the ball
    • What to do when our team does not have possession of the ball
  3. Physical Abilities – Speed, Quickness, Strength, Power, Agility, Balance, Aggressiveness
  4. Psychological / Mental Skills – Involvement in the activity
    • Wants to be involved all the time
    • Work ethic
    • Takes charge in the activity
    • Discipline
    • Loves the competition
    • Commitment
    • Personality in game competition
    • Coachabililty
  5. Offensive Ability – helps to keep possession of the ball for the team
    • Loves to have the ball at their feet
    • Comfortable with the ball
    • Finds a way to move the ball forward toward the opponent's goal
    • Finds a way to score goals
    • Positional awareness (positioned to support teammates who have the ball)
  6. Defensive Ability – helps win the ball back from the opponents
    • Recovers to a defensive position after his/her team losses possession of the ball
    • Good tackler of the ball
    • Shows restraint/patience when outnumbered by attackers
    • Applies immediate pressure to opponent to win the ball back when appropriate
    • Communicates with other players on the team

We recommend that you contract expert evaluators to help guide your town evaluators in the tryout process.

Mass Youth Soccer provides this expertise. A Mass Youth Staff Coach will meet with the town tryout coordinator to map out the whole tryout process. Mass Youth Soccer staff coaches will be assigned to supervise and assist the town coach/evaluators during the evaluation process the day of tryouts. We see our job as training your coaches to allow you to run future tryouts of the same quality without the need of outside help.

Mass Youth Soccer staff coaches will float from field to field, assessing players on each field. These assessments are then shared with all of the town coach/evaluators so that they can compare and evaluate appropriately. In this way, the town coach/evaluators learn how to evaluate in a supportive environment.

We recommend that you provide ample opportunity for players to be seen in the tryout process.

Schedule at least two days of tryouts for players, because you need that time for a thorough evaluation. Players should also be evaluated by at least two different evaluators, preferably more.

In conclusion, it is important to keep the tryout process simple. The best way to do that is to organize a game-like format where the players are playing the game. Expert guidance from Mass Youth Soccer staff coaches will help create a positive environment for players and coaches, relieving stress and reducing any perception of bias. This is one process where "keeping it simple" is best!