I Hate Tryouts

I hate tryouts. I’ve always hated tryouts. Kids are stressed. Parents are stressed. Coaches are stressed. Some of it reasonable, some of it not. In some areas with large programs, it amazes me the intrigue and drama that goes on with the ‘B’ teams and the accusations (sometimes valid, sometimes not) of clubs considering things other than skill in their evaluations. For smaller clubs like ours, I hate the uncertainty each year about which teams will return enough players to continue playing and which will cease to exist. I hate the animosity that can be generated between area clubs trying to get a leg up on a neighboring club. Used to be flyers in schools, signs near other club’s fields. Now thanks to online payment processing, one of our area clubs is demanding answers from players within 24 hours AND requiring a $150 non-refundable deposit to simply accept the slot. The hope is they’ll lock players in before they hear from other area clubs so the kids can’t choose what is best for them.

Don’t get me wrong. I love travel soccer – I think for many players it provides a great environment not just for developing soccer skills, but also for building friendships, seeing new places, and experienced new styles of play. But I hate the tryouts that make it possible. Adults act like children and make the children even more stressed than they should be.

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  1. I dislike tryouts too.

    I have a u11 girls town travel (competition) team. Since I took over the team, we’ve had some remarkable success, making the semifinals in the state tournament and coming in first or second in the leagues we play in … and the players have really come a long way, too.

    But middle school soccer, premier soccer, and other things, though mainly those two, get in the way. u11 here is 8v8 as is u12. Currently, I have 11 players. I know I am losing 2 (to school and premier). Three others are on the fence about premier … two would stay with me if I could guarantee numbers, but I cannot. And then, all but two of my players are eligible for the middle school team this fall. Middle school soccer around here has four practices a week, that pretty much involve running, running, and more running, no actual development. And a couple of games per week. To try to keep my school-aged players, I offer that if they play premier or for the school, they can skip my practices and just make my games … which is not a great solution; it is the only solution.

    So, I took a team that never won a game and lost pretty much every game by 6 and turned it around in four seasons (fall and spring) to be top 4 in the state, and brought some players a long way in the process, and now … numbers. It does not help that for my age groups, boys outnumber girls 3:1 at school … there is just a general lack of players, period.


    I do have options for my players if this team disbands. Other places they can scatter to and keep playing if they wish. Several have premier on the side, which is good. And I can find a place for the others.

    But, I’ll miss the team.

  2. On another note, my club has been going on about getting “independent third-party” people to evaluate players at tryouts.

    Anyone else do that? At a large club, with the politics of A and B teams, I can see that. But at my club, where we are scrapping for numbers, I’m not sure it makes sense.

    Last fall I cut two players. They just could not get it done — they knew it, their folks knew it, it was like being a player down with them on the field. And, I dropped a girl to play her age on another team, because she was a decent player and I knew she would get more playing time and develop better if she was a bigger fish in a smaller pond — the talent on my team overshadowed her and she was playing up a year but was not confident against bigger, older players.

    Last fall I took a fair bit of guff for those kinds of choices. Even so, I don’t want someone who hasn’t seen the kids play all season come and evaluate them and perhaps make a snap judgment based on watching a player for, at most, 5 minutes.

    Thoughts? Outside evaluators?


  3. Our new DOC actually stated during open house that he hated the tryout process. He would rather have all the kids at U14 and below in an Academy-type pool with ability to shuffle them between teams.

  4. @Sean – MS Soccer is a nightmare, but the kids love it. Getting your name announced at school for scoring a goal in the game the previous day, wearing your jersey, etc.

    We scheduled our practices very late (7:30-9) on days they didn’t have matches (thankfully our schedules in MS are easy – Tue/Thu games boys/girls back to back.) With all the running (and running, and running) they do, we stop working on ANY type of conditioning/intensive practices and work more more on footskill and tactical play (small sided – overlaps, crossing, and more advanced tactics like that vs overall game tactics) But the hardest thing was countering the effect of MS soccer. Much more deliberate, methodical, and at times, just lazy. ‘Kick and run’ was encouraged. Defensive possession was discouraged (CLEAR IT!) Stuff like that. We had a rainy spell where we barely practiced for weeks and our travel game play deteriorated severely. Took a couple weeks to get things back on track and the girls did quite well in their final tournament (double overlapping runs, weaving runs, more intense physical play, etc)

    My players used to HATE seeing me on the sidelines because they knew I’d critique their performance at the next practice – but helped them to think more during their MS games and to play right not just ‘play’

    So overall, we’ve managed not to see a huge exodus due to MS soccer. However, part of that is we have only two middle schools in our league region for the most part and the bulk of the spots on those teams get taken by travel players – so if you aren’t playing travel soccer, it’s very hard to make the MS teams and just ‘play school ball’ and Rec.

  5. @Sean – regarding tryouts – we always try to have impartial people assist with the tryouts. Sometimes local school coaches, trainers, etc. But even internally, we try NOT to have our coaches evaluate the players they’ll coach. Once tryouts are over, we have a committee made up of the evaluators AND coaches discuss the makeup of teams. That’s when coaches get to provide input about special circumstances and situations. Thus it’ll be hard for a coach to blackball a good player, but a player on the bubble with an attitude problem might not make it in favor of a slightly less skilled kids with a great work ethic, etc.

    This way we can show the parents an impartial process that still is flexible enough to allow for exceptions. Like you, I’ve made tough choices for players and teams and caught grief for it. We can only do what we feel is best for the kids AND the team overall.

    But even then, you’ll still get accused of all sorts of misdeeds :)

    My thought is the more people you can involve in the decision making process while still keeping it efficient – the better

  6. @Jenn – I just can’t embrace the whole Academy thing. I think what it tries to accomplish is good, but I still think the concept of ‘teams’ is an important one. Just looking at the MS discussion above – with Academy there is not team, no sense of belonging. Just training and games with random players. Soccer is a VERY social game and I think that Academy takes some of that away and honestly can limit or hurt participation. One of the best things to happen with my 96 Girls was them adopting a name that was unique and sticking with it. Heck we even have shirts with a team logo on them – and they wear them EVERYwhere. It created a true sense of a team, even as some players came and went. I think it added a lot to their experience.

    So absolutely like things such as pool training, no scores/standings for teams below U10 or even U12. But I think the random team thing hurts more than it helps. Our U9/U10 program is a sort of hybrid. We form teams for the season, but then for scrimmages or tournaments we shift kids around as needed. Get the best of both worlds.

    ‘Academy’ is the big buzzword these days – but so far seems like it’s mostly hype. Clubs who ‘get it’ were already doing Academy like things in their regular travel programs and those that didn’t have taken Academy and continued with their ‘old ways’ but just charging more to do so because it’s the ‘in thing’

  7. I will add this funny anecdote that applies to many of the comments here. During evals for I think U11 boys, the evaluators were talking about how the group as a whole was solid, none of the kids was ‘bad’ and couldn’t we just say ‘take them all’ and form the teams and be done with it. Our league is VERY big about U9-U12 being primarily about development, so tryouts are more evaluations to place kids on teams (either A/B for older and balanced for younger). At U13 and above it becomes much more about strength and results. But it made us all laugh – would have saved us all from having to write down a bazillion 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s on the score sheets!

  8. Absolutely take them all if appropriate and if you can. I’ve coached several teams over the years, multiple in the same age group at the same time to keep kids. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way.

    With regards to cuts — kids cut from travel still have rec. The players I cut really are black holes on the field, not getting touches, not practicing at home … often good kids with great parents but rec offers a better environment for them to develop than travel, including the removing pressure of everyone knowing you struggle — your teammates, their parents, you, your parents.

    It’s tough. But if everyone is suitable, then you should do all you can to take them all.


  9. I’m impressed with the NC Soccer forum. Great backchannel discussion (or griping) that I’d love to see more highlights from!

    As a converse point to Sean – sometimes Rec teams have the win at all costs mentality more than Academy and Select teams (at least in the “Development” as a focus age groups) and it’s hard to get a word in as counterpoint.

  10. Great to see the new post! The tryout process was dragged out a bit more this year with Memorial Day. Along with many other families, we are so glad it is over. I have a rising U11 daughter and I am surprised to see how many potential Classic teams there will be this Fall.

    By the way, you are right – I did see someone in a Lunachicks t-shirt at Seaside a couple of weeks ago!

  11. @Matchfit – awesome! There’s the T-Shirts and those blinding neon yellow sleeveless jerseys they love to wear when the weather warms up! The Lunachicks had a great time at Seaside and did some really cool stuff. Lost the championship in overtime in a really exciting match (goals back and forth from the opening whistle till the end of overtime!).