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Professional May 15, 2013

Special commentary: A veteran youth coach’s perspective on tryouts

by @soccerinTN

Special contributor to

Editor’s note: @soccerinTN has been coaching youth soccer in the U.S. for the last 12 years. He has coached Under-8 thru U-18 and high school. Unlike most coaches, he has also had a son who has been through the whole process from U-5 rec soccer to NCAA Division I college soccer. Find SoccerinTN on Twitter.

I recently had a meeting with four coaches about the tryout for an under-14 age group. As all four coaches sat at the table they each said words to the effect of “I hate this time of the year.”

For two weeks of the year travel soccer goes crazy. Normally reserved quiet players become screaming banshees, parents who you have not had any contact with you for the 10 months their child has been on your team become your best friend. Coaches will become slimy weasels trying to replace every kid on a roster. Of course these are stereotypes, but I guarantee they are all out there.

Tips for parents

Speak to your child’s coach prior to tryouts. If they are honest, they’ll tell you where your kid stands on the roster. If it is not what you want to hear, don’t then call the club director of coaching and complain about the coach being “useless” and “should be replaced.”

The DOC has more loyalty to his coach than you and will tell them! Explain to your child that if they are trying out for their existing team, tryouts doesn’t matter for them, they’ve been evaluated all season. The coach is just looking to see if anybody better comes along.

If your child is trying out for a new team, don’t write a false ‘soccer resume’ for your child. Coaches will check. You are evaluated as much as your child is. Coaches will always ask what are the parents like. Unfortunately players get punished and don’t make teams at every tryout because of the actions of their parents!

If your child has not started most of the games over the season, there’s a good chance the coach is looking to replace them. There is very little loyalty in youth sports.

You are not being evaluated; team manager or treasurer should not keep your kid on the team. (Lots of times it does though, some managers are valued more than the player.) Those great friends you have amongst the parents? Yea, you’ll drop them if their child is not on the team anymore; likewise, they’ll drop you.

Tips for coaches

Speak to those players at the bottom of the roster; nobody should be surprised at tryout time.

Believe it when you see it. Parents loved to have their ego stroked and coaches calling and telling them how great their child is happens every year. Parents will tell you what you want to hear: “Oh yeah, we are coming to try out with your team.”

Being big or fast or “looking like a player” does not mean the player is good; don’t get excited if you see a new face at tryouts.

Don’t lie and tell every parent their kid will make it, if you know that the kid won’t. It just makes you look like a jerk and then you have to call the parents…

Tips for Players

Answer this question – What have you done all year?

Don’t wear the different socks, bright shirt, spray-paint your hair. Just come to play, don’t give the ball away, hustle to get water or on the field; if you’ve got ‘moves,’ do them.

Not all coaches are idiots, although you’ll think they are if they don’t pick you.

Tips for all

Not every decision that doesn’t go your way is political. There really are some players out there that are better than your child.

Scoring a goal at tryouts if you’ve done nothing all season is not going to keep you on the team.

What’s better, your child on the bench 75 percent of the time on the ‘top’ team or playing 90 percent of the time on the ‘second’ team? If you say ‘bench on the top team,’ then you’re in it for you, not your child.

At the end of the day, it really is a stressful time and being put on the second team at 12 years old can seem like the end of the world. In all reality it’s only soccer. Your child will make new friends, and may even give up the game for dance, cheerleading, football or golf.

The coach isn’t making decisions because they hate your child, or doesn’t know what they are doing. Most coaches are doing what they perceive is best for your child’s development, although there are a few who are terrible people!

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