I have a vivid memory of a tryout in high school (bicycle team). I remember every detail of the format, every fear, every ounce of anticipation to get to that day, and every doubt I had. My dad gave me some great advice, "listen well and don't do anything you can't do - unless they ask you to try it. Be there and nowhere else". More on that later.
The reality is that playing at a higher level comes with having to put yourself out there to be evaluated. It certainly isn't easy for a child, or even an adult.
- What do coaches want? Players who have the right toolkit (technical/tactical/physical/psychological) to be a productive part of the specific team they are building.
- What do coaches value? Coachable players who love the game and play it well. Attitude matters, a lot.
- What value do coaches place on technical/tactical skills vs. ambition? There's a baseline skill level and knowledge that has to be met. If you're not a standout player in these respects and get noticed for ambition, this could be an advantage over a lazy, but "gifted" player.
- What are some advantages the borderline player can use? Be a student of the game and volunteer for demonstrations and to answer questions. Make an impression that you're willing to "buy-in".
- Do tricks and flashy play matter? Don't rely upon these tactics. Play good fundamentals, look for opportunities to improve the situation your team is in, and listen, listen, listen. Respond when asked a question. Remove any doubt that they need you and can mold you into their system.
- When the coach asks a question, is a long or short answer best? Shorter is better, but don't be afraid to carry on a conversation if the coach keeps it flowing.
- What's more important, a great technical player or a fast player? You're playing soccer. Skills are the foundation. Speed is an asset though, but it'll depend on the team needs and the balance of these two factors. A team of only "track stars" may not be as effective.
- What else do coaches notice? 1) Don't be on time, be early. Coaches will arrive 15-45 minutes before the players arrival time. Be the first player the coaches meet and then allow them to set up and prepare. 2) Leave your phone in the car. - "Be there and nowhere else" 3) Bring extra water for a teammate 4) Don't rush out afterwards - maybe you can help pick up cones, balls, or carry a bag - show ambition and buy-in. 5) Meet your potential teammates and befriend isolated players - your job is to be a great teammate. If you know my name, you can get my attention in a drill to help each other.
- Eat/sleep/hydrate well. Be physically and mentally ready weeks in advance and maintain that state to ensure you have a great understanding of what you can and can't do. Rest and lite work in the days leading up to the tryout will keep you fresh for a tough physical and mental session/s.
- Communicate. Learn your teammates names and use them to advance your group.
- Ball control. Wall Ball will keep your skills sharp. Mix up the type of passes and rebounds.
- Evaluate your First Touch fundamentals. Do you trap, pass, and shoot with the proper techniques consistently?
- Watch the game - MLS, USWNT, USMNT, EPL... there is a ton of access to watch the game at the highest level on TV or YouTube. You can also find games on YouTube of your age possibly. Do you study for an exam? This will help you be sharp and recognize/predict what's happening in the game around you.
- Play the game. Your game skills are not the same as your individual skills training. Can you finish? Can you control your third? Can you regain control of the ball? Can you maintain control? Just play in the months leading up to a try out.
- Run to build stamina and strength. Mix it up. Running with a ball is great, but not the same as just running to do well in a test. If you're running on a track team, you're on the right path. The "Beep" test is one of the first things you'll likely do for a high school team tryout. Here's some advice on beating it.
- Remember why you're trying out...fun. Don't get too hyped up or down on yourself. Rebound from it fast.
There is so much advice people can give. My summary isn't foolproof and is based only on my experiences. Not everyone makes the team Can you work to make it next time? Get to work and use this experience to your advantage now. If you can't, move on to what's next for you and be happy that you gave it a shot. You'll never regret that.
BTW, I did make that bicycle team and it transformed my life in ways I couldn't have imagined at the time as a 16-year-old. If I wouldn't have made it, I would have kept riding and found an alternative path for as long as possible. I didn't make a career out of it, but still love it like I was 16. Go for it and have fun!
DSP Tryouts - http://www.mayouthsoccer.org/programs/district_six/
TSL Tryouts - http://www.mayouthsoccer.org/programs/town_select_league_tryouts_2019/