Holding an Effective Soccer Trial – Part Two

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Holding a well-organised football trial will ensure you get the most out of it, particularly important if your time is limited.

When assessing a player, check out his technical ability as well as his game play. To enable a review of all these elements, divide the trial into two separate parts.

The first section involves some drill-based ability and the reason for this is twofold.

1. It allows the trialists to perform technical based abilities, which should be relatively easy for them and increases confidence ready for the match based analysis.
2. It gives you as a coach immediate feedback on their abilities to understand and carry out simple instructions.

However, be careful when using drills. Take for example if you set out cones in lanes and instruct players to dribble the ball along the cones whilst you time them. If this is all you do, the only thing you will learn is who the fastest player is, who can keep his head down and navigate the cones with technical ability but this isn’t match specific. How well would the player perform if confronted with a defender?

This drill will give you a quick albeit relatively meaningless peek at the basics, which are valid but won’t show you a great deal about the player.

The best method of judging talent thoroughly is by putting the players in match like conditions that accurately reflect the game. This will allow you to assess how the players react to pressure, the choices they make and if they can perform a skill when put under pressure.

To accomplish this arrange some games that will let the players constantly be involved and will offer them lots of scenarios and time on the ball. 3v3 or 4v4 set-ups in a compact area will bring out the very best in a player.

By compact area, I mean an area of usually 10 – 15 yards wide and 20 – 25 yards long. This means players must react to changes very quickly, such as switching from defence to attack and vice versa.

A vital element in this scenario is teamwork. The area is large enough to permit players to show individual skill but means they will need to seek out and utilize other members of the team also.

Part one of this series listed criteria to look out for when holding soccer trials. Here are some additional factors to add to the list.

  • Does the player actively move around the pitch? Does he take up good tactical positions? Or is he happy to keep to one area of the field and allow the others to do the chasing?
  • Is his style of play better suited to defence or attack?
  • Does he make full use of available space and support?
  • Is he comfortable with dribbling the ball or does he look to pass it?
  • Can he anticipate a pass and deliver it well?
  • Can he read the game well and conform accordingly?

To make the right decision when choosing players, it’s vital to assess all this information in order to get a full evaluation of the individual’s ability. Whilst a 3v3 or 4v4 try out allows players to display their technical capabilities and a little tactical know how (defence and attack), it’s still necessary for you to look at their understanding of the bigger game.

A good idea here is the use of a tactic board. Whilst it may not be perfect, it allows you to put up particular situations and then ask the trialists where players should move and why. This enables you to judge their abilities in reading the game. Another advantage of a tactic board is giving the player a prop to lean on so it doesn’t make him feel like he’s being interrogated!

Recruiting for particular positions

The best method of analysing players’ capabilities for a particular position such as a goalkeeper or a striker is to initiate a few drills that allow them to show their skills and technique. If it’s a striker you’re trying out for, get the players to attempt scoring into full-size nets (suitable for the particular age group). Use the same for a goalkeeper.

When using drills for a specific position, don’t attempt to set up too many together and have everyone performing all at once on the pitch. It may be unnerving for a player if you’re not watching but instead concentrating on another drill elsewhere.

Never single out players either. In this kind of drill, allow all the players to have an attempt. This way the players won’t feel as if they are being scrutinised so much.

In the next part of this series, we’ll look at the biggest errors trainers make when having soccer trials plus some features to enable your chosen trialists to fit in well with the squad.

Holding an Effective Soccer Trial