Holding an Effective Soccer Trial

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Having the ability to organise and run a well-managed and coordinated soccer trial will speak volumes as regards your football coaching capabilities. More significantly, it will enable you to get the best out of the little time that is available and will help you considerably in making the correct choice of players.

How can you ensure you get the best out of the soccer trialists?

Beginning your session in the correct way is fundamental in ensuring everyone’s time is spent favourably. When the trial starts, it’s important to make everyone feel welcome – including your team, the trialists and any onlookers who are probably just as nervous as the trialists themselves are.

It isn’t difficult to make everyone feel at ease. Just take a few minutes at the start of the session to introduce yourself and give some details about how the trial will work. It’s important here to be organised and have a plan, hopefully you will have this under control well beforehand!

Everyone needs a sense of purpose, including youth and junior football players. Therefore, tell everyone what to expect during the trial. If the players know what’s ahead, they are not as likely to get nervous or anxious and can concentrate on playing well.

Six tips to help get things right

  • Arrive early at the session allowing you to get everything organised and give a personal welcome to all those attending as soon as they arrive.
  • Put on a warm welcoming smile as you greet everyone.
  • Be enthusiastic and happy. This emits a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, which will encourage the players to adopt a similar stance.
  • Reassure the players involved that you will review their performances in an objective manner. Explain to the parents the criteria the players will be assessed on.
  • It’s a good idea to run the trials over several nights as this allows a more objective and reasonable assessment to be made. Doing this will also help players relax more.
  • Get yourself familiar with the trialists’ names. Use sticky labels or badges if it helps!

Despite doing your best to ensure everyone is calm and relaxed, the likelihood is that there are only a few places available on the team, which adds to anxiety. Endeavour to reduce this as much as possible and ensure the trial is a positive and enjoyable experience.

Although you may never have any contact with some of these soccer players ever again, keep in mind their best interests and always give respectful and unbiased feedback. Take for instance if one of the players fails to meet the standard you require, it won’t be beneficial to either of you by giving him lots of negative feedback. In later articles we will cover the best ways of handling feedback.

Planning a well structured soccer trial

Players will have more confidence in showing their abilities if it is obvious that you are a competent coach and the trial is well organised and structured.

A soccer trial should be just like any normal training session apart from one feature, the coaching. We’ll come back to this in a moment.

Begin the trial with a warm up. Don’t leave this up to the players themselves, even if that’s what usually happens, instead initiate both static and dynamic exercises. Ensure the players understand that you are serious about how they get prepared and ready for action.

A one hour trial is sufficient for junior players aged 6 -10, increasing by half an hour for youth teams aged 11+. Several sessions enable a more accurate assessment of players rather than judging them after one.

Have specific criteria on which players will be judged. Look for the following seven key elements:

  • The players first touch
  • Awareness of surroundings (space, support, etc.)
  • How comfortable they appear with the ball
  • Close control of the ball and the ability to take on opponents
  • Their communication skills
  • Speed – both mentally and physically
  • Their ability to close down and make a tackle

It’s also beneficial to have an evaluation sheet which focuses on four crucial areas – tactical, technical, psychological and physical. These can be subdivided into further areas that can be graded using a scale. Using this evaluation sheet enables you to objectively and consistently assess each player.