Preparing for Soccer Tryouts
Tryout season is in full swing around Southern California, with hundreds of young players heading out to try to catch on with the “perfect” club or team. Many will have good sessions, attracting the attention they hope for. But some players will not be ready for the day because they don’t know what to do to be at their best. SoccerToday spoke with several area coaches to get the lowdown on how players can be prepared to show their skills to the best advantage.
Part I with Paul Caligiuri, Randy Waldrum, Chris Klein, Sean Bowers, Richard Simonyi, Dave Currie, Michael Duggan, Wayne Harrison, Rick La Salle, Jimmy Murphy, Andy Thomas, Erik Kirsch, Abe Fuentes provide valuable advice and insights on how to succeed at tryouts.
Editor’s Note: Coaches are not in any specific order. Advice does vary – discover what speaks to you and good luck.
Randy Waldrum – U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team & Notre Dame Coach
In addition to his duties as head coach of the U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team, Randy Waldrum is one of the most successful college coaches in history. In his thirty seasons of college soccer Waldrum has compiled the third highest winning percentage among women’s soccer coaches. Over the past 13 years as head coach at the University of Notre Dame he has guided the Fighting Irish to a 263-44-14 overall record, including two NCAA College Cup titles and three runner-up finishes.
1. Give your best. Always put your top effort into every tryout.
2. See Where Your Style Fits. Remember, you are not going to dramatically change your skill set overnight, so go play and see if the way you play fits in.
3. Look for Development. If I could tell parents one thing it would be to go to the coach who is more concerned with developing players than winning. Youth soccer is very competitive. Club coaches have to win games or they lose their jobs or lose their players. It is important to select a coach who genuinely cares about developing their play – and parents need to be less concerned about winning U12 tournaments.
Chris Klein – LA Galaxy Academy & Retired Pro
Chris Klein is one of the few pro soccer players to have spent his entire career in the MLS, playing for the Kansas City Wizards, Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy. He also was a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team in the early 2000s. After his retirement from active play, Klein was named as the Senior Director of the LA Galaxy Academy and Special Projects. One of his first moves was to launch the U-12 and U-13 teams to increase the Academy’s reach.
“My advice for youth players is to go to a club program where you think you can develop the most,” Klein recommends. “Find a positive environment where you can develop your skills.”
Paul Caligiuri – USA World Cup Pro
Paul Caligiuri is perhaps best known for the “shot heard round the world,” his game-winning goal against Trinidad and Tobago that sent the U.S. Men’s National Team to the 1990 World Cup in Italy after a 40-year absence. In addition to the USMNT, Caligiuri, a California native, played for clubs in both the First and Second Bundesliga and for LA Galaxy in the MLS. Caligiuri was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004.
Here are Caligiuri’s three tips for success, designed for any player at any level. First of all Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.
1. Prepare Mentally. Create a picture in your own mind of what to expect from the tryout and visualize yourself at the tryout. Go on the Internet and research the current team roster, team results, and standings.
Get a better idea about the club or organization, the team, the players and the coaches. This is something I recommend you do at the earliest stages when you decide to attend a tryout. The effects will be amazing at building courage and confidence.
Once you have a better idea about the tryout, go check out the field. A few days or even weeks in advance, walk, jog or even bring a ball to the field where you will be trying out. When you are on the field, think about the position(s) you play and the things you like to do when playing soccer.
2. Prepare Technically and Physically. Soccer is a skilled game which requires players to have a good fitness base. Set up a training plan that requires you to do extra fitness and skill work leading up to the tryout. Try to do as many of your planned fitness exercises with the soccer ball as possible. Begin by jogging with the ball 5-10 minutes, then do a series of progressive (30%-60%-90%) stride-outs with the ball. Finish up with interval fitness (walk 1 minute-jog 1 minute-sprint 1 minute…repeat 5-10 times) with the ball.
Next, do skill work with the ball: passing, shooting, dribbling, and, most importantly, receiving of the ball as you have time for. This is a great time to pull from some of those images you stored in your mind from your research.
3. Prepare on Tryout Day. This is game day, so to speak, and the main thing to do throughout the tryout is to keep reminding yourself that the tryout is going to be fun because you know that you will do your best.
Get to the field early, at least 30 minutes in advance. Once you arrive at the field, get ready early and begin to warm up (with the ball) on your own. Be yourself and play to win! You are now ready to give your best to become your best.
Sean Bowers – 619 Futsal, Former Pro & College Coach
Sean Bowers, owner and CEO of 619 Futsal, was a member of the U.S. National Futsal Team from 1996 to 2004, earning 36 caps. He also played indoor soccer with several teams, including the Baltimore Blast and San Diego Sockers. In 2011 Bowers established 619 Futsal to provide San Diego area players with the opportunity to develop skills in the same game that helped produce such soccer stars as Pele, Ronaldo and Messi. Bowers has coached at the collegiate and premier levels of soccer. For Sean Bowers, there are five easy steps for players to follow through the tryout process.
1. Be Yourself. Don’t try to be a Messi or Abby Wambach at your tryout. Just be the best “you” that you can be.
2. Play Simple. Most players try to do too much at a tryout. Coaches look for those players who play the ball simple and do it well.
3. Use Your Skills. Coaches love to see skill and love players that are not afraid to use those skills they have developed.
4. Stay Involved. Just because you don’t know anyone at tryouts doesn’t mean you can’t stay involved. Say “hello” to all the other players before you start and get comfortable as soon as you can.
5. Have Fun. Enjoy the experience. This is not National Team tryouts. Enjoy the new players and coaches. Have a smile on your face and truly love the game of soccer. After all, why else are you there?
Richard Simonyi – San Diego Surf Soccer Club
After a career that included ten years in the Hungarian First Division with Budapest VSC and Ikarus FC, Richard Simonyi moved to America to play and later coach. From 1993 to 1999 he coached in Northern California with Auburn FC and Placer United FC, then moved south to work with Del Mar Sharks and San Diego Surf. Currently Simonyi is head coach of the Surf 1998 Boys Junior Academy, U-10 Premiere and U-12 Boys 98/99 teams. Over the years, his teams have been State Cup champions and finalists, Regional semifinalists and league champions, as well as taking championships at numerous tournaments.
1. Think Big. Play like you are in the State Cup Final.
2. Stand out. You need to be head and shoulders better than the existing players on the team. If you don’t stand out, you won’t be noticed. Don’t be shy, you may not get a second look.
3. And Don’t Just Stand There. Play and move. Show what you have.
3. Put “You” First. This is the only time in soccer when you get to think about just yourself. Let the coaches see how good you are. After you make the team, then you put the team’s needs ahead of your own
Dave Currie – San Diego Surf Soccer Club
Dave Currie and his brother Paul Currie came to America on a whim and stayed to become two important cogs in the Surf soccer machine. Dave Currie currently coaches the Boys 01-02 Premier, Boys 93-94 White and Boys 92-93 White teams. He has a number of factors that he looks for in prospective team members and some advice for players and parents.
“Players should realize that there is no coaching at the tryouts,” Currie says, “so they should enjoy showing off their skills to the coaches. A lot of players get nervous, but once you start touching the soccer balls the nerves should start to disappear. Remember to go out there and enjoy the chance to show off to the coaches.”
Currie also has tips for parents before tryouts. If your player is returning to a team, Currie suggests you prepare your child to do his or her best and to work out. Remember that there is competition and some returning players may not make the team. If your child is new to the team, remind them to have fun and express themselves.
After tryouts, if the parent gets the call from the coach, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out where the coach sees the child on the team – a starter or on the squad (bench). This may or may not affect the parent’s decision on the team, but the child should always have a voice in that decision as well.
Coaches will often take a child who shows strong desire and a good work rate over a child with more skill but who shows a lack of effort. What Currie looks for on the field is:
- Players that can beat another player
- Players that have a good first touch
- Players that are able to play well with both feet
- Players that can pass, shoot and score
- Players that show awareness and can communicate on the field
- Players that have passion, energy and good work rate for the game
- Players who enjoy playing the game
Michael Duggan – Carlsbad Lightning
Michael Duggan cut his soccer teeth at Skelmersdale United Football Club and Tranmere Rovers in England before coming to the United States. After starting with Carlsbad Lightning as a coach, he worked his way up to Director of Coaching. Duggan, like many other coaches, believes that preparation begins long before the day or even the week of tryouts.
1. Do Your Homework. The most important thing, even before you go to tryouts, is to do a little research on the club, and more importantly do a little research on the coach. The coach is the most important element in youth soccer because it’s the coach the player is going to be working with for the next year. You have to know you are going to be able to play for that coach. Don’t pick the club over the coach.
2. Be Realistic. Be realistic about where you’re going to play. It’s better to pick a AAA team rather than a Premier team if you’re just going to sit on the bench at the higher level. You need to play, especially at the younger ages. You don’t want to be sitting on the bench with a successful team and not kicking the ball. You’d rather turn around and be playing 100% of the time with a team that’s maybe mid-table.
3. Be Physically Prepared. If you haven’t been doing anything prior to the tryout with your previous coach or club, get outside and get a lot of touches on the ball. There are many things you can do – you can go to the park and puts some cones down and do shuttle runs and slalom runs. Give yourself some time schedules to dribble through the cones and then dribble back. Work on both feet. So when you go into the tryout you’re not going in rusty because you haven’t touched a ball for four or five days. Get to where your feet are working with your brain. At least two days before, make sure you’re hydrating and eating the right foods, and get a good night’s sleep.
4. Keep It Simple. During the tryout, don’t try to over-impress, just keep things simple. Remember that in most cases tryouts are for an hour and a half to two hours. You’re not trying out for five minutes. You don’t need to turn around and do wonders every time you have the ball. Keep it simple by connecting your passes, keeping possession of the ball and making sure you’re communicating.
5. Communicate on the Field. Coaches want to see players who are comfortable with themselves, and a player who is out there communicating with others is comfortable. A player who is out there and is quiet and not communicating or calling for the ball is someone who is not really confident. That is what coaches are looking at. Also, be sure you are playing the position you are comfortable with so that you can do your best.
Wayne Harrison – CV Manchester
In addition to coaching with CV Manchester, Wayne Harrison is a professional soccer consultant and author of eleven books on coaching. He holds a BA in Sports Psychology/Applied Psychology, a UEFA “A” License and a NSCAA Premier Diploma.
1. Relax. Try not to be anxious. If you make a bad play, don’t get down on yourself; work to maintain a positive body language.
2. Play to your strengths. Do not attempt things that are outside of your skill set just to impress the coaches. Nine times out of ten this will fail. Along with this, make it clear to the coach what position you play and make sure you try out at that position. This will give you the best chance of success.
3. Maintain your focus. Coaches want players who concentrate and make good decisions on the field.
4. Be confident but not cocky. Look the coach in the eye when speaking to him or her. The coach is looking for players with strong character and who believe in themselves. Body language plays a big part in this.
5. Be vocal. Talk to the other players on the pitch. Encourage others and show your leadership skills.
Rick La Salle – Hotspurs USA
Rick La Salle is a Board Member with both Hotspurs USA and Presidio Soccer League, and the Co-Director of Beach Soccer Jam.
1. Be Prepared Physically and Mentally. Ensure you are in excellent athletic shape before the day of tryouts. Also, have a noticeable positive mental attitude, and show that you are coachable.
2. Set Yourself Apart. Always arrive early and introduce yourself to the coaches if you are new to the league. Make sure they know who you are. At the end of the tryout, thank the coaches personally for the opportunity.
3. Take It Seriously. Even if you are trying out for the same team you played with the previous season, take the tryout seriously. Display your skills and strengths to the coaches evaluating you, and play like it is a championship game.
4. Be a Team Player. Play fair, be a good sport and show you are respectful. Show your leadership skills whenever possible.
5. Remember It Is a Competition. Competitive soccer is just what the name implies – competitive. Players need to remember that at the end of the day, professional coaches are expected to select players that show an ability and willingness to learn and advance in their skills. Players who don’t take these fundamental requirements seriously may be in for a sad result.
Jimmy Murphy – Carlsbad Lightning
Jimmy Murphy, Director of Carlsbad Lightning Elite, joined the club in 2010 after a coaching career that included 10 years with RSF Attack, two years each at Surf and Bonita Rebels and two years with the Cal South ODP programs. He has coached at the high school level at Santa Fe Christian, Eastlake, Bonita Vista and Cathedral Catholic High School.
1. Be Aggressive. Players need to be aggressive and active at tryouts. Be sure to fully engage in the session, and pay attention and listen to instructions.
2. Be Skilled. Be sure to practice your skills before the tryout. Being able to pass and trap well, dribble the ball with both the inside and outside of each foot, and juggle with both feet will pay off at tryouts. Players should make sure that the coaches running the tryouts remember them.
3. Enjoy Yourself. Coaches want to see that players enjoy what they are doing.
4. Study the Team. Take time to watch the team(s) you want to try out for. Get a good feel for the coach’s style and how he or she relates to the team. The coach and team must be a good fit for the player.
Andy Thomas – Laguna Niguel Soccer Club
In addition to being Director of Coaching for Laguna Niguel Soccer Club, Andy Thomas is a budding screenwriter whose screenplay “The Beast” is being turned into a movie under the direction of David Anspaugh (“Hoosiers”). As a coach, Thomas has worked at the high school and club levels and was named L.A. Times Coach of the Year in 1997 when he took an also-ran Laguna Beach High School boys varsity team to Pacific Coast League Champions.
1. Prepare Yourself. Practice your skills. If possible, get some private coaching sessions several weeks before tryouts to increase 1 v 1 skills and confidence levels. Work repeatedly on your footwork moves at game speed so that you will be competent under pressure. Juggle the ball on a daily basis to improve your eye-foot coordination.
2. Maintain Your Health. Make sure you are getting proper nutrition every day, especially the week of the tryouts. Keep well hydrated, particularly before heavy activity. Get plenty of rest to recover from training sessions, and get at least eight hours of sleep the night before tryouts.
3. Be Ready on Tryout Day. Pack your soccer bag yourself so you are sure you have all your equipment and clean soccer shoes. You might choose to wear bright soccer clothing so that you will stand out instantly. Eat a light, healthy breakfast on the day of tryouts, and drink a sports drink on the way to tryouts. Arrive early so you can take time to warm up and get ball touches
4. Stand Out on the Field. Communicate with the other players. Give good information to the player you pass to and call for the ball loudly when you are in good position. Recognize “the moment” that can make you stand out, such as beating a player 1 v 1 in the right area to get off a shot or a crossing pass.
5. Be Solid. Don’t over indulge or try to “showboat.” Play simple, solid soccer and make good decisions. Show discipline on the field and cooperate with other players. Work hard off the ball when your side is in possession or during transition.
6. Impress the Coaches. Follow directions as they are given. If you are put in a specific position, play the role to the best of your ability. At the end of the session, shake hands with the coaches and thank them for the opportunity.
7. Have Fun. Remember that this is another opportunity to practice your skills. Whether or not you make the team, you have learned something.
Erik Kirsch – West Coast Futbol Club
Erik Kirsch grew up in the USA and Germany and played professional soccer in Germany. After spending time on the pitch with STV Horst and WSV Bochum, Kirsch came back to the USA and coached at Pateadores and Irvine Strikers as well as for the OC Waves. Currently, Kirsch coaches BU13, BU14 and BU15 with the WCFC Academy. This is what he tells players going out for ODP or National Teams, but can apply to any level.
1. Show up ready to impress. Arrive with sweats and running shoes on. Once you are there, start stretching and jogging in running shoes, even if no one else is. Introduce yourself to all of the coaches at the tryout and thank them for the opportunity. When the coaches tell you they are going to start soon, put on your cleats and shin guards and continue to warm up. Jog, do side-to-sides, back peddles, etc. until they call everyone together.
2. Focus on the coaches. Be alert and make sure your eyes never leave the coach who is talking. If the coaches ask for volunteers, be first to raise your hand or step forward. This shows confidence. Listen to what they ask you to do and then do it.
3. Focus on yourself. Remember that you are here to make the team, so do not expect to make friends. If another player yells at you, smile and continue to play as if you didn’t notice. Only care what the coaches are asking you to do.
4. Leave an impression. Work hard to be special in whatever way possible. Play as if the coaches have no other choice but to pick you. At the end, shake each coach’s hand, tell them your name and thank them for the opportunity to try out. Cool down on your own, even if nobody else is, then put your sweats and jogging shoes back on and go home.
Abe Fuentes – Fitness and Nutrition Expert
Abe Fuentes is a Fitness and Nutrition Expert for FOX 5 News in San Diego and writes a column for Luxe Global Magazine. He is a former police officer (Phoenix Police Department) and has worked with the Sacramento Sheriff’s Departement, U.S. Army Special Forces and Folsom Prison Correctional Officers as an instructor and advisor. Fuentes is an American Council on Exercise Certified Nutritionist and an International Sports Sciences Association Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Sports Nutritionist.
1. Have the Right Mind Set. Take credit for your success and responsibility for your failures. The power behind focus and control is building optimistic belief.
2. Be Mentally Flexible. Be able to handle different situations in a balanced or non-defensive manner, drawing on a wide range of positive emotions.
3. Be Mentally Present. Be emotionally engaged in the competitive situation, not witdrawn.
4. Have a “Warrior Mentality.” Develop the ability to handle great emotional force and sustain your fighting spirit, no matter what the circumstances.
5. Focus on Nutrition. Research has shown that soccer players can deplete up to 90% of their muscle glycogen (their muscle “fuel”) during a match. Prepare for matches and tryouts by eating a small meal with at least 600 calories of carbohydrates about two hours before competition. Drinking about 12-14 ounces of a sports drink 10-15 minutes before action will also help keep a player at a high level of ability.
Soccer Tryout Summary
When you look at the suggestions from top coaches, several things stand out. First, be sure that the club/team you are trying out for is the one that is right for you. Do your homework first and make certain that the coach is someone you can/want to work with. Remember that the goal is to make a team that you can play for, not warm the bench. For the next year this is going to be your soccer “home,” so do what you can to ensure it is a good home.
Prepare yourself before the tryout by getting as many touches as you can. Spend time with simple drills that will keep your skills sharp. And be sure to eat well and hydrate, especially the critical 48 hour period before the big day.
On the day of the tryout be sure to arrive extra early. If the club suggests 30 minutes early for sign-in, be there at least 45 minutes before. Warm up before the session, even if no one else is. Show the coaches that you are eager to be a part of the team. Speak to the coaches and thank them for the chance to try out with the club. Listen to everything they say and be one of the first to follow directions.
During the tryout remember that you are not Messi or Abby Wambach. Don’t try to overdo or show off something tricky just to impress the coaches – chances are you will not. Coaches are looking for good, solid players who can fit into their system. Doing the simple things well will do more to impress than all of the little tricks combined. And remember that you generally have at least an hour and a half to show your skills. There is no need to do it all at once.
Finally, remember that not everyone will make the team. If you are not chosen for your “dream team,” try to have a second choice to fall back on. And remember, as Erik Kirsch tells his players when they go out for National teams or ODP, “You’re not a failure if you don’t make it. You’re a success because you tried.”