Tryouts are upon us and once again everybody from players, parents, coaches, administrators and clubs find themselves in the all too familiar position of uncertainty, stress, politics and uncomfortable positions.
Rumors are flying around as to who is leaving the team, where they are going and why they are leaving. Parents are running their child from tryout to tryout trying to see what team they'll make at each club and what guarantees each team will offer. Coaches are wondering what they did wrong to cause these players to leave? Some don't care at all and are happy to cut players. Clubs and Admins recruitment drive is on overload trying to attract the "best players" and "best coaches" while also promoting themselves as the best club in town. Some are left scratching their heads trying to figure out if they'll have enough players to even have a team. It is complete and utter chaos and the icing on the cake is that all this happens during the be all end all State Cup!
Take a deep breath, relax and let's look at how we can help alleviate some of the stress to help you help your child to shine at tryouts this year. Remember this is supposed to be about the kids.
The first thing to do is to have a conversation with your child and talk to them about their goals, ambitions and desires. Are they happy with their current team? Do they want to keep their spot on the team? Do they want to move up to a higher team even if it means possibly changing positions or getting less playing time? Do they want to tryout somewhere else? Questions like these and others can help you as a parent understand your child's current state of mind and can be beneficial in knowing how to move forward.
Secondly you have to know what level your child is currently playing at. In order to know what level and where your child wants to play, you have to know what level your child is playing at now. That means what level team within their age group in the club, such as A team, B team, etc and then you have to know how to assess your child's performance. This is the tricky part that's difficult for parents. Can you analyze your child objectively? In order to do this, you have to take as much emotion out of it as possible and have some perspective. Ask yourself these questions.
Is my child's level with, above, or below other kids on the team as far as technical and physical skills?
Is my child level with, above, or below other kids with regards to mental toughness and tactical awareness?
Does my child want to play at a higher level, or would they be happier playing at the same level next year, or even a level down?
Lastly, when looking into clubs and teams you should try to find out what the club's philosophy and culture is all about? Do they favor a developmental approach which is long term based on technical skills, possession play, short passing and developing players? Or are they a win at all costs, short term results based on physicality of players, kick and run direct style of play, long ball and trophies over development mentality? Are you asking yourself " how would I know what each club is about"? You are right, because all the clubs talk a good game and say all the right things and every club has positives and negatives, but the answer is simple. For me, more important than the club and the most important thing to consider is the coach. You should choose the coach first and foremost. You want a coach with a good reputation for developing players, experience, good moral base, good training habits and someone that you believe can push your kid to the next level. Most importantly, you want a coach who will foster a happy environment. It's no secret that players follow coaches and their loyalty is based on the coach more than the club.
Too often parents pick a club based on reputation, status, social pressures or they just follow the crowd. Some will choose a club based on whether they make the "A" team or not. For example a kid will make the A team at a "smaller club" but the B team at the "bigger club" most of the time they'll go with the A team. Consider your kids age and personality. Some teams want the bigger, stronger, and faster players other reward the more technically skilled players with the potential to develop. Again it goes back to the right coach and environment for your child. When kids are young it can be ok to choose a club based on their friends but at some point it's going to be best to choose based on your child's goals, ambitions and needs. Obviously there are other factors to consider too, like club fees, be sure to ask about any extra fees, number of practices per week, travel demands, potential playing time, flexibility of missing practices due to other activities. The list could go on and on but whatever you decide, make your plans with your child and as a family. Your child will not shine at tryouts if they are not mentally and emotionally invested in the decision to play for the team he or she is trying out for.