Olympic Development Program: What the evaluators are looking for at tryouts
By Mike Barr, Technical Director, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer
(This article originally appeared in Touchline)
Parents should be aware of the different pathways to pro and national team recognition, including high school soccer in addition to club play. Within Eastern Pennsylvania, the Olympic Development Program provides quality training, top-level play against other states and a chance to be recognized for not only pro academy teams but the national teams. The commitment is not as strenuous on time or cost and many players choose this route. We encourage all of our players to explore all options when it comes to playing the sport we all love, including high school and ODP.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you head to tryouts:
Players attending tryouts for ODP should recognize what the coaches will be looking for when they observe play. Often, there may be information provided to players that may not benefit their identification. Hopefully, the below information assists parents and players alike.
1) Speed – Pure speed is a huge benefit in any sport but often times in soccer, mental speed (decision-making with and without the ball under pressure) can allow players to compensate for lack of pure speed.
2) Touch – First touch may be the most critical technique for a soccer player. Receiving balls on the ground or air swiftly and in preparation for the next decision, with a sense of comfort, makes the game easier to play. Balls bouncing in the air from an inside of the foot collection and balls received in the air with the wrong surface and not moved to space or to feet are areas we examine consistently.
3) The Use of Both Feet – A player who takes extra touches to get the ball to his or her strong foot may result in that player losing possession or making a poor decision. Using the proper foot surface, inside or instep for passing or shooting also comes into play.
4) Transition – Moving from attack to defense and defense to attack quickly, from any position, is a strong indicator of a high-level player. If a coach notices a player who does not seem involved, he or she will obviously be overlooked. A player’s movement off the ball in the role of a third attacker or providing balance as a defender shows a player who knows the game.
5) Competitiveness – Determined play on fifty-fifty balls (tackles and especially on head balls) adds to a player’s worth in the eyes of evaluators. In tackles, we are looking for the player to go in hard and regain possession.
6) Comfort on the Field – Overall comfort with the ball, with no sense of panic when in possession, is critical to the ODP player. Confidence and enthusiasm are recognized quickly.
7) Decision-Making – When to possess the ball or take a player on without panicking, especially in the attacking third, is an attribute that will assist a player in making the ODP team.
8) Communication – Talk from an individual, especially on the defensive side of the ball, makes the game easier for the entire team.
9) Enthusiasm – Passionate play within the eighteen, whether on attack or defense, brings out notice from the coaches in attendance.
10) Conditioning – Pace and endurance during the tryout and recognizing when there is a time to recover in play are also areas that we look for during evaluations.
Evaluations during our tryouts cannot replace watching a player participate in a significant match. Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer coaches are always looking for players we have missed in tryouts when they are attending or coaching in club or high school games. Should a player not be chosen for ODP, it is not the end of the world. Physical changes, maturation and confidence change within months and may result in your identification next year.