Winter still remains in full swing, but soon the spring season will be upon us, which means club tryouts will be kicking into gear. US Youth Soccer sat down with current Loudoun 98 Red (VA) coach and 2014 US Youth Soccer Boys Competitive Coach of the Year, Mark Ryan, to discuss tips for parents in approaching tryouts.
Ryan holds a USSF ‘A’ License, and his Loudoun 98 Red team is fresh off a 2013-14 US Youth Soccer National League Blue Division title and a semifinals appearance at the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships. The first thing Ryan mentioned was that change for the sake of change isn’t always ideal.
“You need to work with your player’s coach and see where your son or daughter stands on the team and the roster pecking order,” Ryan said. “Keep your options open, but if your son or daughter likes the coach and the other players then sometimes the decision can be that simple.”
However, if a change appears to be in the cards, Ryan recommends parents do their research in regards to the club structure itself, as well as the coaches of your son or daughter’s age group.
“Parents should be looking at the entire club to see if the structure of developing players is in place. Do they have avenues for different playing levels?” Ryan said. “It is great to have top teams competing on the state, regional and national level, but if your son or daughter isn’t on that level then the club needs to be organized enough to have different playing levels.”
While club structure and different levels of competition is important, Ryan also emphasizes that parents need to be aware of what level their son or daughter is on.
“Parents need to be realistic as to where their player fits. If the environment is too much where he or she can’t develop because every other player is too far ahead, then it won’t be enjoyable for the player,” Ryan said. "Players won't develop if they don't enjoy the game."
As far as getting all of this information is concerned, Ryan recommends first looking at the club’s website, which these days is usually sophisticated enough to provide the parent with plenty of information.
“A lot of club websites are well built to display the general structure of the club, but it should also provide you with contact information for the Director of Coaching and other coaches which should be a helpful resource,” Ryan said. “If it is possible, get a reference about the coach or the club because a lot of coaches and clubs develop reputations.”
Ryan explains when the players are younger, some additional guidance should be given from the parents as to which club their son or daughter should play on, but as the player gets older, their parents’ influence should reduce.
“A player at the age of 9 probably won’t be able to take in all of this information, and the parents should be aware of the organization of the club and the type of coaches available,” Ryan said. “If the player gets older and a little more serious about playing at the next level, then the parents can help with research, but the decision should ultimately fall on the player.”
Expanding on that, Ryan quickly emphasized that forcing a player to play on a specific team rarely works out.
“In my experience, forcing a player to play on a certain team usually doesn’t allow the player to excel,” Ryan said. “Players want to have ownership of where they play and some drop out because they aren’t comfortable in the environment they are playing in.”
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Ultimately, when asked what advice parents should be giving their son or daughter before a tryout, Ryan emphasized avoiding putting pressure on a player and the importance of enjoying playing.
“The player needs to know it isn’t the end of the world if things don’t work out. Soccer is a game and a sport, and it is something that should be enjoyed. The tryout process can be stressful on players and parents, and it is important to emphasize that this is not the be-all and end-all of their soccer careers,” Ryan said. “Rather it is an opportunity to kick the ball around and just go out and enjoy it. Players who enjoy playing tend to play best and show well, and that is the goal of a tryout. Players who feel less pressure are more apt to perform at a high standard, and that’s what the players and parents are ultimately looking for.”