By Tim Nash
Have you ever been in a situation where you desperately wanted to make a team, but you had to go through a grueling tryout period. In the tryout, you are accompanied by a hundred or so other players with the exact same goal.
Included in the group of hopefuls are players that fall into five categories - 1) the ones who will surely make the team and know it; 2) the ones who will surely make the team but don't think they will; 3) the ones who have a 50-50 chance of making it; 4) the ones with no chance but think they do; 5) the ones with no shot and know it.
Let's assume you fall into category No. 3. Your chances of making the team rest solely on your performance in the tryout - a pretty scary thought to some. Since you understand completely that it's all up to you, being as prepared as you possibly can should become your top objective. So to ensure that you enter the tryout with every advantage you can, here are some tips.
1. Get Fit
Let's face it, there is only one aspect of this situation that you can completely control. You can't manipulate the coach. You can't dictate how the other players perform, and you can't even depend on your own skills at any given time. All you can control is your fitness.
If you show up to the tryout, and you are not in top physical condition, your chances have gone from 50-50 to 30-70 before you've ever touched a ball. The choice is your's - you can work hard to get in the best condition you can before tryout day, or you can use the first session of the tryout to whip yourself into some kind of playing shape. You alone can determine your fitness.
Showing up fit gives you three immediate advantages. First, you have shown the coaches that you are taking it seriously and you have worked hard to make their team. Second, while others are sending heavy-legged passes at your forehead or out of bounds, and are running out of gas during the first session, you are in full control of your touch and skills throughout the day. Even if you are not better than the other players, it certainly looks that way. Third, you have eliminated any confidence problems you might have had entering the tryout. Fitness is a sure-fire confidence builder.
2. Show Your Strengths
A common mistake players make in this environment is that they forget why they were invited to the tryout in the first place.
There is something about every player that makes them special. Take a few minutes to figure out what makes you a special player. Make a list, and be sure to work on your strengths every day before the tryout. You're going to need them.
It might be dribbling skills that sets you apart. You might be an above-average header. You could have a long throw-in. You might be a great organizer, a slick passer, or perhaps you possess a powerful and accurate shot. You might be a tenacious defender or a hard tackler. You might be able to read the game well, set the pace, or run all day. Whatever your strength is, make sure you exhibit it every day.
A coach may be looking for a player with certain skills to fit into a complimentary role for a player he or she has already selected. Or there may be a serious void to fill within the team, and the coach may be pre-occupied with finding someone to fill that role.
3. Remain Positive
There is not a coach in the world who is looking for a player whose main strength is whining and complaining. How many times have you heard this: "He doesn't have much skill, but boy can he complain ... there is definitely a spot on this team for a guy like that."
So keep your snide comments to yourself, and be sure to encourage everyone, even those who are trying to beat you out. There is also nothing more annoying than the player who is late arriving for the training session or a drill, holding everyone else up while he or she saunters over at the speed of darkness.
4. Be Consistent
You never know when someone is watching. There is no drill or water break so unimportant that it doesn't deserve your full effort and attention. If you get bored with a drill, find a way to get un-bored quickly.
Coaches are not looking for players they have to constantly motivate. That energy is saved for dealing with players in category No. 1 above.
5. Don't Specialize
There will come a time when you are asked what position you play. While all your fellow players are telling the coach exactly where they should be placed on the field, you should let the coach know where you have played in the past, but you are willing to play anywhere ... or you are willing to learn anything.
When you advance a level, chances are pretty good that you will need to play a new position. It's also very rare for two different coaches to look at the same player and see the exact same qualities. Your old coach may have preferred to play you at outside mid, while your new coach may see some tendencies of a central defender in you.
In today's game, there is no real single-position players anymore. You need attacking skills to play in the back, you need defending skills to play up front, and you need everything to play in the midfield.
It's almost certain that out of 100 players, at least 75 will say they are central midfielders. All but two will have to play a different position if they are to make the team. Realizing this up front, gives you an advantage.
Be flexible. Remember, if you can only play one position, you had better be the absolute best at that position.
6. Play Smart
No one is expecting you to beat every player on the field every time you touch the ball. There are times when you should and times when you shouldn't. And you already know those moments. Make sure the coach is duly impressed, but don't overdue it.
7. Pay Attention
Don't be high-maintenance. If a coach is explaining a drill, watch and listen so you are able to understand it without asking a bunch of questions.
If you are tense and nervous, your performance will show it. You can't concentrate on preparing a ball if you are concerned with outside influences - "Is the coach watching?" ... "What happens if I screw this up?" Calm down. It's only a game, and there will be other tryouts and other teams to make.
Tim Nash is the co-author of "Training Soccer Champions" with Anson Dorrance, and "Standing Fast" with Michelle Akers. For information on these books, call 1-800-551-9721, or email firstname.lastname@example.org