tryout evaluation tips for all you coaches

Discussion in 'Coach' started by jdefoe9, Oct 23, 2004.

  1. jdefoe9

    jdefoe9 Member

    Oct 19, 2003
    How To Assess Soccer Players Without Skill Tests.

    Evaluating soccer players can be a challenging process, particularly when the criteria used for evaluation are not based on the demands of the game. Soccer is a very fluid game when it is performed well; to play at speed, players must have skill and vision and tactical insight. However, with novice and experienced coaches alike, there is a tendency to look at soccer as a series of discrete skills or actions, separate from the game as a whole. This can lead to the development of evaluation criteria that are based more on “scores” than “performance.” While a deep knowledge of the discrete components that comprise the game of soccer is important, and, in fact, serves as one marker that separates the more experienced coach from the novice, there is an inherent danger in thinking about the game in discrete terms when evaluating players. This is particularly true in try-out situations when “skill tests” are seen as more objective and often utilized to protect inexperienced coaches from unpopular decisions. Let's take a look at passing as an example of the folly and futility of individual skill testing for the purpose of selecting players for teams.

    A common skill test for passing is to count how many times the ball is exchanged between two players in 60 seconds using the inside of the foot. In soccer games, the purpose of passing is to score goals, to take opponents out of the game, or to keep possession of the ball. There are six surfaces of the foot that can be used to pass the ball (inside, outside, heel, toe, instep and sole) and the ball can be passed using a variety of spins, speeds and trajectories. If we separate the tactical aspects of play (when and why do I pass there?) from the technical aspects (what surface and texture is required?), the basic elements of the game are decoupled and we are left with activities that involve technical repetition without tactical context. In addition, when we choose to test passing skills with a particular surface, it is often at the expense of the others. This can send the message to players that the other surfaces are either less important, not recommended, or not to be considered. Think about coaches who discourage, and would certainly never test for, passing with the toe, and then consider all the ways the toe can be used as a viable option in problem solving! To take this to the extreme, if we decide to be fair and test all six surfaces, how long will this process take and what time will be left for assessing all the other technical, tactical and physical aspects that constitute the elements of play?

    Looking from a different perspective, think of practicing passing with one surface as similar to learning to strike just one key on a keyboard. We may become good at striking “G,” but it doesn't make us think about how to find “G” in the context of creating a complete sentence, or how “G” is situated in relation to the other keys. Ironically, practicing only one technique in isolation is actually reinforcing for coaches because players do improve their ability to perform that particular action. However, the downside to predictable technical repetition in young players is that those who learn the game in less predictable ways are more likely to develop a deeper understanding of how to adapt their range of techniques to solve novel tactical problems; in short, they become more skilful! While street soccer may be a thing of the past, think no further than the upbringing of the average NBA player to form an appreciation of its lost value. Creative, skillful players develop in response to an environment where techniques and tactical awareness develop in unpredictable ways “together” though hours of unstructured free play.

    So how does this relate to try-outs? My premise is that quantitative (numerical) measures of ability do not work very well in evaluating soccer players. Timed sprints, kicks against a wall, kicking for distance, number of Coerver's in a minute, and various competitions, such as 1v1 Combat, are all examples of activities that have been used to assess whether players can play soccer or not. However, knowing that Suzie can sprint 50 yards in 8 seconds, juggle 5 times with her right foot, kick 25.5 yards with her left foot, and run through a line of cones in 12 seconds tells us very little about Suzie's ability as a problem-solver under pressure. For that, we need to watch her play soccer and evaluate how her technique impacts her decision-making.

    While the task of watching and assessing decision-making within a live game can be quite difficult for the average parent-coach, the following criteria form the basis of a realistic playing evaluation. Assessing players' strengths and weaknesses in an authentic setting not only provides information on which players can actually “play” soccer, but also allows coaches the opportunity to target for remediation those areas that are observed to be absent or a hindrance to good performance. Consider how realistic it would be to tell a parent that their child is on the “B” or “C” team because they don't yet understand how to create space, or they can't keep possession of the ball when under pressure, or their tactical understanding does not allow them to play in combination with others, or that they simply take too many touches and play too slowly. Contrast that message with the information that their child is on the “B” or “C” team because they can't run fast enough, juggle well enough, dribble through a line of cones under control, or because they finished bottom of a competitive heading ladder. In reality, the differences between the scores of young players may be one or two juggles or one or two seconds, or one or two feet. We must ask if those differences really tell us anything of substance about that person as a soccer player?
  2. Hodson

    Hodson New Member

    Oct 17, 2004
    NE Ohio, USA
    Can I get an amen!?

    Taking this thread to the next step...

    Evaluations for league formation should be done in a large combine setting that uses small-sided games instead of "skills" tests. Shouldn't even take any more time if the games are kept to a more "sprint" time frame...say 2x15 minutes depending on age.
  3. Elroy

    Elroy New Member

    Jul 26, 2001
    I like to use a practice format. I want to see how players react to instruction. I also want to get a hint of what it is like to work with them. I also like games, short and full sided, to see what players already know.

    However, there is no substitute for a few "objective" tests to get parents off your back. So I always include a few sprint times and juggling competitions just to make things look good. You can't make everyone happy, but you can make appearances count.
  4. GKbenji

    GKbenji Member+

    Jan 24, 2003
    Fort Collins CO
    Colorado Rapids
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Yes, "objective" tests can be a CYA thing after the results come out. You can tell the complaining parent that little Timmy was second-to-last in the 40yd sprint time, got the slowest time in dribbling slalom, and received only a middling rating in the agility test.

    However, I also use the objective tests occasionally as a tie-breaker if I have two bubble players who otherwise are very even. If two players seem equal except one is significantly faster/more agile, that may help finalize my decision.

    Also, make sure your evaluation games go all the way up to full-sided if possible. There are players who will show very well in a small-sided game but disappear on a full field and vice versa.
  5. Elroy

    Elroy New Member

    Jul 26, 2001
    Spot on. God, I hate agreeing with you! :)
  6. JohnR

    JohnR Member+

    Jun 23, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Let's say you have 30 kids at a tryout and 15 spots available. Whether or not you have a dribbling slalom test or not, you're going to pick 8 to 10 players among the 10 fastest kids among the slalom test, and 0 to 2 players among the 10 slowest players. Because the former are good players and the latter are not.

    So I would say, don't knock the dribbling slalom test. It's a good way of rapidly sifting the kids into the (almost) can't miss, (almost) can't make it, and on the bubble groups. A fine starting point, in other words.
  7. ripmstr

    ripmstr New Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Orlando Fl
    Evaluation process -

    I have seen a tryout for premiere teams in which the kids play 10 minute 3v3 games on numbered fields. After a game is finished you move two kids up to the next field (best players), two kids down (worst players) and two remain on the same field. (If you are on field one the only option would be is to move two kids down as the option on the last field would be to move two kids up.) The players are evaluated by trainers on each field and the trainers are rotated every two games.

    The thinking is the cream will rise to the top under different situations with a number of different players. This is followed by playing full sided games the following day. As with most evaluations you end up with the top 6 players with the next 6 usaually obvious and the last 6 are a tossup and chosen to fill depth and possible holes.

    I hope I explained this properly but was curious as to the thoughts of this tryout procedure? Do you think this is most effective? What does your club do?
  8. JohnR

    JohnR Member+

    Jun 23, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Our club mixes 'em randomly and plays small-side games, 5 vs. 5 or 6 vs. 6. (The exact number depends upon how many show up.) Will do that for 1 1/2 hours, occasionally mixing up the kids at random.

    Realistically, since the "A" teams are very good, only a handful of new kids will stand a chance of making an "A" team. Those kids are identified after the first session and are placed on the second session onto teams that consist only of existing "A" players plus the new serious candidates. Then, another 1 1/2 hours of small-sided games are played, with final decisions made after that session.

    In truth, the coaches have 90% of the squad determined the moment that the first tryout starts, because they not only know every existing player but most of the new candidates, too. And the remaining 10% is pretty much determined within the next 30 minutes.
  9. Benito

    Benito Red Card

    Aug 25, 2004
    When I coached kids for my club we really didn't have regular tryouts.

    Everyone with the club was on the look out for players that they thought could help any of our teams and not just one team. If they found someone that one of our teams could maybe use. They talked to the player and or the parent and I or one of the other coaches would go out where they played like their HS or rec team and looked at them.

    I looked for ball touch, quickness and field vision. If they had that they got a look with the team at one of our practices. As far as speed goes I didn't have to look for that because if they had real speed you notice and if they had no quickness that's it.

    I did not have to see them play long to notice if they had it or not. If they did I would speak with the parent if they were young and invite them to the team they would play on just to practice with the team a few times.

    So before they were actually registered with the team they were watched a number of times not just once or twice or three times. But to practice with one of our teams they had to show something that I looked for in their game.

    As far as getting other players? Players who played in our league knew the club and knew the teams were all very good. We would not talk to any of them until the league season was over so his old team had no hold over them at that time. Most of the leagues players in our league that were very good we already knew about.

Share This Page