(With club tryouts in many areas of the country this time of year, the Youth Soccer Insider republishes this article, which first appeared in May 2012.)
By Tyler Isaacson
Coaches, parents, administrators and players dread this time of the year. Rumors are flying of who is leaving the team, where they are going and why they are leaving.
Parents are running their child from tryout to tryout to make sure they have a team to play on. It is utter chaos for administrators who are trying to figure out if there will be enough players to form a team.
Coaches are wondering “what they did wrong to cause these players to look elsewhere?”
Unfortunately, this is what is going on today in many clubs throughout the country. All these factors work against youth soccer players and the soccer clubs. I have a few ideas to help make this a better experience for everyone involved.
Ages U8-U10. This is a critical age for learning and development. If your team provides good training and a fun atmosphere, more often than not the majority of the team will stay together. Of course, you will get the parent that feels their child is the next Lionel Messi -- let them go. Your team will be better off in the long run.
Ages U11-U13. All hell breaks loose. State Cup-winning teams break apart and mid- to lower-level teams cannot seem to find enough players to keep the team together. In my opinion this is where surrounding town clubs need to work together in a collaborative effort so that travel players have a proper place to play based on their ability.
Many town clubs cannot offer a variety of different level teams in each age group to support the varying skill levels of their players. It just comes down to numbers. A town may have a strong team in one age group leaving out a few mid-level players that have been pulled along on this team for a few years getting minimal playing time. There is a good chance a surrounding town team has an appropriate level for the mid-level players to join.
It is not about poaching players it is about providing the correct fit for the player. I feel it is the responsibility of each club to make sure they help every interested player find a place to play.
Ages U14 & Up. Middle school and high school soccer starts to interfere with the travel team fall season. Don’t fight it; embrace it. The players love playing for their school team. Cut your travel practices down during the school season and limit tournament play.
Consider eliminating the fall travel season all together and pick things up after the school season ends. At this point you should be working with other towns to keep the team together as players begin to focus on one sport or lose interest so you may need an influx of out of town players to keep the team together. You may even be joining forces with your archrival?
The tryout process will never be easy, but by working together with the surrounding clubs in your area to provide the opportunity for players to play at an appropriate level, both the club and the player will benefit.
Start an open dialogue with surrounding town clubs now so that when tryouts take place you have options for the players on your team.
(Tyler Isaacson is a club president, travel coach, recreation coach, youth player, college player and dad. He has 30 years of playing and coaching experience and is founder of youthsoccer101.com an online coaching development tool used by over 30,000 coaches nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)