As we approach tryouts for our Academy (travel) soccer program we thought it would be helpful to sit down with our Technical Director, Ryan Rich, to ask him what tryout season looks like from the club side. With U9 tryouts kicking off next week and U10 and older dates approaching quickly, this seemed like the perfect time to get a look into the processes and planning that goes on for tryouts as well as the upcoming season.
We know that tryouts can feel stressful and anxious to player’s and families but we wondered what the experience was like for Ryan and the Academy staff.
Thanks for chatting with us Ryan!
How long does tryout planning and prep take on your end? Are other people involved or is it just you?
For reference, our tryouts start in late May right after Memorial Day (although U9 tryouts start next week!). The planning really starts for me in February. I start by looking at lots of data on the current season (player and family feedback, league play, tournaments, etc). This really helps me begin to plan the upcoming season and start to understand how to structure the annual experience for each team. With the addition of the Club Champions League this coming Fall there has been some additional work in helping to educate and share what this means for our teams and individual families.
On top of the care and planning that go in to ensuring a great experience for every kid there’s also the necessary but tedious logistical side of things — field space, tryout space, tryout schedule, tryout numbers, coach availability, communication, registration process, email campaigns and lots more! In April almost our entire office staff team (there are ten of us) gets involved in helping plan, staff events and prepare for tryouts and registration.
You mention that tryouts happen after Memorial Day which is a bit later than most clubs. How come?
We’ve always held our tryouts right after Memorial Day weekend because the majority of our teams wrap up their seasons at a Memorial Day Tournament. We really believe in allowing the current season experience to be largely unaffected. Ensuring that kids can enjoy their team without the added stress and anxiety of tryouts and team selection happening at the same time they’re playing their final games.
We’ve seen information about supplemental tryouts before actual tryouts… what does this mean?
Because tryouts are held a bit later we offer the opportunity for NEW players to come out and train with their age group to get an idea of what our training sessions are like and how they may fit into a current ASA team. This gives the player a chance to play in a less chaotic and stressful environment than the tryout scenario and it also gives the coach a more accurate evaluation as part of their team or age group. A win-win! If you’re interested in coming out to a supplementary training session with a team before tryouts you can email me at [email protected].
How does ASA evaluate players during tryouts?
We use a variety of criteria to evaluate players — we look at soccer specific aspects as well as other abilities and attributes. We look at technical skills (first touch, comfort on the ball) along with tactical understanding (speed and field awareness with and without the ball). Additionally we look at the psychological aspect which includes confidence, attitude, work ethic and toughness. And finally we take into consideration a player’s natural physical abilities, speed and instinct. There is no special formula and we’re looking for a group of complimentary players to contribute to each existing team. No player possesses expert levels in ALL of these at any time in their development though the Academy program is designed to teach these in competitively appropriate training and game environments. We hope to develop players with a variety of skills and strengths to have the most successful teams possible.
You mention tactical understanding — does my kid need to have some experience playing a certain position?
Nope! I’ve spent the last several years collaborating with an English soccer professional, Kieran Smith, to enhance our already well-developed curriculum and implement a club-wide possession-based playing style. I mention this because each coach is trained in teaching and coaching certain age appropriate concepts within this style. New players to the club (at any age) are taught the ASA style of play as it is intrinsic to our day to day training sessions. Your player will have the opportunity to learn multiple positions and understand how different roles fit into the team style. Additionally — as players get older and progress through the Academy they build on concepts each year as they become more comfortable and confident. This success ultimately allows our players to have more success and opportunities to compete into adulthood!
How do you find coaches for the Academy and will my kid have the same coach every year?
We recruit and hire professional, experienced, licensed coaches in a number of different ways. If you’re interested in coaching please reach out to me for more info!
The coaching assignment process is one of the biggest aspects of tryout preparations that happens on my end. I take SO many things into consideration when determining who will coach each team in the coming year. Generally, we keep a coach with a team for one or two years (although there are circumstances where coaches have stayed on longer). We think this gives kids the opportunity to experience different coaches and it’s helpful for kids to learn and adapt and react to a new “voice” every few years.
When I’m assigning coaches I’m thinking about the following… Basic coach experience. Have they ever coached this age group before? What are the personalities of parents and players and coach and will they communicate well. I take into consideration the expectations of younger age groups versus older. I have to consider practice time availability and travel schedule of a potential coach and team. Many of our coaches work full time day jobs that are separate from soccer so we have to be a bit accomodating to ensure we get to keep our awesome coaches from year to year. Our coaching teams have been announced for the upcoming year and we’re thrilled with the team we have built!
But if my player is getting a new coach this year how will the new coach about my player and how they played a role on the team during the last season?
Leading up to tryouts I sit down with each age group’s coaching staff to collect feedback on current players. The previous year coaches provide info to the upcoming coaches so that everyone is on the same page. Additionally, the new coach comes out to training sessions before tryouts to meet the team and see them train. In many cases the previous year coach is also at tryouts of their old age group.
The preparation on the back end means that at tryouts, our coaches have a strong grasp on the players within the age group. allowing us to best assign players to teams most appropriate for their development in the coming year.
Once all the planning is done, what are you most excited up for the upcoming 2018–2019 Academy season?
Of course I’m excited for the tryout process and finalizing the teams! I’m also looking forward to our teams playing in the Club Champions League next year and the new challenges and competition that will bring. Another thing I’m looking forward to is continuing to build our college soccer series. This year we launched a program to help our oldest players learn about playing college soccer and the recruiting process. We took our first club college soccer trip and I’m looking forward to doing more things like this next year as many of our high school players are getting lots of attention for their ability on and off the field.
Finally — I’m looking forward to giving kids the best soccer experience possible and helping to ensure they learn, have fun and improve their skills. There is so much planning and preparation that goes into what should be a very rewarding, healthy and fun childhood experience. I try to remember that at the end of the day what we’re doing is helping kids learn to enjoy highly competitive soccer and become well rounded young adults…. And that is what really matters.
Last question — what advice would you give to players trying out for ASA teams?
Be confident, work hard and have fun. Our coaching staff is excellent and they’ll be looking at everything (even the little things that don’t seem to matter). Introduce yourself to the coach and shake hands when you arrive. If a coach asks for volunteers, raise your hand and hop in. But most of all — enjoy playing soccer because you wouldn’t be there unless you loved to play!
Thanks again Ryan. If you’re interested in trying out for a team or learning more please click here! If you have questions or your player would like to come out to a training session before tryouts you can email Ryan at [email protected]