Tryout Questions for Parents and Players

Another tryout season is fast upon us!  There are clubs that are asking for a 10 month committment from high school aged players and have drawn their rosters from a select limited pool of players. But for most, the process is just getting underway as the current Spring season is winding down and the current seasonal year is concluding.

Yesterday we took a look at the tryout process in general.  I presented it in a fiction and fact format that touched on some of the misconceptions often present in the process.  Today we will narrow the focus to what parents and players should be aware of and present it in questions that should be asked form. To begin with parents need to know that soccer teams are part of a buyers market - that is, teams need players even moreso than players need teams to play on. This allows parents and players to choose the right club and team to fit their needs. It is important to note that Ohio High School Athletic Associations rules and regulations play into this dynamic as well as only 5 players from a given high school program may play together on the same club team before June 1st of each year.

With all this in mind I do wish to state that I intend no disrespect to any soccer club. However, I feel strongly that any player offered a spot on a club's team should know exactly what they can expect from that offer.  Most clubs are upfront, truthful and forthcoming especially when asked the right questions and that is where this article comes into play. It is in the club's and coach's best interests that parents and players understand the process so there are no misgivings as the season unfolds.  If answers to your questions are slow in coming, are vague or your questions are avoided this should stand as a warning signal for you.  The most important thing is to find a club and team that are a proper fit for you and your child.

Let's get started.

1) What are the actual overall costs for participating in this club and on this team?

Another way to phrase this question would be to ask, What does the advertised price for participation include?

Tryout fee?
Club Fee?
Coaches Fee?
Trainer Fee?
Player Pass Fee?
State Fee?
Out of State Fee if applicable?
League Fee?
Referee Fees?
Tournament Fee?
Hotel Fee?
Travel expenses?
Goalkeeper gloves and jersey?
Equipment bags?
Rental Fee for field or indoor training?
Equipment Fee?

In other words, Are there any "unexpected fees" that you need to be aware of?  An example might include tournament fees. The club I coach for includes the fees for 2 tournaments in the advertised price. If a team wishes to play in more than 2 tournaments they must pay additional monies to do so.
For guideline purposes the club I represent has charged between $200 - $250 per player for past spring seasons.  That fee covers 2 uniforms (you get to keep), league and state fees, player pass, referee fees and registration fees for 2 tournaments.  We do not pay our coaches out of club registration fees but do offer them limited reimbursement through profits from a summer tournament the club hosts. 

Other clubs charge as much as $1000 for a season of club soccer with most of that fee going to coach and trainer salaries. "Hidden" costs can range from purchase or rental of uniforms, travel bags, warmups to referee fees, tournament fees, rental fees and other "miscellaneous" fees associated with and for the betterment of the club and or team.

How will the team travel to games and tournaments?  Is each individual player expect to find his / her own way?  Car pool?  Team bus?  Don't laugh, some clubs / teams do rent luxury buses for travel to tournaments.

You owe it to yourself to know what you are spending your money for and exactly how much the full price of the experience will be.

2)  Ask about policies for payment of fees.

Can the fees be paid in installments over a period of time?
Is there any scholarship money available for players of families that cannot afford the fees?
Does the club or team hold any fundraisers that you can participate in to help defray costs?
If there is a club / team fundraiser and you do not participate will it raise the cost of your fees?
Is there a player referee program that allows a player to referee younger aged matches with the referee fee going towards covering his club fees?

3) Who will the coach and or trainer be?   Can I get that in writing?

Remember this is a buyers market.  Each club has a hierarchy within its coaching ranks.  Some coaches are extremely popular and for good reason, but those coaches cannot coach every team within a club.  The coach should be one of the, if not the single, most important factor in selecting a team to play on. If the coach is listed as  "TBA" or "will be assigned later," you may wish to keep looking.

What are the coaches qualifications and experience? Does the coach have experience coaching your age and experience level? What is the coach's training philosophy?  Does the coach have playing experience? How long has the coach been with this club?

Is the coach accessible?
Is the coach organized? Does he have a seasonal plan for developing players and the team?
How are starting assignments determined?
What is the coach's philosophy on playing time?
A team may dress 18 for any given game, will all 18 play every game?  How many will play regularly each game?

What formation(s) (4-4-2, 4-3-3, 3-5-2, etc.) will the team use and how does that formation play to your strengths or weaknesses? How does the stated formation fit with your high school team?

What system of play will the coach employ within the formational alignment?  How does this play to your strengths and weaknesses? Is it a good fit with your high school teams system of play?  Will the team utilize a zonal defense or a man-marking system?  Will the team look to play a direct counter attack style or learn to manipulate an opposing defense through possession before exploiting a path of least resistance to goal?

How does the coach determine positions? What position will I play?   This can be an important question. If a team has an excess of center midfielders it is likely some will be asked to play another position.  If playing "your" position is of great importance to you, you may want to search for a team that has an opening at that position.  If you are okay with being versatile and playing multiple positions this can be a factor in deciding upon a team as well.  These are difficult questions to put to a coach and how he answers could shed light on what your likely experience with the team will be.

4) What team will I be assigned to?  

Ask this before you sign a check committing to the club or team.   Will the team play Premier, Division I or Division II?  Will I be on the club's "A" team or a lower team. Will I be relegated to that team or is there the possibility of movement to another team?  If the possibility exists for movement to another team can that movement be up or down?

You should also inquire about the league the team you are assigned to will play in.  In our case the local league is Miami Valley Youth Soccer Association but there is also Buckeye Premier, an Ohio-South State League and the Midwest Regional League to play in. 

A question to ask yourself is, Will the stated level of  competition challenge my ability and provide the opportunity to improve each practice and game?

How many players from my high school will be on this team?  This is very important, especially if a club intends to use a club pass system.  The last thing you want to have happen is a complaint or charge being made that more than five players from one school played or practiced together at one time at any point during the season. Violations of the OHSAA 5 man-rule could result in eligibility questions for the next high school season.

Such a complaint or charge could be brought by nearly anyone.  A rival coach or athletic director.  Parents of players from a rival school.   A parent or player from your own school who feels they deserved your spot on the varsity team. Even your own high school coaching staff acting in the best interests of their program. I have seen all of these happen over the last 30 years.

How many players will be rostered to this team?  For example on U16 and up teams only 18 players may dress for a game but up to 22 can be rostered. How will it be determined who dresses for a game and who plays in a game?

Who will serve as the teams manager? Sometimes parents will have more contact with a teams manager than they will have with the teams coach or trainer This is an important relationship especially if the coach looks upon the manager as a liaison between him and parents.  Do you want that type of relationship or would you prefer direct communication with the coach?

Are the club administrators, coach and team manager easily accessible through, email, telephone, cell phone, web pages?

Do you know who the manager is and how well do you get along with him/her? Parents often have much more contact with the manager than the coach so this is an important consideration.

What are the other parents on the team like? Do they get along? Do they respect the game, the referee, the coaches and the players?

5)  When, where, how often and for how long will the team practice? With gas prices approaching $4.00 / gallon this can be a major consideration.

What is the level of commitment required?  What are acceptable reasons for missing or being late to practices?

Are there rules for practice attendance? Will starting assignments and playing time be impacted by missed training sessions? Are there rules concerning being tardy to practice sessions? Is missed time expected to be made up? Will there be "consequences" for being late or missing training?

What is the format for training?  Will we be training as a team? Will we be training with other teams in our age group of close to our age groups age? What is the expected ratio of coaches to players?

Is there separate or additional training involved for goalkeepers? Is there a coach that specializes in training goalkeepers?

Okay, that is five basic questions with quite a few "sub-questions" in each category. Ultimately it comes down to determining the differences between prospective programs and which club meets the majority of your needs.

What is the clubs philosophy and does the coach adhere to it?

Is the club all about "winning now" or does it take a developmental approach to the individual and team?

Is there a proper balance within each age grouping and competitive level of learning technique and tactics?

How does the club prioritize teaching the game, developing individual players, developing teams, winning league titles, winning tournaments, finding college scholarships for players... and just having fun?

Seek out parents who have had children play in a club or for a particular coach - was it an enjoyable experience?  Do families stay with the club? With the coach? Returning families can be a good indicator of the club experience but if you can, talk to some who left the  club or coach for "greener pastures" to learn why they did so.

THIS IS IMPORTANT.  You are entrusting your child to a club, a coach and to teammates and their families.  Do your research.  Find a club that meets the needs of your child both on and off the field of play.

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