New team. New season. New teammates. New coaches.
For many players, the first practice of every soccer season is a new beginning. If you are moving up to the high school level, it means you will be experiencing the game on a whole different level. A bigger pitch, tougher talent and more demanding schedule are just a few of the early struggles that young players are faced with when starting a new season.
Most players show up to spring practice or tryouts and have no idea what to expect. Some have played the game their entire athletic career, while others have never touched a ball before. Many things factor into a player being selected to the roster, but most fail to prepare themselves for what's in store. Below are five tips you can utilize to help you stand out and increase your odds of making the cut no matter what your skill level.
1. Arrive Early, Work Hard
Show up early and stay late. Always arrive 10-15 minutes early for practice. Spend this time getting acquainted with the coaches, your teammates and the pitch and ball. Warm up and prepare your body to compete at the highest level. After practice, stay extra to help clean up the field and make sure everything is in order before you leave for the day.
Work hard when you're at practice! Older players can often get complacent. Therefore, tryouts can be a newcomer's time to shine. Use them as an opportunity to prove to the coaching staff that you want to be there and you deserve to be there. If there's any time to give everything you've got, this is it. Always go the extra mile at practice to show that you care about yourself and the team.
2. Be a Great Teammate
When coming to a new team as a young player, your role is likely going to be small. Not many players are the "go-to" star or the best player on the team in their very first year. This is a time for the player to grow and develop before becoming a key player in future years. That means you should aim to contribute to the team in any way possible. During tryouts, make sure you are being the best teammate possible. Be vocal and encourage your teammates, make smart decisions with the ball and never turn down an opportunity. If the team is running a drill and needs a fill-in keeper, seize that opportunity even if you're primarily a striker. Proving that you are willing to do whatever it takes to support the team will go a long way with your coaches and teammates.
3. Accentuate Your Strengths
You're not going to be good at every skill. The harsh reality is, you're probably not going to have all the skills and technique to be great at even one position. Not yet, at least. That's where practicing and training come in to play to help make you a better player.
But during tryouts, you need to accentuate your current strengths. Find out what you excel at and thrive on it. If you're a defender and you have a knack for stealing the ball from an attacking player and clearing it with your left foot, go ahead and showcase that skill. Don't try to steal the ball and streak upfield for a magnificent goal when you know your dribbling and shooting skills aren't your strong suit.
It's OK that you don't have all of the skills yet; these will come in time. But during tryouts, find what you're good at and hang your hat on it. That will help you minimize turnovers and make consistent positive contributions for the team.
4. Be Coachable
Good coaches will adjust and tweak a player's game during tryouts. While this time is used to evaluate performance, coaches still want to give helpful cues to players so they can properly assess their talent and see who responds well to coaching. Take everything the coaches give you and directly apply it to your game. Even if it's a simple suggestion like changing your positioning, the coach will look to see if you made the adjustments they advised to you. If you made the change, they know you're willing to listen and adapt. If you didn't, it could be a sign that you're not coachable.
Always feel free to ask coaches for suggestions on ways you can improve your game. If a coach tells you to make a change that you don't understand, ask them to explain what they're looking for and how it will benefit you. By showing interest in your coach's suggestions, you show the coaching staff that you're willing to expand your knowledge of the game to become a better player. And if you do make a mistake, try to avoid making that same mistake over and over. That will prove you can adapt to the opponent and you're a quick learner.
5. Be Vocal
Congratulate your teammates when they make a nice pass or shot. Help your teammates navigate the field by letting them know where the defense is and where the open man is for a pass. Even simple things like greeting your teammates and coaches when they arrive at the pitch. The more vocal you are, the better off you're going to be.
Many teams struggle with finding a vocal leader to help guide their teammates during the regular season. Using your voice could be a key to keeping you on the roster and seeing some playing time. When you do make the roster, if you find that your playing time is limited, continue to use your voice from the bench. Call out the openings that you see and yell words of encouragement. Don't coach your teammates, leave that to the coach; but always be positive and yell words of encouragement.
Trying out for a new team with a new group of teammates and coaches can be a bit overwhelming. But if you remember these tips, you're going to help yourself stand out and prove you can be a worthy addition to the team.
Photo Credit: iStock/monkeybusinessimages
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