Questions Players and Parents Should Ask at Try-outs

from al

It's almost June and that means tryouts for club soccer teams. There are a few select regional-quality teams that can pick and choose the cream-of-the-crop players. But in general, soccer teams are a buyer's (players/parents) market. Teams need players more than players need teams and players can exercise their power by moving to a team that closely fits their needs.

With that in mind I have a list of questions that players and parents should be clear on before accepting a spot on a club soccer team.

I intend no disrespect to any team. I do think that players who are offered a spot on a team should know for sure what they are being offered. And I think most teams and coaches will be truthful and forthcoming. Most coaches really want the players to know so there are no misgivings later in the season. If the answers are vague or the team/coach doesn't respond, players and parents should take that as a warning flag and look for another club/team. The critical point is to find a team that is a good fit for you.

Here are the important areas of concern and some questions to ask.


What is the actual overall cost of what I am signing up for? Can I get a copy of the projected budget or last year's budget?

What does it include? Usual items included are tournament fees, state fees, referee fees, coaching and club fees? Some teams include uniforms.

What does it not include? Uniforms, bags, warm-ups, equipment, team camps, etc.?

Are there any unexpected fees that could come up? For example, if the majority of the team feels that they want to play in a more expensive tournament than what is budgeted, do I have any recourse other than to pay the increase?

Are goalkeeper gloves, jersey, training included or is it to be paid out of pocket by the keeper's parents?

What are the expected travel expenses? (i.e. some higher level teams may rent a bus to go to a tournament or charter a plane at additional cost and players may have no choice but to contribute even if they would prefer to opt out.) Hand in hand with this goes the question of who is in charge of choosing the tournaments - coach, players, managers or parents? Are there other players to carpool with?

Can the fees be paid over time? Can they be charged on a credit card or is cash/check required?

Is there any scholarship money available for players? Where does that money come from? For example, if a player is on scholarship is the cost spread among the entire club or is that cost bared entirely by the team? This can be a point of contention - especially if the "scholarshipped" player is taking the playing time of a paying parent's child.

Are there required fundraisers in addition to the fees? If I miss a fundraiser will I be assessed additional fees?


Who is my coach going to be? Is that a guarantee? I have a firm belief that the coach should be THE MOST IMPORTANT factor when choosing a team. If the coach is a "coach to be assigned later" you may want to look for added assurances.

What are the coach's qualifications and experience? Does it include experience with your age group? How long has he/she been with this club? Does he have any playing experience? What is his training philosophy?

What do his former players and players' parents think about him? Coaching licenses may not tell you everything about the ability of a coach but they do show that he/she is willing to keep learning and has been exposed to modern teaching techniques.

How does the coach decide who starts?

What is his philosophy on playing time? Some coaches only go to the bench for two or three players while others do their best to play every player. That will make a difference if you envision yourself as a starter or if you think of yourself as the 15th or 16th best player on the team. What formation (4-4-2, 4-5-1, 4-3-3, 3-5-2, 3-4-3, etc.) does the coach prefer and how does that work within your strengths as a player? If you think of yourself as an outside fullback who is not comfortable attacking and the coach prefers a flat back four defense then you will have to change in order to get playing time.

What is the coach's policy about player position? Does the player get input into where he plays or is the decision solely the coach's? It's a recipe for dissatisfaction if you feel your child will be playing striker but the coach has him/her pegged as the team's back-up goalkeeper.

What is the coach's policy on guest playing? This is a question that brings about all sorts of emotions. Should a guest player take playing time away from the regular (paying) players? Who covers the guest player's expenses? And from the other side of the issue: Will the coach allow your child to guest play at showcases so he/she can be seen by college coaches?


What team am I on? This seems obvious, but it's amazing how many times a parents thinks he/she is assured that their child is on such-and-such a team after tryouts only to be told later that a decision was made to move the child to a different team.

What level team is it? Is it a Division I or Division II team? Or is it a Region III or Academy team? Am I guaranteed to stay on that team or is there a chance I can be moved down to a lower level team? Do I feel that the competition will challenge me to become a better player at every practice and game?

Where does the player fit in? Ideally, he should be in the middle skill-wise, not one of the best players and not one of the worst.

If I am of high school age, are there five or less other players on the team that will be attending my high school? This is very important, especially if a club intends to use a club pass system where a complaint can be made that more than six players from one school played together at one time or another during the season. No matter what you think about the six man rule, potential violations could cause players to lose eligibility.

The complaints could be lodged by a parent or player on your high school team who felt that their child failed to make the varsity or JV because a spot was taken by a player who violated the rules. In other words, a player who loses eligibility might open a spot of a high school roster for another player (their child?).

Or it could be made by a rival school. Don't believe its not done it is. A team in the heat of a playoff race is prone to use any possible means to turn their game-day loss into a forfeit by their opponent in order to stay in the race for a playoff spot.

There are a lot of concerns about whether players on the new Academy teams will be allowed to play high school or if they are committing to the Academy year round.

Is this a year round commitment or fall season only? Many younger players want to play other sports during the spring. But if the rest of the players on a team play soccer in the spring, will my child be pressured to quit baseball or softball? If she doesn't play will she be welcomed back next fall?

Am I going to get to play my position (i.e. forward, goalkeeper) or am I going to play wherever the coach feels he needs me? Not an easy question but the answer can be quite telling and can go a long way not only in the satisfaction of the player and parents but also the rest of the team. Nothing stirs dissention more than parents and players who feel that a player is getting preferential treatment. Most coaches have to juggle this issue very carefully.

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. Is he/she well organized, accessible, e-mail or phone tree savvy?

How will my child fit in with the rest of the team? Are there friends of her/his on the team? Do the other players have similar levels of commitment? For many players (especially girls) this is an important factor in whether they enjoy the season.

How well will I fit in with the rest of the parents? This might seem silly, but parents spend a lot of time together at tournaments and games. Am I comfortable sitting with loud "woo-woo" parents or will I be uncomfortable yelling if the parents are quiet? Do the parents share my beliefs about the importance of winning and losing?


Where, when, how often and how long do we practice? Location may be a huge factor in these days of $3.50 per gallon gas.

What are the rules concerning attendance at practices?

Will we practice with other teams in or close to our own age group? If so will there be more than one coach available (what ratio of players to coaches)? At older ages additional players (up to a limit) make practices easier and more beneficial as it's difficult to work on tactics without 15 to 16 players.

What is the level of commitment required?

Are there acceptable reasons (without consequences) to miss practice such as school conflicts, religious reasons, etc.?

Is there additional goalkeeper training available and if so does it cost the goalkeepers additional money?


Playing Time - If I show up at all practices and do my best am I guaranteed any specific amount of playing time? My personal response was always that you pay for the training but playing time is earned.

How many players will be on the roster?
As a general rule larger roster size equals more success for the team but less playing time in games. This is very important with the roster limit now increased from 18 to 22 players at the U16 levels and above.

I was part of a nationwide coaches' survey several years ago before the current small sized rules. Coaches were asked what they considered optimum roster size for each age group. The answers and reasons given varied but the general consensus was:

8v8 soccer 11 to 12 players
11 a side soccer up to age U15 15 Players
U16 15 to 16 players
U17 16 to 17 players
U18 17 to 18 players

Any more players than that and it was hard to get them all adequate playing time. Any fewer players and it was difficult to be competitive due to players missing games due to injuries or schedule conflicts.


What makes this program better than other programs?
If your child is U15 or younger, don't be swayed by state championships, etc. Those younger age championships are often won by the best athletes not soccer players. And at older ages, many of those players that are on state championship teams are recruited rather than developed (grown) by the clubs.

If your aim is to move to such a team in order to win a state championship then that may be a concern. But if your aim is to get the best training possible and grow as a soccer player you may be better off on a team where you will be playing good teams AND getting more playing time.

What are the priorities of the club, team and coaches (i.e. Winning, tournaments, college scholarships, teaching, developing, having fun)?

Did the players (and the parents) on last year's team have a good experience? If a lot of players are returning, that's usually a good sign. If there are a lot of openings on the team you should ask why. The parents and players who were on last season's team may be the best overall sources for information about the team and coach.

The answers to many of these questions will vary according to the player's age. At older ages, I give a lot of weight to the player's wishes, though I have pointed out the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives. At the younger ages, I would be looking for different answers for some questions.

These questions are not meant to provide correct or incorrect answers but rather should give you a feel as to whether you or your child will be a good match for that team.

When you ask questions don't confine yourself to Yes/No type questions. You should ask open-ended questions so that you can find out truly what a team/coach/clubs philosophy is and whether that will match up well with what you think you want. And LISTEN carefully.

If I go to buy a dog I may ask the seller, "Is this dog mean and will it bite?" The seller should tell me the truth because he does not know my intentions.

If I'm buying the dog for a pet I probably want a docile, loving animal. But if I'm buying a dog for a guard dog I want a mean-as-a-snake, junkyard dog.

You ask questions mainly to find out what the future holds rather than be surprised. Nothing ruins a good experience like a misunderstanding. Find out up-front and you and the player and the rest of the team will be better off. The old adage of "Buyer Beware" applies to soccer players and parents. Know what you are getting for your money.