Fans' View

Fans’ View: The joys of tryouts

Spring is in the air, fields are mud pits, and its time for the annual nail biting to begin.

Does my kid make the team? If he doesn’t, what do we do? Where do we go? What happens if he makes the A team? Can we afford the cost? Is he up to that level of play or will he ride the bench all season? A few key players are leaving my team, what does that mean? Is the grass greener on the other side?

This year tryouts were both stressful and not stressful for my boys because they both had good options.

My elder has been a strong B team player since he started travel. This spring he asked to train with the A team. The coach was agreeable so off he went. As tryouts were rolling around, we discussed what his options were.

Does he stay on the B team? He’s in the starting 11 every game, gets lots of playing time, has been with these players since U-9 (he’s U-15 in the fall). And let’s face it: I’m comfortable with this team. I’ve been with these parents for some 6 years. Does he accept a spot on the A team where the players are more intense, where he will have to work his way into the starting 11, and he will be challenged to pick up his game?

My younger has good games and not so good games on the pitch. When he was dropped to the C team last year he was crushed. However, he picked himself up and had a brilliant year; worked hard, became a leader on the team, and played more minutes than ever before. He was a changed player. Confidence does that for you (hint, hint).

In the mean time, he began guesting for another club where his cousin plays. Recently that coach asked if he would try out for their A team, which he did (like I said, confidence is key!).

The invites went out last week.

My eldest has accepted the challenge and is playing on the A team. I am proud of him for reaching for something a little out of his comfort zone. He tends to be a kid who likes a challenge only if he knows the probability of success is high. This is new territory for him.

My youngest was offered spots on both the B team at our club and the A team at his cousin’s club. This discussion was a little more nerve wracking. Leaving a club that you have been for 7 years is not an easy decision to make, but I wanted him to make the decision without any parental input. He decided to stay.

I wish there was a less stressful way to move through this process. Though my kids accepted spots, there were kids that didn’t which has a trickle-down effect on the other teams. Do you move a player up to the A team who wasn’t originally picked for that team? If yes, then that opens a spot for a kid that might have been cut all together. What about a player who is offered a place on that A team, but for whatever reason says no? Do they get a spot on the B team or are they shown the door?

What is the end goal? To get more kids playing soccer at a competitive level or to build strong teams that can win championships? In an earlier post I wrote about the different clubs in my area — each with different strengths and weaknesses. I feel like there is a place for both types of teams, those that are highly competitive and others that are not so highly competitive. I just hope that the desire for one or the other doesn’t prevent kids from playing the game they love at the level best for them.

And to all those kids who didn’t make the team they wanted, whether it be at a different club or within their own, what a life lesson. Do you pick yourself up, dust off, and go be the best player on your new team or do you give up? As parents, do we complain about rigged tryouts and vendettas against our kids or do we realize that sometimes the coaches are right when they say our kids need more training or confidence on the ball?

All I can say is how glad I am that there was no drama in my house this year.


  1. Staci, How much does it cost for the entrants fees? Im curious.

  2. Our club does not charge a tryout “fee”. We ask that the player is registered, but there is no money asked for until they make a team. The other club that my son tried out for charged $20, but that included a tshirt with their tryout number on it that they wore to all the tryouts.

  3. Pay to play. The reason why soccer lags in this country….

    • Don’t be so negative: those who are decent, are on the right team, and can not pay get ‘scholarships’. I know of dozens of kids like that. Some of these kids then get scholarships to private schools, like Shipley, and many get free rides to all kinds of Colleges.
      Talking of free rides, or Grants that cover a large portion of the College expense: there are plenty, especially in D3 schools, but kids have to play on good teams that are highly ranked in the Region otherwise College coaches will not see the kids. So if a kid plays on a not-so-good A team, or B & C teams then the circa $1,500/yr (plus hotel and uniform cost) is a relative poor investment (if viewed in light of a potential College expense reduction).
      I have seen plenty of kids move from C to A teams as they develop during ages 8 to 16. I am actually amazed how many kids develop differently: a great kid at U8 can be terrible at U15 and vice-versa.

      • For Football (soccer) the pay to play and NCAA model makes no sense in terms of producing elite players. I am not saying that the Ajax system would work for the USA, but it sure produces world class talent. See article:

      • Sure; the Toekomst is great but as the article says: “Ajax makes mistakes, plenty of them. It sends the wrong boys away, and some of them become stars elsewhere with no compensation returning to the club. As a production line, it is grossly inefficient; only a small percentage of its youngsters become elite players”
        So, it is something that could be duplicated somewhere here in the US (i.e. the Union Academy, if done correctly) but it is not something that will change travel soccer, as it is known now.

    • jbh – Are you suggesting that Pop Warner football, Little League baseball, CYO basketball, and all the other youth sports leagues in this country are free?

      • @MSG – No, not at all. For Baseball. Basketball, football, etc. these models work but not for soccer when compared to the rest of the world.

      • @JBH – Is it that they don’t work or don’t work when competing with “Pop Warner football, Little League baseball, CYO basketball, and all the other youth sports leagues”

        I don’t think its necessarily just pay-to-play that is the issue.

      • @MCB – IMO, the soccer pyramid in this country is what I think does not work when compared to other countries and the way they approach the game. I never meant to compare with Pop Warner football, Little League baseball, CYO basketball, and all the other youth sports leagues. Our other professional leagues (NFL, NHL. MLB, etc) are fine with the path that takes prospective players through the NCAA before going pro (usually). My comment is that for soccer, this is not the best model compared to the rest of the world which is why a country of 14million like the netherlands, can produce so much talent (yes, most of the rest of the world is concentrating on one sport alone, and here we are spoiled for choices).

  4. I have no stomach for judging children below puberty and then breaking them into “A” teams, etc. I’m fortunate to have a program in town that is inclusive and makes every effort to find a team for every kid. The post above features U15 which may be a different story altogether, but anyone below that level should get a chance to play and hopefully under a coach that emphasizes fun and love of the game.

    • We are lucky because our club is bigger than most, we have lots of levels. Some of our travel age groups have three teams and often we take all of the kids that tryout. We also offer intramural and select programs for kids who want to play, but don’t want to commit to year round soccer.

  5. 1. This should not be controversial but I’m sure it will be but no U14 or below team should be about winning championships. The common response to this mentality is you play to win but never at all costs.

    2. If the highly trained professionals at Ajax, whose livelihood depends on their getting these things right, miss players or give up on players too soon how can the individuals who populate our clubs be trusted to make these decisions. And I’m not just talking about the dreaded “Daddy” coach. I do not have much more faith in the 20-25 year old English kids who are over her for a few years honing their coaching chops.

    3. There shouldn’t be a penalty for a player who refuses to move up if they are comfortable on the team they are on. My club has such a penalty where the player is essentially banished to rec (nothing personal to players who decide to play rec). The issue I have with this is I’ve found the majority of “A” team coaches to be the most ambitious coaches and the most aggressive to “get the most” for their child not the most qualified to teach soccer. To coach youth sports you need to be motivated by the love of the sport and the desire to teach ALL the children this sport who fall under your care. Your motivation should never be primarily about your kid. If it is, I don’t want my child on your team and I should not have to be penalized for that decision.

    4. This may have already been broached on this site before but U14 and below should be about player development not team development. Every effort and obstacle should be used to prevent this.

    5. If ever a coach loses that sick, utterly nauseating feeling from having to “cut” a child, they should stop coaching. I’ve heard coaches talking about kids like they were chess pieces and treated them as such. It was about the team and how the success of this team helped their child. If this is you, move on and please ruin some other sport.

    Sorry if I strayed from the topic at all but I get emotional about this stuff and I’m tired of all the B.S. and double-talk. I think we know the answer to how to fix youth soccer in our country. We just need more people with the cojones to stand up and say, ENOUGH!

    • +1. U14 should be player development with emphasis on the technical side since this is what most US players lack. The Ajax and Barca models are attractive because they are free for the players and parents (while the club is betting on a long term prospect that could produce $fees$ down the line). I think this is important because when you look around the world, the majority of the elite players usually hail from lower income backgrounds, hence the hunger to succeed. Again, not saying this is something that will work here, but it should be considered at least.

      • I know, our own union academy is free and that is exactly what we need more of, if we are going to become an elite football nation. For soccer, at least, the NCAA should no longer be the primary path to Pro

  6. I always enjoy reading a personal perspective, Staci. I’ve had similar dilemmas about whether it’s better for kids to make the A team, but sit on the bench vs. staying on the B team and gaining confidence.
    It’s too bad. If coaches cared more about development than winning, they would give kids equal playing time, and we wouldn’t have to worry about which team they make so much.

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