Are you prepared for NJ travel soccer tryout season? Do you understand how birth year mandates will affect your child’s team? Does anyone really know how teams will be formed this season? The anxieties that come along with travel tryouts seem to affect parents, kids, coaches, and directors alike. In the age of the 1 year player contract, within a dynamic year in U.S. youth soccer, (headlined by the age changes) there are so many questions to be asked and answered. Here I will attempt to answer some of your questions in a FAQ format and give you the ability to speak up using the comment section below.
Where do I go for information on tryouts? The best way to do it is just go to a club’s home page. By this time of the year each club should have info up regarding their specific tryout dates and times. If they don’t have this info, red flag them because they aren’t prepared with tryouts all around NJ already started. Again, find a phone number/email of a director or age appropriate coach and get in contact with them. Go through the “teams” page on the website and even see if you can look at the “roster” tab (only some have access) to see how many kids are on that specific team. You can also use GotSoccer for this with U11 and above.
Should I have my child attend multiple tryouts? I would say, it depends on a number of factors. First talk to your club, and see what they are doing to prepare for tryouts and what they have to offer for your child next season. Ask questions like:
- How many players are registered for tryouts in my son/daughter’s age group?
- Will our team move forward together and play a year up?
- What level of play do you expect at my child’s age group?
- What is the club doing to promote itself?
All of these questions will give you insight to whether or not your club has got it together and has prepared properly for a major tryout season. Tryout numbers in each age group should be bigger than a year ago within your club. That is because of the amount of people having “backup plans” and are “window shopping” to see who can put the best or biggest group on the field to create age appropriate teams next season. Decide early on if you want your child to play up (this may depend on size/ability/strength). Understand the level of play that will be expected, so that your child is playing soccer at the right developmental level next season. Finally, the club should be promoting itself and spending a little money to generate interest and recruiting (because we all do it) to ensure competitive teams are put on the field next season.
If after your talk with the club,you don’t feel comfortable, find a backup plan by reaching out to clubs you may be interested in and speak to coaches and directors. They are happy to talk at this time of year as everyone is looking to build up their program in a potential year for great growth in NJ soccer. Just don’t over do it and subject your kid to 3, 4, 5 different tryouts. Do some research and give yourself a 2nd option and I am sure things will work out just fine for your family.
Should my child play in their birth year or up an age? One thing you should know is that although we are switching to birth year teams, I personally believe the majority of teams in NJ will still have nearly half of their team playing up an age group. Of course true birth year teams will form, but there will always be players with the ability to play up as well as teams that need to fill rosters with younger players. I don’t believe parents need to concern themselves so much with this question, but focus more on – is my child on a team that will challenge him/her properly? Size, strength, and athleticism all become factors here, but even if they do play up a year, the truth is they will be playing a lot of kids their own age in the long run.
I got my acceptance letter, should I make the deposit? Offers and acceptance letters to the top players/teams typically go out immediately following tryouts. In this day and age they come with a 24 or 48 hour window to accept/reject the spot, along with a required deposit which is necessary for clubs, because “your word” only goes so far these days. To that question I would reply with a few questions of my own?
- Did you attend tryouts? – It is important to see them for yourself for a number of reasons, but if they were professionally run and went smoothly that is a good start. The next 2 questions directly relate to this…
- How many kids were at tryouts vs. registered? If it was a 2 day tryout and you only went to 1 you probably missed a whole group of kids. Check with your coach/director to get a feel for these numbers because it is important in team creation.
- Was the skill level of the kids similar to that of my child? This is a player development question and not only do you want to see some new faces to challenge your child, you want players that are around their skill level to foster progress. If you can’t make this assumption with your own eyes, talk to your coach or tryout evaluator and ask them what they saw.
There are a lot of questions to be asked, but that doesn’t mean there is reason for the stress and anxiety that plagues soccer fields this time of year. All members of the NJ soccer community need to accept the changes that U.S. soccer has mandated and do their due diligence this tryout season. Many clubs have worked hard to position themselves to succeed in preparation for tryouts, and chances are your own club is the best fit for your child. Through communication and a little research parents and coaches can confirm this and remove the tryout angst from the equation. As a coach I have come to terms with the process and accepted that this year will be different due to the birth year changes. This is because I understand that the professional staff around me has done the legwork to ensure club success. For parents, you can do the same by reaching out to coaches and directors and asking the right questions and you will probably feel more at ease knowing your child will be playing competitive soccer next season.