Tryouts — We Should Be Looking At More

During tryouts coaches are looking for skilled, athletic and aggressive kids. When they do not present with speed, agility and quickness they’re often labeled as uncoordinated, un-athletic and slow. They’re told to work on speed and be more aggressive, but rarely are they presented with a plan — the “how-to.”


If coaches would put more value in the way kids moved instead of how fast they move, the landscape of youth sports would look a whole lot different. We’d see fewer injuries, better performance, less burnout and more kids having fun playing the sports they love.

In the past, not much has been done to provide coaches with the knowledge to teach and develop proper movement. Many athletes that suffer from overuse injuries were caused by inappropriate and inefficient training which could have been prevented if they knew there were underlying problems.

  • Decelerating / accelerating.
  • Planting, cutting, and changing direction.
  • Jumping / more importantly, proper landing technique.

When you learn something and can repeatedly do it well, it feels good, doesn’t it? How about when you were told how to do something and you never really “got it?” Kind of ate at you a bit, chipped away at your confidence, right? Same thing with our kids. In our haste to make 13 year old superstars, we let too many fall through the cracks when all we have to do is slow down, see who needs to work on what, and do it. Takes more time, but the payoff is BIG.

My youngest daughter played soccer from 8-12, she was okay. She had some good games, but wasn’t consistent enough to make to the best team. Coaches said she had decent skills, good vision of the field, a smart player, but needed to be more aggressive.

When she was 12 she picked up a lacrosse stick. Johnny, a friend (and coach) showed her how to throw and catch, made her commit to thinking of the stick as an extension of her body. Johnny helped her with the basics and told her to get good with both hands, she listened. When she started to play club later that year, her coach had the same plan — get good at the basics. Johnny and Wendy helped set the foundation at the very beginning.

As her skills continued to improve, so did her confidence. As her confidence grew, so did her aggression on the field. In fact, she played “fearless” — she wasn’t the same kid that had the occasional excellent game — they were all played at a high level. This didn’t come from luck or good genes. It came from learning and getting good at the fundamentals, messing up, and getting coached by coaches that knew how to catch and correct inefficiencies.

Let kids mess up without the fear of punishment. Way too many kids “play scared.” They’re afraid to make a mistake in fear of losing playing time or upsetting the coach. When they do mess up, chunk the drills down — get ’em good at the pieces, then put it back together — that’s how to develop a team (club) of  athletes.


In the past I’ve heard coaches say movement, strength and conditioning is not their job, their job is to coach the game. What if coaches could learn just enough to get and keep our kids safe (er), and improve each week, month and year? Imagine if coaches could catch and correct inefficiencies as they presented? Man, what a game changer!

  • Lack of body awareness.
  • Poor posture and breathing — your positioning will determine your ability and performance.
  • Poor mechanics (running, jumping, landing, stopping, planting, cutting, and changing direction).
  • Weak core (crunches are not the answer) — lack of trunk stability (control).

When athletes show competence in these basic and fundamental movements they minimize injury and increase performance…naturally. When they move better they release the parking brake (poor movement) which will allow them to reach their potential.

Many professional sports teams will screen and test players prior to the tryout. Their thinking is, why commit a big dollar contract if the athlete is at risk for injury. With the information we have, why wouldn’t we screen and test our young athletes (as part of the tryout process) before putting them on the field? I know teams that added a dynamic warm-up as a injury prevention tool which is a great idea, but what I witnessed on the field was not how it was drawn up. A good program done poorly will not yield the desired outcome.


Look beyond how fast they move — work on how they move. Pre-season and tryouts would be a great place to start.

Look at:

  • How they control their body.
  • How they run / jump & land.
  • How they plant, cut and change direction.

The Status-Quo isn’t working. It’s time change the way we do things — and change is always hard to do. But it’s a must do!

Have A Great Week!