Preparing for Tryouts
Tryouts for any sport at any time can be nerve-wracking. It is huge event where coaches you’ve never met are watching you play, writing down notes on a clipboard, and talking quietly with other coaches while you play.
“Is he writing down something about me?”
“Did she see that mistake I just made?”
“Oh, man, what if I don’t make it?”
“What if I make a fool of myself?”
These are pretty common thoughts that can come up while playing during a tryout situation. They are natural thoughts, and not bad really if they are motivating for the player. But more often than not, these thoughts can take a player’s focus off of playing and doing well, and become negative distractions.
These thoughts can also come up weeks or even months before tryouts and can be extremely detrimental to the player’s confidence and energy level. In working with young athletes, I often get calls from parents that go something like this: “My son/daughter has ODP/club/high school tryouts next week and is very nervous, and it is effecting his/her performance. Is this something you can help with?”
The answer is yes and no. While working with a sport psychology consultant is a great way to learn tools to reduce anxiety and effectively control emotions so allow the player to play up to potential, a week may not be enough time to help fully. Depending on the level of anxiety, this may take a month or two, or it may be able to be accomplished sooner. So while more time is ideal, a meeting or two can definitely be worthwhile for the short team.
However, working full on with a sport psychology consultant may not be realistic, so as competitive youth soccer clubs head into tryout season, here are some mental tips for players and parent in getting prepared.
The key for players going into tryouts is to be as confident in their abilities and as focused on them as possible. Building confidence is a process and is based on these factors:
- -Positive preparation leading up to tryouts
This includes practicing your skills (be sharp!), training hard (be fit!), and making sure you are well-rested and well-nourished (be healthy!). In short, control the controllables.
- -Know yourself
You must know what your strengths and weaknesses are and focus on showing your strengths. Know not only your soccer skills, but also your physical skills (speed, strength, etc), and your mental skills (leadership, communication, intensity, etc). Coaches are looking for all three aspects.
- -Set goals and stay focused on them
Set goals for the tryouts based on the preparation you put in, and your strengths. If you are a great passer, focus on that instead of trying to dribble. If you are a hard worker and strong defender, make sure that you focus on that for tryouts. Instead of focusing on the “what if?” questions, focus on what you know you do well, and do it!
You know your kid is the best. As the tryout (or any big event) approaches, be aware of your child’s actions. Do they seem more nervous, more quiet, or noticably off? As much as we’d like for our kids to come to us when they are feeling this way, for the most part it doesn’t happen. If you do notice the extra nerves, here are some steps you can take:
- -Ask questions.
“How are you feeling for tryouts?” “Has the coach mentioned what he is looking for in tryouts?” “What are your goals for tryouts?” This is a good start to being able to support your young athlete.
- -Be positive and instill confidence.
Pick out a couple aspects of your young athlete’s game that is positive and give feedback. This does not have to be a monologue – a simple “Hey, I noticed in practice how you were talking and being encouraging to your teammates – good job.” or “I have noticed that your ball control has improved this season.” will do just fine.
- -Encourage extra work outside of normal practice.
Be a positive force in making sure your child is building confidence is his skills, fitness, and health. Doing the extra work outside of team practices can make all the difference, and a little encouragement from parents goes a long way.
The bottom line for players going into tryouts is to be focused more on what is happening, rather that what might happen. Focusing on the present and the postive, rather than the future and potential negative. Do what you do well, and the coach will notice. Do what you do not so well, and the coach will notice that too. Control the controllables, and you will do well.
Good luck in your tryouts!