One of the top things organizations can do to eliminate biases from youth soccer tryouts is to bring in outside evaluators.
In an ideal world, when youth soccer tryouts are held the athletes all perform to the best of their abilities, the evaluators score each player exactly right, the coaches and volunteers execute each drill perfectly and all parents and athletes agree that the best players all made the team.
Sound realistic? Probably not.
In reality, tryouts aren’t perfect. The players might not play their best, evaluators might not score each player appropriately and not all drills might go well. But one thing teams can control is the effort they put into removing biases from their youth soccer tryouts.
These tips can help your club make tryouts fair.
TIP NO. 1: GET OUTSIDE EVALUATORS
One of the top things organizations can do to eliminate biases from youth soccer tryouts is to bring in outside evaluators. When determining who should be scoring the athletes in each drill it’s important to have evaluators who don’t have personal connections to the players. This will eliminate the risk of giving a player an unfair advantage if he or she knows the evaluator.
Andrew Lenhardt, the Director of Coaching at Springfield (Ill.) Area Soccer Association (SASA), said his organization uses independent evaluators for their tryout sessions.
One tactic they have used is having “the boys coaches evaluate the girl players, and vice versa.” For more tips on prepping evaluators, here’s How to Prepare Evaluators for Youth Sports Tryouts.
TIP NO. 2: USE NUMBERS, NOT NAMES
Even with independent evaluators, there is a chance scorers could recognize a player’s name and score them differently. To eliminate this risk, organizations can opt to list players by only their assigned tryout number.
Leagues using evaluation software, like TeamGenius’ platform, can set up the program to only display player numbers as evaluators are entering scores. For leagues not using software, the directors and coaches can manually ensure no player names are listed on the evaluation forms.
TIP NO. 3: USE A VARIETY OF DRILLS
When designing the format of youth soccer tryouts, organizers should make sure to include types of drills that allow players with various strengths to showcase their skills.
According to USYouthSoccer.org, drills alone won’t help teams identify which players will benefit the team the most, but different game scenarios might not showcase each player, either.
USYouthSoccer.org states: “A small-side 4 vs. 4 is not likely to demonstrate the defensive abilities of a player who can read the game, cover space quickly and has superior ability in the air and on the ground defensively.”
The website also says the larger games might not showcase every player’s skills, either: “Watching 30-60 minutes of 11 vs. 11 with substitutes and players of wildly mixed ability is unlikely to identify the playmaking capabilities of a central midfielder who sees the ball a mere handful of times.”
To combat this potential bias, leagues should include a variety of drills that allow players to demonstrate different techniques, as well as ensuring each player gets equal playing time during game-like scenarios.
TIP NO. 4: RESERVE ROOM FOR INTANGIBLES
What do you do with the player who doesn’t score well on the drills, but when it comes down to it he or she can just flat out play?
It can be difficult to evaluate players with whom coaches and directors know is a great player based on past seasons, but who doesn’t perform well at tryouts.
To account for players like these, USYouthSoccer.org recommends keeping a category or an evaluation area open for coach’s feedback where the intangibles can be addressed. This way coaches are not just placing the player on a team after a poor tryout in the skills portion, but the athlete also is not automatically eliminated from consideration, either.
TIP NO. 5: MAKE RESULTS AVAILABLE TO PLAYERS AND PARENTS
One way to make it very clear to parents and athletes that there were no biases in the tryouts process is to make evaluation forms available. Lenhardt said he tells players and their parents that the evaluation forms are available for them to see after the tryout sessions.
Using TeamGenius software, he can send out the results immediately after tryouts so the athletes and their families can see their scores and see why they did or did not make a team. “I believe in transparency in the tryout process,” Lenhardt said.
Ready to start planning your next tryout? Start prepping now. This free tryout preparation checklist will have you ready to hit the ground running.