Sasho Cirovski, who has led the University of Maryland men’s soccer team to three national championships including this past season in 2018, says soccer players are always trying out whenever they step on the pitch. And it’s that mindset players need to accept and adopt if they are to be successful – no matter what level they are playing at or trying to get to.
“From a player’s standpoint, they are always in a tryout,” said Cirovski, the winningest coach in the University of Maryland. “When we recruit, myself and a lot of my colleagues will go and watch how they handle a warm up or how they handle losing a difficult game. We sometimes will go to a practice session and see what kinds of habits they show in a practice. You can’t see these things in a tryout.”
Coaches believe that good habits, strong skills and a passion for the game are keys to being successful and that players shouldn’t try to bring these qualities to a tryout but always play that way – whether in a practice, game, training session or anytime a player straps on the boots.
Like Cirovski says, players are always trying out and being judged and critiqued. Every day in practice you are “trying out” to earn more playing time or to keep your starter’s position or to improve and make a bigger impact for your team.
“We don’t have tryouts at this level but I think tryouts are not a very good way to judge a player,” Cirovski said. “If you asked club directors they will tell you that a tryout is a very difficult way to see how good someone really is and how they might fit into your team because you aren’t seeing all the factors that go into their technical or tactical abilities.”
Cirovski believes players shouldn’t think in terms of what they need to do in order to impress a coach and make the team, but instead think in terms of creating good habits in all areas because of a passion for the game.
“Whenever you go to a tryout or have the opportunity to play you need to exhibit your best effort in all the various parts of the game,” he says. “The technical part, the tactical, the psychological and the physical are all important but what we first want to see is someone who loves the game.”
If you show the love of the game the other things usually take care of themselves. Because players who love the game want to get better, they respect the game and give their best effort every time they step on the pitch.
“Coaches want to see someone’s appetite for the game,” said Cirovski, who has coached Maryland to 24 NCAA postseason appearances including titles in 2005, 2008 and last season. “They want to see that appetite for playing and learning and supporting their teammates.”
Mark Krikorian, the head coach of 2019 national champion women’s team, Florida State, says coaches want the best of all worlds when looking at players.
“You want an athlete who combines the technique and the tactics that an elite player would and also possess the physical and physiological components that make them an elite level competitor,” Krikorian said. “When you are talking about a player coming in to play at Florida State or any of the top programs, we are all looking at those various components and what the quality is in each player.”
Krikorian says the most important part in his mind when kids are going into a tryout is that they are giving themselves the best chance to be successful.
“They need to be fit and healthy and mentally prepared to go in and compete,” he says. “I don’t think it matters what level we are talking about whether it’s a youth team, high school team, college team or national team, taking care of your body and putting yourself in a position where you can compete favorably is the foundation of success.”
Not every player is going to make every team and coaches do have to tell players that they didn’t make the cut – on this day. Krikorian, who in 14 seasons in Tallahassee has led FSU to nine College Cup appearances, four appearances in the national title game, three ACC regular season titles and six league championships, says he’s always honest with a player and hopes they use the situation as a positive instead of a negative.
“Our team is an elite-level team and our expectation is to always compete at a very high level and in order to do that a player has to be fit and have the soccer quality in terms of technique and tactics,” he says. “It takes a real special player who is going to make and contribute to our team.
“There is a different level that is the right level for everyone. There is a place where everyone who wants to play can play and it’s just a matter of figuring out what that level is.”