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How to End the Stress of Soccer Tryouts

A director of coaching at a youth club said to me last week, in a stressed way, that one of his coaches was running late. Since this was the week of tryouts, this was a more stressful and frustrating situation than usual. While expressing his disappointment and worry in the coach’s tardiness, he mentioned that “tryouts are the most important week of my life!” This was in a “how can you be doing this to me?!” kind of way.

Many directors of coaching and leaders at youth soccer clubs feel the same way – especially those who work for the club full time. It totally makes sense. If the club loses too many players or teams, suddenly they are out of a job or have to take a huge pay cut. On the other hand, if tryouts go really well, then they have more than enough revenue to go around. The entire next year, if not more, hinges on the success of one week.

Sounds like a pretty important week, right? WRONG!

This Way of Thinking is Harmful

If we rely on a one-week-long event to decide and determine the entire future of our organization, then we are simply not doing it right.

It is understandable why so many coaches and directors are stressed at tryout time, but who wants to live like that? Who wants to work day in and day out, all year long, and then risk everything coming undone after one week?

If one bad week could potentially undo all the work we’ve done the rest of the year, then we need to change the way we do things.

With each club being unique and having many different challenges and obstacles, it’s hard to say which one key problem our company solves. But if I had to name just one problem that we fix, it would be the tryout process. We help clubs eliminate the stress and overwhelming influence of this week-long disaster.

The Key to Eliminating the Stress

The key to eliminating the influence and stress of tryouts is simple in concept, but difficult in application.

In the most basic way: we need to do a better job throughout the rest of the year.

Too many clubs do just good enough, or provide the minimal required value to their members, and then suddenly beg players and families to attend tryouts and to choose their club.

If a club provides exceptional quality of service and value year-round, why would families ever consider changing clubs and going somewhere else?

Food for Thought

Here’s an analogy to digest:

Let’s pretend that you were only allowed to eat out at one restaurant for an entire year. You could go as many times as you’d like during the year, but you could only go to that specific restaurant. After one year, you are free to choose a different restaurant to dine at exclusively, or you can continue to stay at the same one.

Let’s also say that there are two restaurants in your neighborhood. The one you chose has a wide variety of food, and every time you go, the wait staff is exceptionally friendly, there is great service, the food tastes excellent, you always get exactly what you want and expect, and the ordering process is efficient. Every time people go there, they are left satisfied with their visit.

The other restaurant, however, has average food – burgers and fries, but not much else. Every time people go there, they make a mistake with the order, the service is slow, and the wait staff is apathetic. This place okay, but not exceptionally great, and it is pretty much a 50/50 chance that a customer will leave satisfied.

After going to the first restaurant for a year, would you even think about changing and going to the second one the next year?

Of course not!

Why would you leave a place with exceptionally consistent quality and service for a place that is, at best, inconsistently adequate?

If the second restaurant suddenly improves the consistency and quality of their service, the taste of their food, and the variety of their menu, then perhaps they will acquire more customers. But for the time being, people are going to stay committed to the first restaurant and continue to leave the second.

Youth Clubs Are Like These Restaurants

Just like in our restaurant analogy, if a club goes above and beyond every day, they won’t need to worry about losing members.

If every day of the year we are doing the extra work to create a fun and player-centered experience, engage parents, behave in the most professional manner, and build meaningful relationships, then why would anyone ever consider changing clubs?

If players are enjoying themselves, learning, and improving, then why would they ever consider changing clubs?

If parents feel valued and we are helping them recognize the growth and development of their kids, then why would they ever consider changing clubs?

So instead of waiting until next year’s tryout process to try and retain all your club’s players, consider re-evaluating the way your club operates and have an honest assessment of how things can improve so that no one could ever possibly consider changing clubs and losing out on the value you provide.

And if you can’t seem to identify the areas in need of improvement, feel free to give us a shout. :)


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