Archive | May, 2014

Tryout Season: Time to Jump Ship?

28 May

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It’s tryout season across the USA and if you’re a top player you may be thinking about making a jump to a new team, perhaps to the Development Academy (DA) on the boys side or to the ECNL on the girls side.  Maybe you’re looking for higher-level competition, a new voice on the sideline, or maybe just a cool new uniform. 🙂

You might also be thinking that if you make the switch to one of these teams you will gain more “exposure” to college coaches and be better prepared in general for the college game.

So is it time for you to make the jump?  Does a DA or ECNL team make sense for you?

Let’s start by asking a key question:  Do DA & ECNL teams experience more “exposure” to college coaches?  The answer for the most part, is YES.  College coaches want to see players compete against other strong players, and it’s at DA & ECNL games where they know they will see excellent competition.  Yes, there are some very competitive club events out there, but the playing standard at DA and ECNL is typically a bit higher.  DA and ECNL games have proven to be fruitful ground for college coaches scouting talent.

However, this does not mean that you should jump at the first DA or ECNL offer that comes your way…

Here are 3 important items you should consider before making a move:

1.   What are your personal goals as a player?

Do you want to play high-level Division 1 soccer and perhaps professionally someday?  If the answer is yes, and you have the talent, then either the DA or ECNL will definitely line up with your goals.  These leagues pride themselves on featuring the elite players in the country and developing those athletes to compete at the highest levels of American soccer.  Coaches from D1 schools and pro ranks also regularly attend and scout events.    If you’re thinking that playing at the D3 level may be a better fit, then playing on a competitive club team may actually provide the perfect training environment, while also affording you the time to focus on other pursuits.

2.  What does the commitment look like?

If you answered yes to the D1/Pro question above, switching to DA or ECNL will still require further consideration.  Do you take your academics just as seriously as your athletics?  It should come at no surprise that DA and ECNL will require a much bigger time commitment.  DA teams often train 4-5 times/week with games on the weekends.  ECNL teams are more likely to train 3-4 nights/week.  Either commitment is likely to be a step up from the typical 2 nights/week schedule of your current club.  What about the proximity to home?  Playing for the DA/ECNL team may require you to drive significant distances to get to practice and games.  Will you be able to balance your schoolwork?  What about your other interests, social calendar, friends, etc.  In short, is this the kind of sacrifice that you want to make during your high school years?

 3.  What is your projected role on the team?

This question is vital.  Many players have been swept up by the idea of playing for a DA/ECNL team only to find themselves disenchanted because they have been relegated to the bench.  No coach should promise you playing time and wherever you go you will have to earn your stripes.  But in my opinion, it’s better to be a key player on a club team, than to sit the bench in the DA or ECNL.  Players develop by playing in games, by being out on the pitch, and by doing everything they can to help their team.  Yes, you need great training during the week, but you must also have the opportunity to compete on the weekends.  If it looks like making the switch may result in you “riding the pine”, that can have a negative affect on your development as a player.  Sticking with your current club team may indeed be the best option for your overall game and you will certainly have a lot more fun.

Reviewing your personal goals as a player, assessing the time commitment, and understanding your role on the team are important items to consider before making a jump to an elite team.  This decision is not easy.  You might have a tremendous sense of loyalty with your current club team and often times staying the course is actually in your best interest.  If your club team is competitive, the coaching is solid, and you have a good plan to gain college exposure, perhaps you are already experiencing the perfect “balance” between your academic and athletic interests.  I’ve worked with student-athletes where the jump made sense, and with others where staying the course was the better call.  I’ve also seen players go and come back. As with the process of finding a college that’s a great fit for you, selecting the right club team requires careful analysis and thinking.

If you need help answering this question or have other questions, please feel free to give me a call.  I specialize in helping high school players navigate all aspects of the recruiting process and finding the right collegiate fit.

-Pete Gail

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