The soccer season seems to creep up every year and before long you’re trying to plan what kind of players you need to improve your team and what sort of skills they’ll need to possess or have the ability to learn if they get on the team.
Coaches will only have a couple of sessions with a group of players before they’ll need to decide who’s good enough to make it onto the team, but it’s still difficult to see people’s full potential within those two sessions.
This article will give you some highly effective soccer tryout drills that will help you to easily evaluate the players in front of you so you know who’s good enough to make it onto the team.
These selected drills will give you a good overview of each player and will enable you to highlight everyone’s weaknesses and strengths, so you can see what positions players could potentially work well in.
Best 8 Soccer Tryout Drills for Evaluating Players
Technical Warm-Up Drill
The first thing you’ll want to do when your potential players turn up at the field is to get them all warmed up and settled in by doing some technical warm-up drills.
Most of the players (if older) will be familiar with most warm-up drills but make sure to not assume that everyone is on the same page and explain each station to each group.
Remind your players that this is just a warm-up and you will not be evaluating them during this period. However, this is a good time to see how players listen and understand instructions and how they work and interact with each other.
What is the technical warm-up?
The warm-up will entail players partnering up to work on their passing and volleys whilst also moving back and forth to warm up their bodies.
Coaches will be able to see how well players pass and receive the ball whilst moving and how well they communicate with their partners.
Some technical patterns you could do are 1 touch/2 touch passing, headers, volleys, or anything else that will get them moving.
Positioning of players for technical warm-up:
- Place two cones parallel 30 yards apart from each other
- One person will need to stand on the line with the ball parallel with the cone whilst the other player is 5 yards away facing towards them
Instructions for technical warm-up:
- The partners will move down to the other cone line whilst performing a technical skill whilst also maintaining the space between them
- Players can both do the warm-up by doing some 1 or 2 touch passing or the player moving backward can be tossing the ball to the player moving forwards and doing different technical patterns
- Once you’ve reached the other cone line, the one who was moving backward before will not be the one receiving the tosses for technical patterns
- Once partners have returned to starting positions they should wait for the next pattern to be called by the coach
- Continue various technical patterns for the warm-up for around 15 minutes before beginning a short stretching session before heading into the tryout component.
Practice Games (5v5 or 8v8)
Technical drills are great for finding players with more technical footwork abilities, however, some players don’t shine in this area and can show their real potential in a short game of soccer with the other players in the tryouts.
This is as close as you’ll get to see these potential players in a real match, so it’s a good way for coaches to evaluate how they communicate with their team, the decisions they make on the pitch, and also their movement on and off the ball.
How does the 5v5 or 8v8 game work?
You’ll either need 2 teams of 5 players or 2 teams of 8 players (including a goalie) for this practice game drill and just like a normal game of soccer the goal is to score.
Smaller teams are recommended for this drill as coaches will be able to see individuals and no one will be able to hide away.
Creating a smaller field is also recommended as players will need to take more touches and move around more on the ball to create space and more creative passes to each other.
Set up for practice games:
- Mark out a 70 x 45 yard field with cones
- 2 goals will need to be placed on either end with a goalkeeper in each one
- Divide the players equally into 2 teams (if the turnout is big then you can swap players in and out between the mini matches). Give each team a different colored jersey.
- Set up your formations for each team and then decide on the length of time of each mini match
- Coaches whistle or signal will start the game and the goalkeeper will take the first touch
- Players will defend their goals, attempt to score against the other team, and show off their talent as much as possible
- If a ball goes out of play, the keeper will restart the game
- Keep track of any goals scored and write down names of stand out players
- Play 3 games of 8-10 minutes, alternating the teams if you have lots of players in the tryouts
This is an easy but effective drill to evaluate the player's abilities to keep possession of the ball whilst under pressure from the other team, with quick passing and good touches being another focus of this drill.
What is this possession drill?
A possessions drill can be done numerous ways, with small teams of 2v2 or 4v1 or 6v4, depending on the number of players in the tryouts and also the number of coaches you have evaluating.
The purpose of the possession drills is to evaluate how well players hold the ball up, how quick they are to win the ball back if they lose possession, and also how good they are at decision making.
Set up & positioning:
- Mark out a 30 X 30 yard field with cones (larger for lower quality players and smaller for higher quality players)
- Designate 2 teams depending on what set-up you’d like (2v2, 4v1, etc…)
- Give different colored jersey or tags to the 2 teams
- A pile of balls should be on the outside of the area ready to chuck in if a ball goes out of play
- 4 rounds of 5 minutes games are enough, however, if you’ve got lots of players then alternate the teams to make sure everyone is seen
- The coach will pick what team starts or will pass the ball to one team
- The team with the ball will pass and work with their teammates to keep possession
- The team without the ball will work and make challenges to try and gain possession as quickly as possible
- If you want to make the drill harder you set rules like only 1-touch passing, or no longer than 3 seconds on the ball
Finishing From Various Positions
It’s not always up to the attacking players to be the ones scoring all the goals in soccer, everyone in the team can contribute a fair share of goals throughout the season so it’s important to drill all your potential players on their finishing abilities from different angles and positions on the field.
The drill will involve one-touch striking, shooting on the dribble, and also an evaluation of how players can strike the ball after it’s crossed square across the penalty box.
Set-up & positioning:
- The goal will be placed on the goal line with one goalkeeper between the posts
- Place 4 cones across the box - cones on each end should be 2 yards inside the edge of the box and 2 center cones should be 6 yards outside the box aligning with the goalposts
- Divide the players equally between the 4 cones
- Players on the wide cones will each have a ball at their feet
- Each round should go on for 3-5 minutes
- The drill will start to the goalie’s left work across to the players on the right-hand side
- The first player on the wide left cone will dribble 3 times with the ball before taking a strike at goal and then run back to their line after the shot has been taken
- The next player on the wide left cone will pass the ball across the box to the player on the right center cone who will run onto that passed ball and strike first time at goal and then runs back to join their line
- The player who just passed the ball will grab a new ball and stay where they are
- The player on the wide right cone will pass the ball across the box to the person on the left center cone who will then run onto the ball and strike it first time on goal before running back to join the line. The person who passed the ball will stay where they are and grab another ball
- The player who just passed the ball from the wide right cone will take 3 dribbles with the ball before shooting on goal then returning to the back of their line
- The four shots should be taken quickly so that players can have numerous goals and the goalkeepers are properly tested (rotate goalkeepers every 8 shots)
- Players will stay in their positions for the round (3-5 minutes per round) and then move to the position on the right once the round is over until the players have played in all 4 positions
2-on-2 Support Defending
The most common soccer set-up will have 4 defenders in the lineup, however, sometimes when the opposition is on the counter attack you may only be left with 2 defenders back to deal with the mess.
It’s important to have confident defenders who’ll be able to regain possession, apply pressure to the offensive player and hopefully stop them from scoring.
Whilst this is a defensive drill, it’s still an effective one for offensive players to take part in as you can evaluate a group of them at the same time and easily notice who is exceeding in their role.
Defensive players will learn and show their footwork, timing, and defensive skills whilst attacking players will show their 1-on-1 dribbling, passing, decision-making, and shooting skills.
What is the 2-on 2 support defending drill?
2 defenders will bass 1 ball out to two attacking players who will then try and attempt to score.
1 of the defenders will go directly to the attacking player who has received the ball whilst the other defender will support the other defender.
If the ball is passed to the second attacker then the supporting defender will then add pressure to them and try to prevent them from scoring.
Positioning for 2-on-2 support defending drill:
- 1 goalkeeper needed in a full-sized goal
- 2 cones to be placed 15 yards outside the penalty area (aligning with the goalposts) for the offensive cone line
- 2 cones to be placed 3 yards off each goalpost for the defensive cone line
- Divide players equally between the 4 cones (offensive and defensive teams)
- All soccer balls will need to be with the defensive teams
- 2 players in line with each in the defensive team will work together and the same goes for the offensive team
Instructions for 2-on-2 support defending drill:
- 1 defender will need to pass the ball to 1 of the attacking players from their cone line
- 2 defenders will run towards the attacking players with 1 defending (closest to the attacking player) applying the most pressure with the other supporting
- 2 attacking players must attempt to dribble past the 2 defenders and score
- The supporting defender will need to step in as the main defender if the first defender gets beat by the attacker, however, they should always be anticipation the ball being passed to the second attacker
- The turn is done when a goal is scored or the defenders have managed to block the shot or win the ball
- All previous players must leave the field for the next 4 players to start their drill
- Repeat the drill for around 10 minutes and swap the teams if there are players who can play in different positions
Deflect & Dive (Goalie Tryouts)
Without a decent goalie, your team will begin leaking in goals from left, right, and center, so it’s also imperative to set aside some drills for potential goalkeepers in the sessions or even players in other positions who also have some experience in goal.
Having an outfield player that also has some goalkeeping skills is very useful especially during the height of the soccer season where injuries can become more apparent.
If you notice any players in your tryout sessions who don’t have great footwork or technical ability, then why not encourage them to stick some gloves out and try it out in goals to see if they feel more comfortable there.
What is deflect and dive?
Another player or member of staff will need to take a low shot at goal which the goalkeeper will attempt to block, straight after this shot the same or another person will then also need to take a higher shot at the other post which the goalkeeper will then have to quickly get back up and block or catch the ball.
What does deflect and dive test?
This drill will test the goalkeeper’s ability to move across the goal blocking more than one shot at a time. It will show the keeper’s agility and how quickly their reaction time is in responding to numerous oncoming shots.
Positioning of players & staff for deflect and dive:
- Full-sized goal needed with the goalkeeper on the goal line
- 1 person on the goal line 2 yards from the goal post (server 1)
- 1 person 6-8 yards infield opposite the other goal post to server 1 (server 2)
- 1 person as server 3 will be positioned 9 yards away from the center of the goal infield
- People in server 1 and server 3 positions will need a good supply of soccer balls for this drill
Instructions for deflect and dive:
- Server 1 will do a low pass to server 2 who will then take a low shot at goal
- The goalkeeper must save this shot with their hands or feet
- The goalkeeper will need to get up and move quickly to prepare to save the next shot
- Server 3 will then take a high shot at the opposite post to the previous one
- The goalie will need to block or catch the ball
- Repeat this process 2-3 times per keeper with minimum rest for 6 rounds
- If you have multiple keepers in the tryouts then swap out after 2-3 reps
Ideally, good goalkeepers will keep their weight forward and will be able to react quickly to each shot.
Passing Ability Drill
What is this passing ability drill?
The ability to pass accurately, turn quickly and dribble with the ball is essential in soccer and if you’ve got people in your squad who frequently misplace a pass or are unable to make a good touch then you’ll encounter some serious problems.
This entails players passing, turning, and dribbling through a series of cones to complete passing patterns with each other.
What does this drill test?
The drill will show the player’s abilities to consistently pass the ball at different distances and from different angles and how accurately and quickly they can do so.
You’ll also be able to see how quickly players can turn and how precise they can be with their touches and passes when under pressure to keep up with the rest of the team.
This will show how well individuals will work under pressure from oppositions during highly demanding periods of the match.
Positioning of players for this drill:
- Place 4 cones in a zigzag pattern with the first 3 cones being 20 yards away from each other and the final cone 10 yards away from the last one and then repeat this pattern with 4 other cones
- There will be 1 player on each cone on both zig-zag lines with the balls divided between the 2 lines
- The first player in each line will start with the ball and there should be 2 balls circulating the drill at one time
Instructions for this passing drill:
- The first player in each line will pass the ball forward to the person on their left (closest person to them)
- The player on the second cone will receive the ball behind the cone then pass it onto the next player in the pattern
- The person on the third cone will receive the ball behind their cone and pass it to the last player
- That last player will then receive the ball in front of the cone and play it back to the player on the third cone whilst they run around the fourth cone and then receive a pass from the third player again into space
- That fourth player will then dribble with the ball back to the starting line
- Players move in the direction of their pass and will move forward one cone once they’ve completed their pass
- The next ball is started once all the players are at their new cones
- Keep continuing this drill for 6 minutes for 2 rounds, offering advice and feedback to the players as they work
You can also test your tryout player’s agility by drilling them on sprints, shuffles, backpedals, and cutting through a series of cones to test their speed, balance, and their athletic ability. ]
Place a series of cones in various positions (not in a straight line) and varying distances apart.
Allocate a pattern between each cone that the players will need to carry out. Set up multiple courses if you have lots of players and make them complete each course 5-6 times depending on time.
You should try to make your soccer tryouts as fun as possible as that’s when you’ll be able to easily spot the stand-out players as they’ll feel comfortable performing on the ball and won’t be worried about trying to impress the coaches to get on the team.
If you’re looking for players for key positions to fill your team, then feel free to focus more on those positional drills to find the best players for those roles.
However, a good variety of drills covering passing, shooting, dribbling, defensive work, and confidence will give you a good overview of who is a complete player and will be a good addition to your team.
The key to soccer tryouts is preparation and support, make sure to write down all your drills, set-ups and also create an organized notepad so you can write down any players who’ve caught your eye during the tryouts.
It’s also important to have extra staff with you for the tryouts, especially if you have a large turnout as you’ll want to make sure everyone is seen and evaluated properly and you can’t do that all on your own.
Once your team is all picked, you can start prepping for your pre-season drills for conditioning and improving your skills ready for the upcoming season - good luck!