A new player wants to join the team…

I have two players who recently came through our development squad who feel they are ready to join my team 6 months ahead of plan. It is a tricky decision as it adds to the pressure on match days when the number of subs would obviously increase.

But that is not all. What you want to see is that no matter how good they are when playing the game do they fit into a squad that is having a very successful season? It made me think about how most coaches would find integrating a new player half way through the season – afterall the professional leagues are about to open the transfer window and bring new players into their teams

Assessing ability

I can quite understand that with no prior knowledge, assessing ability is a very difficult task for any grassroots coach, and the whole process can be tough for the players too, but sometimes I am forced to look at bringing in new players from the point of view of a parent.

Try-outs can be traumatic for the parents. Things come up like “your son is a bit quiet for our team”, or “he’s a bit lightweight”. But neither of these points should be the deciding factor in selecting a player.

When my own son wanted to join a team, he wasn’t asked about his recent playing activity; nor was he asked about how factors outside of the game, at home or at school, could affect his playing time. Would he be able to get to games and training punctually? How would he feel about being substituted?

Factors that come into play

The biggest factors that come into play when a coach says “your son looks a bit lightweight” are date of birth and body type. My own son has a late May birthday so some players are almost a year older than him and his growth spurts come much later in the season. I’ve seen some players whose legs look like matchsticks grow into a different body shape over just a few weeks.

So, a player’s performance can be hugely influenced by factors outside the game. This inevitably means some good players are overlooked simply because they haven’t experienced the same growth spurts as the others and because they look small.
A couple of season’s ago, one of the coaches spoke to me about my son and said: “The problem is he’s a bit childish”. Indeed he was – he was 11 and his social maturity had not developed to the same level as some of the other players, but his childish enthusiasm was enormous.

Give them time

If I sum up my feelings this week, after experiencing taking in two players into my training nights, it would be that simply putting players through their paces one afternoon is not enough to make choices or to label players as certain types. So far the players have attended four training sessions and are beginning to fit in well. But I have had them for over a month so I am beginning to form an opinion of them without just saying yes or no in the first instance

So, try to talk to any prospective new players – talk to their parents, look at their date of birth, and don’t judge them because they don’t yet look like that world-class striker you are searching for.

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