Football trials are used across a variety of sporting spheres as a stepping stone for larger opportunities. They can be used as a form of audition for entry into local football teams, academic and sporting schools, football development academies and more.

Regardless of what you want to achieve after the football trial, coaches at the event are often all looking for similar qualities in the athletes. No matter the variety of outcomes the event aims to achieve, an athlete is evaluated by the skills and attributes they display, and football coaches will look for athletic qualities during the event in order to assess their potential to achieve the final opportunity.

To help you understand how to impress a coach, I want to outline some of the key attributes sporting coaches are on the lookout for at football trials.

1. Skill

The first and most obvious quality that a coach will look for is a skill set that matches the aspirations of the subsequent opportunity. While skills in football are important, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to impress a sporting coach.

There’s no question that a coach will notice and be impressed by those athletes that show a natural ability with the ball, but they are on the lookout for a more well-rounded athlete than those with just a specific skill set.

Potential is a keyword that coaches use when scouting athletes to pursue a greater outcome. It sounds like a cliche´, but displaying a potential to improve and a willingness to learn and be coached can sometimes be more appealing to coaches than those athletes with natural talent.

Head Soccer Coach at Medaille College in New York, Micky Blythe supported this theory when I got his insight into what an American collegiate coach looks for when recruiting a football athlete.

I want them to be willing to learn – have some ability with the ball, absolutely. I can help you with the football, I’m big on development. I want people here who want to play, compete and do well.

Coaches love recruits who they can develop into the athlete they need them to be. With the variety of high level sporting opportunities available in the modern world, being an elite athlete has become a matter of progression and development rather than proven natural talent.

2. Adaptability

The ability to adapt to difficult situations and adjust your style of play with little notice is a key quality coaches will look for in athletes at football trials.

It’s important not to become too complacent, both within a game structure and with your position on a sporting roster. It’s common for a coach to make hasty changes within a game plan or team line-up, and your adaptability and acceptance of these changes will be highly valued by a coach.

A US college student-athlete, for example, must be able to react and accept changes quickly in order to keep up and develop at the same pace with the college team.

A coach’s priority is producing a successful football team, and this success often comes from making changes in a sporting environment, team roster or game plan. Athletes who display a sense of adaptability to change will position themselves to be recognised by coaches.

In a football trial environment, it may be difficult to prove an ability to adapt to change, therefore I would suggest to display a quick reaction time to what transpires at the trial event which will give the coach a good insight into your potential (there’s that word again!) to adapt.

3. Communication

Ask any college or sporting coach and they will likely agree that a football team won’t work without effective communication.

Particularly for team sports, athletes have to be able to communicate with both their teammates and their coach. If a tactic isn’t working in a game or training, you need to make it obvious to coach that you can communicate the problem and voice your solution. Making a play work will only succeed if there is effective communication between athletes and coaches.

Although sporting coaches may be slightly intimidating and should be treated with respect, proving your ability to converse clearly and have a very open form of communication with them at a football trial could see you stand out from other aspiring athletes looking for a similar opportunity.

4. Resilience

A key quality any aspiring athlete needs to have to succeed is resilience. While sport can have extreme highs, the competitive nature of high quality sport can also create damaging lows.

With regards to common sporting realities like injuries, periods of low performance, receiving constructive criticism and confronting personal challenges, resilience is an absolute must-have quality in order to reach your full potential as an athlete.

Resilience to failure and obstacles in the road are the only ways to become successful, and as the old saying goes; nothing comes easy.

Many professional athletes and sports people who have pursued their passion for sport to a high level have had to overcome difficult challenges along the way and have developed a sense of resilience to these obstacles.

Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it. – Michael Jordan, basketball icon (1984-2003)

(source: Entrepreneur)

5. Leadership

This isn’t necessarily a key athletic quality that a football coach wants in an athlete, but it’s certainly admired.

Some athletes are natural leaders, while others are happy to be led. It’s not a quality that coaches specifically require in an athlete, but it is definitely something they value. Being able to clearly identify a leader makes the coach’s job easier when visioning the team dynamic and where an athlete stands in the potential to take the opportunity to the next level.

Although not an essential quality to have, a sense of leadership may make an athlete stand out and show extra value when compared with other talents.

That being said, if you’re not a natural leader, yet you are rather good at taking and implementing direction from others, that quality has the potential to stand out in the same capacity as a leadership role does.

6. Character

One of the most undervalued qualities a coach will look for in a passionate sportsperson is their personal character and values beyond their athletic skills. While attributes relating to sport are extremely important in a coach forming an opinion of you, character is all too often forgotten in this equation.

The New York Times published a fantastic article recently reflecting the desirable qualities coaches look for in athletes. Their interview with head Men’s soccer coach at Stanford University, Jeremy Gunn supported this idea that character and personal values are key tp following a larger opportunity.

The biggest asset I look for on the field, past athleticism and skill, is intrinsic drive. The most successful student athletes that I have coached are the ones that, first minute or last minute, winning or losing, hot day or cold day, cup final or “easier game,” show the same type of attitude. If somebody has that drive and work ethic, they will continuously grow and develop,” Jeremy Gunn, quoted in the New York Times.

Your attitude, ability to take constructive criticism, be realistic about your athletic standing and listen to people are all key things a coach will value in your character and absolutely take into consideration in your progression towards the final outcome that the trial leads towards.

Sporting coaches look for a variety of athlete qualities, inclusive of both physical and personal characteristics when offering a larger opportunity from the process of football trials. These qualities can lead to a variety of opportunities, one such being the student-athlete pathway to college in America. An event like a football trial can be used as a stepping stone in the journey to make this opportunity a reality.

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