Youth soccer tryouts are an exciting time for organizations and players alike. Evaluations mark the start of a new season, a new squad of players and families to welcome to the organization, and a new chance for players to showcase their skills.
But with tryouts can come phone calls. You know the ones we are talking about.
“My child wasn’t scored fairly.”
“My child should be on a better team.”
“Why was my child placed on this squad? They were better than so-and-so.”
It’s natural for parents and players to second-guess the fairness of youth sports tryouts. So with that, the responsibility lies with the youth soccer organization to assure athletes and their parents that the tryout process and roster formation was executed without bias.
Put your words into action and show parents and players your youth soccer tryout process is fair by adopting these 7 steps to your process for removing bias.
Step #1: Provide Tryouts Criteria to All Players Before Tryouts
Removing bias starts before the athletes step onto the field for tryouts.
First things first, organizations can take steps towards establishing trust and transparency between the club, athletes, and parents by communicating the criteria and expectations for evaluations. What criteria will you be evaluating on? This allows every player to prepare for tryouts mentally and physically. Tryouts are exciting, but they can be stressful, too. Knowledge of the day can help set expectations and take the edge off.
Step #2: Bring in Outside Evaluators
Outside evaluators are critical to setting a non-bias precedent for your youth soccer tryouts. There are typically two paths for recruiting outside evaluators for tryouts.
If soccer teams have money in their budget, hiring evaluators not associated with the club is the easiest way to assure families every player is scored fairly. These evaluators are less likely to have connections to the athletes and can score players based on their performance at tryouts alone with no previous knowledge shading their assessment.
Swapping Evaluators with Another Team
For clubs who can’t afford to hire outside evaluators, they can work with other teams in the organization to have each squad’s staff score the other team’s players. For example, clubs can ask coaches of the boys’ soccer teams to evaluate the girls and vice versa. This helps eliminate the risk of evaluators being too familiar with players and unintentionally inserting bias into their decision making.
Step #3: Use Athlete Numbers Instead of Names
When preparing your score sheets for the big day, opt for numbers instead of names. Athletes can be listed by their registration or bib number while keeping their name hidden to evaluators. This adds a layer of anonymity and extra protection to being evaluated by performance first and foremost.
Step #4: Spot-Check Evaluations
To ensure evaluations are accurate, coaches and directors can spot-check and calibrate player scores during evaluations. Administrators can watch a few athletes perform drills and then compare their anticipated scores to that of the evaluators’. Fair scoring will be obvious if the scoring is relatively the same.
Step #5: Follow Scores, Rankings in Real-Time
Nothing beats real-time rankings.
An easy way for coaches to perform spot checks mentioned above is by using player evaluation software for real-time access to rankings. If a coach is watching a soccer drill, they can monitor how the athlete is scored in real-time in the application to check if the grades entered match the execution of the skill. If an athlete is mis-scored, this allows the team administrators to take action and address the situation with the evaluator immediately.
Step #6: Share Athlete Results After Evaluations
One surefire way to eliminate bias? Incorporate transparency throughout your entire process, including the sharing of player results. Sharing tryout results with the youth athletes allows them to see exactly how they performed and gives them access to the same scores team administrators are using to form the soccer squads.
Providing tryouts results to each player gives teams an opportunity to give feedback on their performance and what to focus on for the upcoming season. This feedback can be invaluable to youth soccer players as they strive to improve their skills.
Step #7: Ask for Feedback
Another easy way for soccer clubs to remove biases from tryouts is by talking to players and families. Do they have concerns? Do they feel that tryouts are indeed fair? Opening the lines of communication can help alert organizations to potential issues.
Author: Chris Knutson
Bio: Chris Knutson is co-founder and CEO of TeamGenius, a leading player evaluation software that helps youth sports organization by streamlining tryouts and player evaluations.