Coaching Tips with Nathan Burke – How to succeed at sporting trials

Whilst the winter sports season is coming to a close, for many the competition does not rest for long. Before you know it the ‘2016 trial’ process will begin and the pressure will build again. Let me share some coaching tips with you – that might just help you shine.

Nathan Burke coaching tips

For some player’s trialing comes easy whilst for others it is a nightmare. Whether it is a lack of confidence, unwillingness to stand out or simply a bad case of nerves, the exact reasons why some kids trial better than others can be a mystery.

Over the years I have seen many talented kids be devastated by missing out on representative teams through not being able to show what they can do in front of selectors. My own daughter learnt a valuable lesson when she trialed for the SSV Under 12 soccer team. Quite rightly she missed out on a spot in the team through her poor showing in the trials. She was distraught and as kids do, she wondered why certain girls were selected over her. Her first choice was to blame the ‘fools’ for not knowing what they were doing. It was not to take responsibility for her own performance.

After a gentle dose of reality she understood that purely on the trial performances she didn’t deserve to get in. She didn’t show them what she could do. I’m proud to say she learnt her lesson and just 2 years later her improved trialing ability saw her selected for the SSV Under 19 girls state soccer team at the age of 13.

Whilst she had worked hard to improve her skills in that time it wouldn’t have meant anything if she hadn’t showed them during the trial. How did she do it? She had a plan that involved following some simple tips.

Below are the first 5 of my Coaching Tips “How to be Successful at Team Sports Trials.”

  1. Use your voice. By talking, instructing and encouraging other players you are doing two things. Firstly it ensures you are engaged in the game or the drill. It is impossible to ‘switch off’ when you are verbally involved. Secondly it makes the selectors notice you even when you haven’t got the ball. After all, the aim of trialing is to be noticed so why not be noticed when you have the ball AND when you don’t. Importantly you don’t have to be the most skilled kid in order to use your voice. It also shows you have leadership abilities and no coach can ignore that. Pay attention and learn kids names so you can direct your encouragement directly to them.
  2. Be coachable – be a coaches dream by listening intently, asking appropriate questions (when you don’t understand, not for the sake of it) and getting on with things straight away. Nothing turns a selector off more than kids who look like they are going to be trouble. Again this doesn’t take an enormous amount of skill or talent, just concentration. Also if the coach gives specific instructions like ‘switch the ball occasionally’, be the one who does it, or at least tries to do it. It will be noticed, so pay attention to these little queues the coach gives on what he likes to see.
  3. Be a little bit selfish – now this is a difficult one as it goes against traditional sporting norms. The fact is the main way to impress is with the ball in your hands or at your feet. Therefore getting the ball is unavoidably important. It may mean you have to concentrate more on getting the ball than stopping your opponent, running to spots outside your area or even calling for it when you may not be in the ideal position. By no means am I saying be a ‘ball hog’ but if it isn’t coming our way you may have to go and get it. This also refers to which positions you put yourself. It may be ok to spend one quarter in defense without the ball coming down but don’t make it two. Being where the ball is is important.
  4. Mix with the best. Often in trials kids will self select into teams or groups. Work out who the other talented kids are and join them. It is far better to work with kids who can receive your passes or pass the ball to you than work with kids who are less skilled. It will help you play a better style of game and give you more confidence. The drills will not break down as much and you will have a chance to show your skills.
  5. Assess your self. Don’t let the above points be a burden, have fun with them and see how many you can get done in the one session. Tick them off each time the coach sends you for a drink. Ask yourself, am I talking enough, am I getting the ball enough? If the answer is yes then get excited, if its no then get determined. Don’t wait until the end of the session and say I wish I had’ve…. It may be too late by then. You may surprise yourself and find you are doing really well. I guarantee the selectors notice the kids who are enthusiastic and look like they enjoy what they do.

Stay tuned next week for the remaining Top 5 tips.

Finally the best piece of advice is this – be so good they can’t ignore you! That means training hard to perfect your skills and abilities; being as fit as you can be and looking after your body. Combine all the above and whether you get in the team or not it won’t matter. You will have comfort knowing you did everything you could to make it.


nathan burkeNathan Burke is the founder of Nathan Burke Consulting – a Melbourne based firm that offers training and coaching solutions helping people and businesses achieve High Performance

If you are looking for guidance, support or training to help you find that extra “edge” that can take your performance to the next level, then  contact Nathan and enquire how he might be able to assist you

2 thoughts on “Coaching Tips with Nathan Burke – How to succeed at sporting trials

  1. In BM English speaking Course each participant has to do Public speaking
    practice 20 times on various topics and a professional trainer corrects Grammar,
    pronunciation, Body Language, trains him/her to speak fluently with confidence.


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