Expert Advice: Top 5 Drills To Evaluate Soccer Players

Expert Advice: Top 5 Drills To Evaluate Soccer Players

Youth Sports •

The aim of this article is simple; to provide soccer coaches with the best tryout drills to assist in effectively evaluating a player’s skill level. 

But before we delve into the drills and evaluations, we need to dig deeper and get into the “nitty-gritty” to help you as coaches get the most out of the drills and understand the reasoning behind them.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Establishing relevant and appropriate criteria
  • Team Selection
  • Parent Information Night
  • Top 5 drills for evaluating soccer players

So without further adieu, let’s get into it!

Establishing Relevant and Appropriate Criteria

First and foremost, your sporting organization needs to be crystal clear on exactly what the tryouts are trying to achieve. Without clear-cut goals and objectives, it’s virtually impossible to design and deliver a training camp or tryout session that is of any value to the club or player.

Ask yourself, are you prioritizing skill level, athleticism, and personal traits? Or are you simply looking for players who can play in a specific position? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered before deciding on evaluation criteria.

Did you know, you can now use our soccer evaluation app to replace pen and paper at your tryouts? Finally, get rid of the painful data entry and evaluate players right from your device.

Team Selection

Team Selection can be fraught with danger, but one of the best ways to avoid the many pitfalls that come with it is to select the team by forming a committee. 

In most cases, committees can help eliminate common problems such as club politics, coach favoritism, and parental influence. There are various ways to evaluate teams and players, but generally speaking, the easier the method, the easier it is to select the best players and come to a consensus. 
The numbered system has been around for years and seems to work best, especially when selecting junior teams. A simple “1 through 5” score for each of the drills makes the job of the Head Coach and Assistant Coach easier and offers a fair evaluation of the player.

Effective Communication With Parents

Communicating with parents in an open, honest format is one of the most vital aspects of ensuring the success of your tryouts and as a club. Scheduling a parent orientation day is a perfect way to introduce coaches to parents and provides a great way to break the ice.

When talking with parents, coaches should be transparent about the club’s goals, how the tryouts will work, and the evaluation criteria used. You don’t want ANY ambiguity here. That way, all parents know the standards that have been set out.

We’ve all had parents complain their child should’ve made the team, but many of these problems can be avoided if you have clear-cut criteria.

Did you know, that when using our soccer evaluation app you can provide both players’ and parents’ report cards after each tryout? Players know exactly what they need to work on, and parents can visually see how their kid is performing. (see image below)

This is an excellent way to streamline communication, improve player performance, and showcase the professionalism of your soccer organization.

Reports like thesemare included with any plan when evaluating athletes using the SkillShark App. Reports generate instantly after each evaluation.

Player Report Card automatically generated when using SkillShark Evaluation Software

Top 5 Drills For Evaluating Soccer Players

Toe Taps In the Square

How To Perform The Drill:

This soccer drill starts with four lines. The coach then has two players line up, with each player having a ball. The drill can also be used for as many 4 players at any one time. Once the coach blows the whistle, all players dribble their ball to the cone, stop, tap the cone with their feet 10 times, then return and dribble back to their original starting point. 

When the player returns to their starting position, the following player in the line starts, and the drill is repeated until the coach blows the whistle for the second time. 
Top-Tip: The coach should emphasize that players maintain control over the ball rather than trying to complete the drills as quickly as possible.

Click HERE to see how it works.

Shooting Box

How To Perform The Drill:

This next soccer drill aims to evaluate how quickly players can shoot the ball after receiving a pass. Start by having 1 player in the square created by four targets placed by the coach earlier. Now have another three players roughly 15 yards from the player in the box; both players should have a soccer ball. 

Now have one of the “outside” players pass the ball to the player in the square. Once he has received the pass, the player should try to shoot as quickly as possible. Repeat the drill until all players have passed the ball to the player in the box, then rotate players.

Top-Tip: Although players need to shoot quickly, the coach should still stress the importance of controlling the ball first.

Click HERE to see how it works.

Dribbling Skills: Attack On The Cones

How To:

This next drill is all about dribbling. The assistant coach should create a 10 X 10-yard box using 4 cones, then place one cone in the center. Players dribble their ball to the cone in the center and return to their starting position while trying to maintain control of the ball.

As players gain confidence, the coach should encourage each player to go faster. As an alternative, you can have 2 players from the opposite sides of the square start at the same time and see who finishes first. Another option is having players make a “move” on the cone, then continue to the opposite side.

Top-Tip: Although this drill looks easy, it’s highly versatile because it’s “time-based,” meaning it’s perfect for players of all levels. For junior players, ensure they keep their “eyes up” to avoid colliding with other players. 

Click HERE to see how it works.


How To: 

This next drill requires 4 cones to create a square with 1 player in the middle of the box. Now, 4 players will start in the center of the square, and one team will start with the soccer ball. The objective here is simple, players in the middle need to get the ball to one of their teammates standing outside the box.

The players will work as a team, passing to each other while the other team does their best to defend and intercept the ball.

Top-Tip: The coach should emphasize the importance of teamwork, focus on clean and consistent passing skills, and teach players the importance of patience and decision-making.

Click HERE for a detailed example.

1 Vs. 1 In The Circle

1 Vs. 1 is a classic age-old drill perfect for evaluating ball skills and decision-making. The coach starts outside the center circle and throws the ball in. Two players start from different lines, then try to get to the ball first and return the ball successfully to the coach without stepping or dribbling outside of the circle. Once players A and B finish the drill, players C and D start, and the drill continues until all players have completed 3 attempts. 
Top-Tip: The coach should focus on fair play and avoid creating a “win-at-all-costs” attitude.

Click HERE to watch an example.

About The Author

Brenton Barker: Former Professional Sports Coach/Manager

Brenton is an Australian with 20 years of experience working with professional athletes. These athletes have combined to win more than ten international events. He holds a Degree in Sports Coaching and was the former Head Advisor to the Japanese Government Sports Institute.