One of the most frequent questions our community members ask is, how can I get a professional or semi-professional football trial?
Although there is no conclusive answer to this, we’ve attended enough trials over the years to have a good idea of some of the best practices to increase your chances of making it.
Below is an in-depth review of everything you need to know about the trial process including:
- How to prepare for a football trial?
- How to perform well at a football trial?
- Our recommended professional football trial companies
Have a general question about football academies, check out our football academies FAQ’s page.
What Is a Football Trial?
We’ll start with the basics and explain what a football trial is and why professional clubs use them.
An academy football trial allows young players to get a taste of the academy environment. Players can experience the surroundings at a potential club before committing to them or being offered a period of registration. The trial also allows the club to get a good look at the player and all aspects of his/her game over a desired period.
What Is Involved at a Football Academy Trial?
Football trials differ from club to club, depending on the coaching philosophy and the player’s development phase. A few professional clubs still hold open trials or talent identification days; but these are more uncommon nowadays due to the increase of scouting networks. These network works alongside the clubs community football scheme, local schools and grassroots clubs to handpick and track the most talented players. Most clubs also use a wider network of scouts reporting back to the club, either nationally or internationally depending on budget.
For more information on professional clubs community football schemes check out our soccer schools section.
Once you have been selected for a football academy trial, the recruiter will approach your parents to invite you to attend. The majority of professional trials take place over a 6 week period, in which the player will attend training and play in matches. During this 6 week period the coaches will assess the player on the four main areas of football development. Looking into the technical, tactical, physical and social aspects of your game and personality.
If you are successful during this period the club could either offer you an annual registration or extend your trial for up to 18 weeks. If you are unsuccessful the club may invite you to join the development centre to help bridge the gap from youth football to academy football. They may also allow you to return to your youth football club where a scout may still watch your games.
The trial process is different for most semi-professional football teams, with players often invited to train and play in matches being assessed over a shorter period of time by the manager and coaching staff.
Have a general question about football academies, check out out football academies FAQ’s page.
Under 16 Football Trials – Football Academy Exit Trials
If you are currently at an academy and your club but your club are not offering you a scholarship or extended schoolboy registration, fear not as the Football League offers you a chance to continue your dream. Each year during the February half term, the Football League stage Under 16 assessment trials. Football scouts and sporting colleges/university attend these trials to assess the talent available and offer the chance to join a new club or move into higher education.
The Football League assessment trial is only for players who have been released from an academy during the current season.
League Football Education Assessment Trials – Under 19 Trials
If you are an academy apprentice with no offer of a further period of registration after completing two years, then a League Football Education assessment trial may be for you. This option provides a platform for released academy players or 1st year professionals to trial in front of professional and non-league club scouts and recruiters. Taking place throughout April and May at four select locations around the UK. This is a very prestigious opportunity, which attracts recruiters from both the UK and America.
For further details and to check if you’re eligible to take part in an LFE trial click here.
How to Prepare for a Football Trial?
The moment you are invited to a professional football trial, is when the real work begins. You will need to step up your training intensity to make sure that you are in peak condition come trial time. If you’re not already doing so we suggest training on certain aspects every single day to ensure your game is well rounded in all areas. No matter how good you think you are, there is always room for improvement.
You should create a personal training and development schedule to work towards your trial that covers the main areas that the academies look for:
Technically prepare – Working individually on the basics skills, such as dribbling, passing, shooting, close control and ball manipulation.
Tactically prepare: One of the best ways to improve your tactical awareness is by watching the professionals. Try to watch games from all over the world, concentrating on players in your position. See how hard they work when not in possession, how they communicate with team mates and how efficient they are with the ball. This will give you an understanding of awareness, positioning with/without the ball and vision.
Mentally prepare– Try to visualise the trial game in your head. Imagine yourself dribbling past a defended, scoring a goal or saving a penalty. Relax your mind and keep focused. Try to surround yourself and regularly talk to positive people, who can encourage you and keep your mind clear of negativity. Some of the main personality traits the club will look for are commitment, bravery, good team player, winning mentality, hunger to learn and players who don’t drop their head in negative situations.
Physically prepare – This is the time to put in work on your physical fitness. Hit the gym and get the sprints in. You need to improve your flexibility, speed, cardiovascular endurance, strength and acceleration to give you the edge over your competition on the day. Special consideration should be given to foot speed, straight line speed and speed endurance.
What to Eat Before a Trial?
As we mention in our football nutrition section, food and fuel intake plays a huge part in sporting performance and helping you reach optimum sporting output. It’s important you consume the correct amount of fuel at the best possible time to fully prepare you for your football trial. You want to be fully hydrated, with enough carbohydrates in your systems to make sure your muscle glycogen stores are replenished. Proper nutrition in the days leading up to a trial will allow for a better sleep pattern in the build up to the big day, also giving you the confidence that you are physically and mentally prepared for your trial.
On the morning of your trial, you must consume the right amount of carbohydrates at the right time, this differs depending on kick off or training time. Check out our pre match preparation plan for a detail plan on nutrition consumption.
Get a Good Nights Sleep
Experts suggest that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on all areas of athletic performance, ranging from lower cardio vascular ability to a decrease in muscular strength. Therefore it is essential you get a good night’s sleep in the days leading up to the trial. We suggest sticking to a sleeping pattern every night, to ensure your body is used to getting a full 8 hours of quality sleep a night. This can improve your performance by up to 10%.
Image Is Important at Football Trials…Make Sure You Look the Part
Football trials are similar to attending job interviews and your first impression has a lasting effect on recruiters. If you want to be taken seriously you must take your image seriously. We don’t suggest going out a buying the most expensive professional football kit, boots etc. However you need to have suitable training gear to help performance. We suggest:
• Large Sports Bag
• Clean Football boots with studs suitable for grass. (Make sure any new boots are worn in before the trial).
• Moulded Football boots for hard ground
• Astro turf trainers
• Shin pads
• Training tracksuit
• Shorts, socks and t-shirt or football shirt, this should be suitable for training and a good fit for you to be comfortable.
• Water bottle
• It may also be wise to bring a football, so you can warm up with a dribble around the pitch if you arrive early, to loosen up.
Having the correct equipment can give you the psychological boost you need at a trial. So make sure you look and carry yourself in a manner that tells the recruitment team you mean business.
Always Arrive Early to Your Football Trial
Punctuality is key! You want to arrive in good time so you can assess and get use to your surroundings, relax and do light stretching. This will enable you to visually plan out your trial and perhaps meet any of the recruiters before other trialists or players arrive.
A Good Attitude Is Important
Professional coaches know that skills can be taught and fitness can be trained. But a player’s attitude must always come from within. So you need to show that you have the desire to work hard, to apply yourself and leave everything on the pitch. They are looking for someone to support the team’s goal on and off the field.
“It is your ATTITUDE, not your APTITUDE that will determine your ALTITUDE.”
So play with a smile on your face, be enthusiastic and work as hard as you can for the team. Make sure that if you make a mistake, you give your all to rectify that mistake by tracking back and making it difficult for the opponent.
Understand the Team and Coaches Philosophy Before the Trial
Try to carry out as much research as possible on the team you are trialling for. It’s important to understand their style of play and the type of players the club is looking for. Most times a team will have the same philosophy from under 9’s all the way through to first team, so watch the professional team, especially players who play in your position. This can give you a great insight into what they require before you turn up.
The Coach Is There to Coach, so Listen and Learn
A big part of player recruitment for coaches is assessing how the player reacts to instructions and how the player learns. The best way to show this to a potential coach or manager is to be attentive, concentrate and listen to all information. Once you have taken the instructions on board try to demonstrate what they have asked for in real game situations. This will highlight your commitment to learning.
How to Pass a Football Trial?
So now you are fully prepared for your football trial. How do you maximise your chance of succeeding on the day or during the trial period?
The main issues during this stage are nerves, the fear of not performing and over thinking everything you do on the pitch or at training. The thing you need to remember is that a football trial is as much a test of your mental strength as it is your physical. Football trials allow scouts to assess how you react in a pressure situation, how you cope with a new environment, or stepping up a level in quality. So take a few deep breaths and show them you are as good as they already believe you are.
The recruiters are not trying to prove you aren’t good enough, they are on your side and hoping they have unearthed a future star.
Make Yourself Available in Game and Training Situations
It is important that you don’t shy away from the ball. You want to get involved and get on the ball as much as possible. Find space to receive the ball and always communicate when you are available. Even if you don’t receive the ball the recruiters will notice your efforts. Help out with defensive and attacking duties, by either finding space or tracking back where necessary. Stay alert to what’s happening all over the pitch and your own contribution to the game.
Be Efficient with the Ball
During the football trial you’ll soon notice that the pace of academy football may be quicker than youth football. Therefore you won’t have as much time and will have to play with more speed. It’s important to keep things simple and show you can do the basics efficiently. Concentrate on quick sharp passing, getting the ball under control effectively and opening the play with good technique. Don’t overdo it with excessive dribbling and showboating. A little skill is good but scouts and recruiters want to see an end product for the benefit of the team. By all means take a player on if it’s the right place on the pitch and there are no better options, but if you lose the ball work your hardest to track back put the opposition under pressure.
Be an Impact Player
Impact the game! Whether you’re a goalkeeper or striker, you need to make sure your contribution to the trial match or period is impactful. Alongside doing the basic efficiently, you need to make sure you leave something of quality in the recruiter’s mind that makes them want to sign you. As a striker the best thing you can do is score a goal, as a defender put in a strong fair tackle, or a winger put a great cross in that shows your delivery quality. Show the recruiters you have what it takes to influence a game. Communication is also a big attribute that football scouts like to see, if you appear to be orchestrating and leading the team this is a skill that every team requires.
Keep a Positive Mental Attitude
Although you may compete against other trialists, you need to show you can have a positive effect on your team mates. This is done by maintaining a positive attitude. You must support your team mates with encouragement and a selfless work rate on the pitch. It is also important to show a positive respectful attitude towards the officials and management team, as this indicates a lot about your character.
Leave Everything on the Field
Some things we often hear from unsuccessful trialists are:
• They regret they didn’t perform to their best
• They were overcome by nerves
• They weren’t prepared for the tactical change
Whether your football trial is an assessment day or a 6 week period you need to make sure you feel there is nothing else you could’ve done. Concentrate on your own game and don’t let the occasion get the better of you. Remember they’ve have already seen quality in you and that’s why they invited you to trial, so give it your all and make it impossible for them to say no.
Believe in Your Abilities
You were not invited to trial by chance. You were chosen above thousands of hopefuls for your opportunity to trial. An influential football expert has seen a special talent in your ability and personality. Clubs don’t have time to waste on players who have no chance of making it, so remember that you’re what they are looking for, you just have to show them why you belong. Every player you play or train with at the trial has been in your situation.
You Are Special
Every single player is individual and brings a certain set of skills they can perform better than the competition. The key to being successful at the trial is showing what your key set of skills are and how well you’ve trained and nurtured your skills to reach this level. Few football enthusiasts get the chance to trial or train at this level; take that as affirmation you are a cut above the rest.
Most of All Have Fun
Remember why you started playing football in the first place, because it was fun. Football is not life or death, it is a game and players express their talents more when they enjoy themselves. So take the experience of the trial in and enjoy every minute. Even if you don’t make it through this time, you will gain a huge amount of ‘money can’t buy’ knowledge about football trials. This will put you in a great position for the next one.
Football Trials FAQ’s
Will I Be the Only Player on Trial or Is There Going to Be Others in My Situation?
Professional clubs are always on the lookout for new talent to join their ranks. So there’s a good chance a few players will also be on trial. This often means that you are competing against the current crop of registered players and any trialists in your position. However this is nothing to be concern with, as academy and professional football is extremely competitive, so you should expect this kind of pressure.
Is It a Good Idea to Make Friends with the Other Trialists?
You need to remember that you are on trial to get a chance of signing a registration or professional contract. Your main aim should be to impress the recruiters. By all means be a team player and conduct yourself professionally on the pitch. But you need to be focused on the task at hand and driven to succeed at your trial.
Once you have successfully past the trial, the chance at making friends and team mates will come. But you definitely are not there yet, so stick the plan and go out and impress.
Can I Just Turn up for an Academy Trial?
The majority of professional/ academy football trials are invite only. A player must already be registered for a local youth team and playing regular football before being considered for a trial. If you are playing regularly you can approach a club with your football CV and fixture list to request a scout to view your game. Players over the age of 17 will be too old for the academy and should approach the first team for a trial.
What Age Does Can a Player Trial for an Academy?
Academy football starts at the age of 9 years old; however young talent can attend training days or development centres.
As we come to the end of our definitive guide to football trials we advise you thoroughly research your next step. If you are going to go down the route of contacting the clubs directly we suggest reading our how to get scouted page. Or if you like the look of one of our recommended independent academies, we suggest giving them a call and sussing out which company works best for you.
Remember there is only so much a coach and experts can do to help; the majority of the work must come from you. So get your head in the game, plan out your journey and work your butt off to achieve it. If it was easy everyone would do it!
Let us know if you’ve got a trial coming up, or have experienced any of our recommended academies. Maybe you have worked with a similar company and would like to recommend them? Simply leave a comment below to help others get the information they need to move their football careers forward.