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In order to provide players with the most fun and best possible development environment, they should be playing with and against players of similar ability on a regular basis.  In order to group players by ability, they must be evaluated.  Branford evaluates players and selects teams based on a combination of Tryout Evaluations and Season Evaluations. The process is designed to be as thorough, accurate and fair as possible, while keeping costs, administrative burden and player/parent time commitment at reasonable levels.
As described in more detail below, it is important to emphasize that the Tryout Evaluation is the first and primary determinant of a player’s team placement.  This puts all players on an equal footing each Spring and gives each player a “clean slate” opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in an unbiased and thorough tryout involving all players in the age group.


  • Tryouts are held in late Spring/early Summer for each age group
  • Each player has the opportunity to participate in two 1 ½ hour tryout sessions
  • Players are evaluated by professional coaches, primarily in small-sided games (4 v. 4 to 8 v. 8)
  • Efforts are made to ensure that players play with and against different players over the course of the two tryouts
  • Branford  tries to maintain a player/coach ratio of no more than 15 to 1
  • Players are evaluated for skill, athleticism and attitude.


  • Tryout Evaluations are the first and most important determinant of a player’s team placement
  • Any player wanting to maximize their chances of making the team of their choice should participate in all  tryout sessions


  • This process is similar to that used by a wide variety of town soccer associations, premier clubs and other soccer and athletic organizations
  • Experienced observers agree that this process, though not perfect, generates very accurate placement of players
  • Over the course of 2 to 3 hours of tryout games, it is very rare that a player fails to play at their “true” playing level (be that level weak, average or strong)
  • Despite the extensive nature of the evaluation process, it remains difficult (by definition) to make reliable distinctions between players with very similar abilities



Despite all reasonable efforts to make fair and good decisions, some mistakes will be made when evaluating approximately 100 players. In addition, there will inevitably be differences between some parents’ perception of their child’s ability and the perceptions of the coaches and evaluators.  Branford fully understands that differences in perception can create disappointment and frustration on the part of the players and parents affected.
However, Branford is committed to providing a quality soccer opportunity to all players, regardless of which team they are selected for (i.e., professional skill training, appropriate game competition, etc.). Thus, disappointing decisions need not derail a committed, enthusiastic soccer player’s development.  To stay on track, however, it is critical that the player and the parents do their best to stay positive and take advantage of the opportunities they have to improve over the year so that they are well positioned to “succeed” at the following year’s tryouts.

Basic Objectives
  • Spark an enthusiastic passion for the game of soccer
  • Help boys and girls develop into skillful, effective soccer players
  • Provide all players with realistic challenges and an appropriate level of competition and commitment
  • Encourage teamwork; sportsmanship; respect for others; self-discipline; good work habits; and healthy, fun competition



The Branford team composition policies are intended to help all soccer players develop – the most talented players and the less talented players. Branford believes this objective is best achieved by grouping players, as best we can, by ability, so that they face “realistic challenges”.  “Realistic challenges” provide players with opportunities to be pushed without being overwhelmed and chances to succeed, but only with their best efforts.  In the U11 to U14 age brackets, this results in:
  • Generally, a “Comp” travel team of 16 players and a “Rec” travel team of 16 to 18 players in each age bracket
    • The roster sizes are intended to maintain manageable team sizes while giving a significant number of kids the opportunity to play travel soccer
    • Some age brackets may only have one team if there are not enough players to form two teams of at least 14 players
  • The teams are differentiated by playing ability into “Comp” and “Rec” teams because:
    • It provides most players with realistic challenges and appropriate intra-team competition
    • It provides a platform for success for talented players – a key to enthusiasm
    • It realistically reflects the significant difference in abilities between the top 5 - 10 players and players 20 – 35.
    Branford suggests that parents discuss several key points about team selection with their children (these points will be reinforced by their coaches at the beginning of the season)
  • Each year, some players move from the Recreation program into the travel program, from Rec teams to Comp teams and vice versa.  Thus, players have both the opportunity to move “up” as well as the risk of moving “down.”  Therefore, no player should be overly discouraged or overly complacent about his or her current team assignment.  Their placement in future years will depend on their performance over each season and in future tryouts.  In fact, parents and players should expect that team composition will change each year.


  • Travel players are expected to make a strong commitment to soccer
  • This commitment includes  both fall and spring seasons.
  • Flexible arrangements can be made in the spring to accommodate players who play other sports.
  • This level of commitment is necessary to enable travel players to enjoy competing against travel players throughout the District
  • Players who do not wish to make the necessary commitment should consider playing for a Recreation team rather than a Comp team
  • Failure to play in the spring season hurts the whole team by reducing roster sizes, reducing team quality and potentially forcing the team to disband if there are insufficient players. 


  • Travel players should consistently attend two training sessions during the week
  • Travel players should participate as often as possible in any extra practices organized by their coaches
  • Participating in practices is as important as participating in games – this is where skills are learned and developed.


  • Travel players should, absent exceptional circumstances, participate in all league and State Cup games in the fall and spring
  • They should participate in at least one weekend tournament during each season
  • They should participate as often as possible in scrimmages and friendly matches arranged by the coaches


  • Travel players are strongly encouraged to participate in indoor soccer activities in the winter – skill training, leagues and/or tournaments.
  • Travel players are strongly encouraged to participate in at least one week of soccer camp in the summer.  One week of full-day soccer camp provides playing time equivalent to one 10-week season of travel soccer practices!


  • All kids make choices about how to commit their time and energy.  There are no right or wrong choices, but the choices have consequences.
  • Players who choose to make a strong commitment to soccer will improve faster, will enjoy the game more, get more playing time and derive more satisfaction from their participation in the sport.
  • Players who choose not to make this commitment should realize they will not improve as much and therefore their soccer experience will probably not be as rewarding.


  • All Rec travel players should play, on average, at least 50% of every game. All Comp travel players should play, on average, at least one-third of every game. The difference is that Comp teams are, by definition, "competitive." In other words, Comp coaches are well within their rights to try to win, and parents should understand that Comp travel is different from Rec travel
  • Although circumstances may result in a player playing less in a particular game, particularly tournaments, no player should consistently play less than this amount over the course of the season.
  • Players who miss significant practice time or who demonstrate inappropriate behavior in training or matches may play less at the discretion of the coach


  • Most players should expect to play in several different positions during the season
  • No player should play exclusively as a goalkeeper, unless they specifically request to be a “full time” goalkeeper.
  • Playing a variety of positions develops well-rounded players who understand the responsibilities associated with, and the importance of, all positions on the team.


  • The coaches will teach players to play controlled, skillful soccer, not “kick and run” soccer. 
  • The coaches will teach players to “play their positions” and maintain good team shape
  • Good, controlled play will be encouraged even in circumstances where a “kick and run” approach might increase the team’s chances of winning.
  • Coaches will encourage players to compete, to play hard and fair and to accept physical contact as part of the game.  


  • Winning is not the primary goal of Branford – the goal is to develop skillful, effective soccer players who will be successful and enjoy playing for many years
  • However, winning some games is an important generator of enthusiasm.  Therefore, travel teams are expected to play to win without compromising playing time and player development objectives
  • If the players try hard, try to play the way they are being taught to play and display good sportsmanship, then they are successful, regardless of the final score.
  • Children learn best and have the most fun when they are challenged, but without the pressure for results.  The challenge is for the team to play hard, score goals and to play good soccer – let the winning take care of itself!
  • Excessive focus by adults on results actually inhibits player development and can cause players to “burn out” on soccer.


  • Each coach has their own unique coaching style that reflects their personality.  However, all coaches should be enthusiastic, encouraging and positive during games.
  • Neither the team nor individual players should be humiliated or harshly criticized before, during or after games. 
  • Coaches should demonstrate the highest standards of sportsmanship at all times