Trials and grading

A key part of getting ready for the football season is the process of trials and grading players. This can be for the purpose of selecting into talent development programs or for the purpose of organising squads for divisons.

In any case, key underpinning principles for the trial process should include:

  • A safe and respectful environment for every player to try their best
  • A clear and methodical process to ensure players are given every opportunity to succeed
  • A consistent and planned approach to selection

What to look for?

We recommend using the key words to inform the selectors on what to look for. Below, the definitions for each word, and examples of each in terms of core actions, are listed.

  • Smart players who understand the game and link this to the skills needed to perform…
    • They may scan to see if they are free quite often
    • They may position themselves between defenders to get free
  • Skilful players who have highly effective & adaptive skills and decision-making under pressure
    • They may try different skills and be creative in taking players on
    • They may have a range of different passes
  • Athletic players who are consistently available and prepared for the various demands of football and life
    • They may be agile and able to get in behind defenders
    • They may be robust by constantly putting themselves into individual battles
  • Ruthless players with a strong work ethic who consistently strive to develop themselves and teammates
    • They may look to get into goal scoring positions often
    • They may be very desperate to stop shots
  • Resilient players who are humble and can adapt to challenges & setbacks in order to perform
    • They may keep putting in full effort throughout the trial
    • They may respond to challenges from the coach or trial in a positive way
  • Tribal players who are committed to their environments and the people within them
    • They may be positive and enthusiastic, showing they are keen to be a part of the environment
    • They may communicate constantly with other players

You should also look for players who have X-factors in any of the key words. This means they may be particularly dominant in one of the descriptors above.

Recommended trial overview

We recommend the following process, although this is naturally dependent on resources, timings and field availability.

  • Set up
  • Frame the trial
  • Small sided braiding games
  • King of the hill
    Signing of firstplayers
  • Medium/large games
    Final signings made
  • Conclude the trial
    Communication to all players

For this process, clubs will need bibs, braids, cones and goals. We recommend for any trial/grading, that you ask participants to bring balls in addition to any you may have as a club, to ensure there is a good supply.


  • The trial organiser arrives early, to ensure that all fields are set up as per the organisation of the trial
  • This includes ensuring there are sufficient bibs and braids for each area. Additionally, they ensure there are pancakes in the central area of the field where players can be organised into small groups/regrouped (the pancakes represent the small fields they will go to).

Frame the trial

  • As players arrive, they are directed to a waiting area. Managed by coaches, they are seated in their respective age groups
  • The technical lead calls all players in as a large group. Firstly address them by thanking them for coming into trial, and that we are excited to see what they can do. Outline two expectations; that they have fun and that they show us how they can play. Remind them to keep their ball and water bottle with them at all times as they move around the trial.
  • Then, the organiser breaks the large group into smaller groups for small sided braiding games. These smaller groups go to a coach who leads them to their field

Small sided braiding games

  • Each coach takes their group through a short warm up, using Perform+ exercises
  • Divide the group into two teams to play what is typically a 3v3 – 6v6 small sided game
  • Get the ball rolling quickly and have balls ready to keep the game flowing
  • Quickly braid players as per the colour allocation for the trial
    • Coaches should not worry about ‘getting it wrong’ but rather focus on getting braids out quickly
    • Braids can always be moved off or switched between players as the trial progresses
  • At designated time intervals managed by the organiser, the games stop for a break. During this time, coaches rotate groups so you “get multiple eyes” on players
  • The technical lead floats and supports coaches during this process
  • At the end of the designated period for small sided braiding games, all braids should be distributed so there is a healthy mix across the colour allocations
  • Players are brought back to the central area. Remind them to keep the braid on (like a backpack!)

King of the hill

  • In the central area, the technical lead reorganises the games so that players are now in groups according to their colour braid (i.e. all those in the ‘top colour’ will now play against each other)
  • These games will again be 3v3, up to 6v6, and managed by coaches
  • A ‘top’ field is made clear to coaches with the ‘hill’ moving clockwise around each set up field
  • Players return to playing
  • Coaches now move players up and down fields. This should be done quickly with the intent of “multiple eyes, multiple opportunities” and to ensure players are moved quickly as the trial progresses
  • The ‘top field’ may become a medium sized game during this time (e.g. 7v7 to 9v9). This may also be the second top field as well.
  • At this point, the technical lead should now be observing the top field to ensure the first round of selections (based on the top field, and the number of players to be signed) can be confirmed
  • They coordinate with the organiser to ensure decision-making is calm and clear
  • At the conclusion of king of the hill, a certain amount of players may be selected. Who communicates to these players and their parents is designated by the organiser.
  • Remaining players are regathered in the central area

Medium/large sided games

  • The organiser reorganises the players into groups for medium/large sided games (e.g. 7v7 to 11v11, depending on the age group)
  • During this time, coaches reset fields as required
  • These games will typically have a ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ field. Coaches observing must be separate from one another so they can remain focused on assessing players. They can move players up and down fields as required
  • During this time, the technical lead manages the braiding of players to be selected based on colour allocation. Coaches support this process
  • The technical lead also manages group discussions regarding decisions on players, ensuring each conversation is targeted and focused on one player at a time
  • The organiser manages when/how players are selected during this time, depending on the numbers required

Conclude the trial

  • At the end of the trial, the organiser and technical lead must be clear on:
    • The selection of players
    • Any reserve players/players who are borderline
    • Who has not been selected
  • The organiser designates coaches to speak to each group as appropriate.
  • Selected players collect their parents and meet a designated coach to be spoken to/taken to be registered
  • In the case there are any players who have not been selected, they should be thanked for their efforts, encouraged to keep working hard and reminded of the importance of resilience