Note: The Following Situation Took Place in a Small Town in Central Iowa. Any Resemblance to Youth Leagues in the Listening Area is Purely Coincidental.
Here is a scenario being played out all over the country, hundreds if not thousands of times a year. So try and envision this on your own little patch of Anytown, USA. And then let me know what you think.
We have 50 seventh and eighth grade players. It’s a large enough group to support three teams. However, not enough volunteers have stepped forward (an issue discussed in past columns) and as a result, there can only be two teams. That’s a cold, hard fact and shame on parents who are able but not willing to take on the responsibility of volunteering their time. Believe me, the guy out there coaching is just as busy as you are.
So it’s decided that the group will be divided into an A-team and a B-team. The A-team will only have eighth graders on the roster. There are plenty to choose from so no problem with that decision. Let’s say there are 28 eighth graders with a few first-timers among them.
The league announces that it will have tryouts for the A-team, and it does. When the teams are announced, 18 make the A-team and 32 are placed on the B-team. Almost the entire A-team is holdovers from last year’s squad.
Also assume that the sport being played calls for between nine and 11 players being on the field at any given time.
Before I move on, be careful not to get too caught up in the mindset that all A-team players are better than the kids on the B-team and are in the fast lane to stardom. The reality is this, many B-team players are either better than, will become better than as the season progresses, or will surpass their A-team counterparts by the time they all reach high school.
So this is not about being labeled A or B. This is about numbers; how many go with A and how many go with B.
Let’s discuss the outside factors that may or may not be issues in deciding the composition of these teams.
- To compete with some of the opposing towns, the roster needs to be as tight as possible with players already familiar with the coach’s system.
- The new players that make the team, ideally, should have attended outside clinics for that sport throughout the “off-season”.
- Too many unproven players can affect the team chemistry.
Let’s stop right here. This is the perfect example of what usually happens by keeping a select group of players together year after year.
What is the purpose of creating these super teams? Is it to win the Eighth Grade World (insert sport) Championship? If so, it’s a terrible excuse for not putting the “last” four to six players on the roster.
This is not what I envision as a system that has the total sum of its parts as the main focus of its mission. Not when those on the outer fringes of the loop are only lacking the cohesiveness that comes from practicing with their teammates.
This mentality, this mindset, this culture is present in so many programs. I’m sure many of them feel forced into it just so they can compete on the same level as the powerhouses in their leagues.
I fail to find anything positive in this. I do not see the benefit to the children or the programs. It’s a win-at-all-costs mentality and when it’s all said and done, what has really been accomplished?
The bowl of alphabet soup will not serve the group well unless it’s stirred properly – proportioned properly – and served properly. It’s a big can. You can’t start and stop with the first bowl!
In high school sports, sacrifices are made so that the needs of the Varsity program are first and foremost. This should never be the case with the 14 and younger crowd.
The dynamics of a league can change yearly and sometimes it calls for a shift in philosophy. Unfortunately, many coaches and the organizations they are driving will most likely stay on the plotted course.
I would ask every youth program in the county to ponder a few things:
- Who exactly is benefiting and how?
- Is a smaller group being favored at the expense of others?
- Are they looking at the entire picture?
- Do the coach’s egos ever dictate the choices being made?
- Why does the organization exist – what is their ultimate goal?
So round and round we continue to go… in this vicious cycle. And where it stops, I think we already know.