Friday, June 5, 2020
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QUESTION…Whatever happened to the counting off method for choosing teams? When I was a kid, we would always just count off: “1, 2, 1, 2, etc”. It worked fine for years. Now it seems like every team has to have “try-outs” to make the teams. Things have gotten too complicated and I think there is too much pressure on the kids during a “try-out” session and they may fold under the pressure and not give a true reading of their ability. What do you think? Is it unrealistic to think that we could go back to a system that worked for so many years?

Justin, McConnellsburg, PA


ANSWER…Hi Justin! I think I am going to have to take the opposite side on this one. Sometimes the best thing is to recognize the need to adjust to the changes that are happening around you. Being tied in to a system that worked before, but not seeing the need to change could really negatively affect the kids.

I appreciate your desire to stay with the old system and be “old school” I also have a tendency to be old school and stick to the ways of before. However, I have learned that may not always be the best.

With my basketball club program, I have tryouts for my teams for every new season that comes. That means, every 9-10 weeks I am having tryouts.

This has really proven to be the safe method. With my tryouts, I do not cut kids, but use the tryouts to properly place kids. With the club system, there are several options for levels of teams and also for levels of league play. There is nothing worse than putting a kid on a team that is too advanced for him. If you want to hurt a kid’s spirits and ruin his fun, then do just that. At the same time, it is just as bad to place a really talented kid on a team with beginning players. There is frustration in both of these examples.

I know that car-pooling and playing on the same team with a friend is important, and necessary, so I always try to accommodate those requests.

The tryout system is really a valuable tool to help the kids when run right. I agree with you that tryouts can create “pressure”, and you may not see the players’ true abilities. That is why the tryout process has to be explained to the kids and to let them know that they are going to be placed on teams (not cut from the program) that will be best for them. I always let them know too that if we make a mistake, and put someone on the wrong team, we will always try to correct that mistake.

Now, if you are talking about kids at the park that you are trying to put in teams for a little “fun at the park” Sunday afternoon soccer game with friends from the neighborhood, then I would suggest another system for choosing teams.

This system works great:

As the parent/coach give this command, “When I say go, I want you to stand back to back with a partner”.

Now you have several groups of paired off kids. You then take these paired off groups and then group them together to make 2 even teams. This system doesn’t leave anyone out or feeling “left out”. It also allows you to make even teams by strategically placing pairs of kids with outer pairs so that the talented pairs are not all on the same team, but evenly distributed.

The kids are ok with this system as well because at least they get to be on the same team with at least one of their friends, and maybe even more depending on the placement by the parent/coach.


The “count off” 1, 2, 1, 2, system has many flaws and can create too numerous problems. Kids don’t remember which number they are, or they “accidentally on purpose” forget which number they are so that they can be with their friend. Or, they strategically place themselves in line, as they count ahead to make sure they get on the same team as their friend. I give this system the thumbs down.

There you have it, a couple of ideas for putting teams together depending on different situations. Maybe for this one, let’s say, “out with the old and in with the new!”

If you have questions or comments for Tom Kuyper, you can email him at:

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