You made the call! Now let me give you the results…
First, a little re-cap:
A soccer club held a try-out for youth interested in playing on their club soccer team. The try-outs went fine until they got to the 13u and the 14u age divisions. There were just enough 13 year olds to form a 13 and under team. The numbers were just enough to put a team together with only one or possibly two substitutes; no margin for illness or absences.
Now, when it came to the 14u age division, only 4 boys showed up for try-outs, obviously not enough to put a team together. The coach did recognize the effort it took for all the kids and parents to at least come so he worked with the kids for an hour giving them a little practice time to at least get the benefit for coming.
When he saw these 14 year olds practice he noticed that their skill development was at a lower level than the 13 year olds. Nice kids and coachable kids, just not very skilled yet.
When this little practice session was over, the coach knew that he had a decision to make as to what to do with these 14 year olds.
What should the coach do?
1. The most popular response was to combine the two age groups having the 13 year olds play up with the 14 year olds.
While this looks great on paper and in theory, this is still a very difficult situation. I have had to put a team like this together and play up and it was a horrible experience for everyone, including the opposing teams. No one likes to beat a basketball team by 50 points or a soccer team by 20 goals. It is no fun for anyone. It also discourages the losing team so much that disappointment, humiliation and frustration leads to quitting.
2. The next most popular response was to go out and recruit more players for each team.
I love that idea, and could really be the easy fix. But in a time crunch and an already low turnout, this can end up to be too little too late.
3. Some wrote in with an idea to invite the 14 year olds to all the practices with the 13 year olds. Although they wouldn’t be able to play in the games, at least they could practice and stay involved and improve their skill level. “Late bloomers get a chance to improve”.
4. Another popular response: call the league administration and all the coaches and let them know of your dilemma and offer this solution. Based on the fact that the 14 year olds are inexperienced and lack much playing experience, form one team and have them play in the 13u division. As long as everyone knows and approves it, this could be a very good idea. This team will have enough players, they just might be strong enough to have closer games, and the other teams will not have “blow out” situations, but will have close, fun and exciting games. This keeps the focus on why kids play sports. To have fun, improve, and find success. Sometimes we get so focused on the letter of the law, we lose sight of what is really important.
5. Here is the exciting news: everyone who wrote in said that “cheating” and dishonestly playing the 14 year olds as 13 year olds was not an option! WAY TO GO!!!
Good job everyone with all your feedback and involvement. I hope these ideas can be helpful to others!