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The high school girls that I coached during the fall and winter had their school tryouts last week. A couple of my best players weren’t picked for any teams at their school. These are Juniors in high school that could have played “C” Team, JV or Varsity. There are players that were selected for these teams that are not as good as the players that were left out.
I don’t understand the motivations of many high school coaches. They’ll select Seniors just because their Seniors. They’ll take Freshman because of the club they play for and not based on their current ability on the field.
The motivations of most club coaches is pretty clear to me, put the best team they can together.
I’ve never been a high school coach so maybe I’m missing something but I’d love for someone to explain to me why you’re not picking the best team you can to represent your school.
Today’s question comes from Mike. He’s asking about how to group young players.
“ I’m currently coaching my daughter in a u10 rec setting. I have a crazy, ridiculous number of players at 14 for 7 aside. I have 5 above average players, 5 average and 4 below average players in terms of skill and stage of development. I’ve gotten a couple of parents to volunteer to help during training sessions so that I can break them into 2 groups.
The 2 parents will monitor a 3v3 or 4v4 while I take the other group and do some training. One group has the 5 strongest players and I rotate from 2-3 of the average players into that group. I typically keep the same theme but make the exercises much more challenging for the stronger group while giving the average players a taste of that more challenging exercise.
Then I swap groups and the stronger will play the small sided while I train the weaker group on more fundamental levels usually without the progression unless they seem to get it.
Now I’m coming to our first match and am trying to figure out how to run 2 platoons. I could keep the same mindset as I do in practice and run a stronger and weaker platoon leaving 1 field spot open for a rotation. Benefits, the better players will get to play together as they already train together. The weaker group will be forced to play without having to rely on the better players, giving them more opportunities.
Risks, upsetting parents and we go from really strong to really weak.
Or do I split them evenly? Or maybe have 1 or 2 stronger players rotate in with the weaker group, but they would likely dominate the touches on the ball as well as get frustrated.
I really hate this situation. It’s much better than the situation we were in last season with only 9 players. I’m just trying to figure out how to keep players developing, having fun and happy.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated! “
Thanks for the question Mike!
It sounds like you’re managing a difficult situation very well.
If you were playing a team who also had 17 players and were rotating a stronger and weaker group that would be the way to go in my opinion. That would challenge the players at a level that would help them the most and be the most fun.
My guess is that you will not be playing teams similar to yours. In that case I would surround your weaker players with stronger players that will help support them. Put the weaker players in the best positions for them and then put the stronger players around them. This is the reverse of ‘hiding’ your weaker players. You could hide a weak player at forward and they won’t hurt you that much but it won’t help them at all.
In this Episode
Three years ago in episode #49 Preparing for the US Soccer Rule Changes I discussed the impending changes to youth soccer with a panel of Club Directors, Coaches, Administrators and Association officials.
Today I’ll look back at each of the changes that were made and how they have impacted the game, the players and their coaches.
We’ll start training outdoor full time next week so I’m planning to share how that has gone after such an inconsistent transition between indoor and outdoor.
In defense of high school coaches: in the case of our school, there are several issues that plague our ability to select the best team.
1. We don’t always know the players trying out – there are 4 travel clubs in the are and we have no way of knowing them all
2. Many times we get a verbal resume with an arrogant player who shows up but is a no show physically or tactically during tryouts – walks during sprints and much more lazy conduct – they are relying on the resume but don’t leave it on the field
3 we also get recreational players who show up and give their all aggressively out playing those with resumes – pay to play model doesn’t always produce the best player
4 school rules keep us in handcuffs. Ours will not allow us to put a junior or senior on Jv. This forces a bloated group and a long incompetent bench or a serious cut in cases – neither is a winner with parents who pay admission to come to the games.
Our council to players on day one of tryouts – no resumes please, leave your resume on the field with your actions. Those who don’t – get cut or stay on JV.
Thanks for sharing your challenges Chris. I appreciate the perspective of a High School coach.
With regards to the question that you answered today. One thing that kept coming to mind while listening to this is there doesn’t need to be a answer that you then abide by the whole time. Mixing things up is great and giving players the opportunity to be mixed in with more skilled players is great…but then also giving them opportunity to play with similar skilled or even less skilled is still beneficial as well.
That’s a great point Robby; it doesn’t have to be one way all of the time.
As a parent of a freshman and youth coach I can tell you that the selection process is disappointing. our coach has 3 kids in high school and all of them are on the team and their friends, plus a couple of teachers also have boys playing. In my opinion some of them don’t deserve to be on the team…that leaves just a few spots for kids who are actually working hard to deserve a spot.
Thanks for sharing your perspective Jesse.
Unfortunately, I hear way too many stories like this.
In regards to the HS question. I’m a HS boys coach in the KC metro area and the situation you describe is unfortunately tricky to deal with (in my opinion). My school has 3 teams (varsity, JV, and a C team) and we are a school that has under 1000 enrolled students that has a successful football program. A lot of people may not realize this, but that situation is rare. I had 67 kids try out for our 3 teams last year. We kept 55, but that’s teetering on too many, in my opinion. Like someone else commented, we have policies in place on what teams kids can play on. In my situation, I won’t put juniors on our C team and we try to not play seniors on our JV team. I just re-listened to your podcast with Terry Michler from August 2016 on how he handles his HS program. The state of Kansas is much different in rules than MO. We only play 16 games plus the playoffs (max of 5 games). We don’t get to start until mid-way through August and our state final is the same weekend as MO. We can’t have volunteer assistant coaches and like he mentioned, our district prefers that coaches work within the building or district if they are qualified. So, since I am only allowed 2 assistant coaches and myself for 3 teams, it’s unfair for both players and coaches if we keep all 67 kids. Therefore, I have to make cuts. When I look at my cuts, I look at seniors first: are they going to play AND are they going to make a significant impact on our team this year. Juniors: if they don’t make varsity, are they are in a starting role on the JV team? If not, who starts ahead of them? Someone younger? If that is true, I look at how they have progressed from a freshman to a junior and have they made significant growths and (this is where it gets subjective, unfortunately) will they make a significant growth between now and their senior year in order to pass that checklist mentioned above for seniors? Sophomores and freshmen: we look at their current ability and whether or not they are coachable. We also look at their work ethic and conditioning during tryouts. With an even shorter season, we don’t get time to focus on conditioning a lot, so it’s on them.
Sorry for the novella, but there is a lot that goes into thought process around a HS program. Unfortunately, the business of HS soccer isn’t as much on development as it is winning. Compare it to an international tournament (not saying it’s more important at all, just the mindset and time frame). Or, look at it as Club season being the marathon and HS season being a sprint. Personally, I make it more about development, but some HS coaches don’t see it that way.
I’ve been passively listening/reading soccer coaching weekly for a few years and never realized you were based out of KC. I even had to google you just to find out you coached my niece until this year. Small world!
Love the podcasts, love all the content; keep the great work coming!
Thanks for sharing your perspective Drew!
Small world indeed!
I coach a u12 team and a junior hi team. I prefer for them not to head the ball. Their brains are too important. Most likely none of them are going pro in soccer, but they are all going pro in using their brains.
Too many times I see kids head the ball to the other team. I prefer that we receive the ball on our chest or foot and control it. The only exception for me would be corners or throwins.
I really like your idea of being able to head a ball once it hits the ground (for punts and long free kicks). That would make it much safer.
The most risky part of heading is colliding with another player. I prefer that my players avoid butting heads and just win the ball when it comes down.
Thanks for sharing your perspective JT!
Hi Top – I’ve been listening to your podcasts for a few years now and I always learn something. Thanks for putting them out!
I’d also like to hear your perspective on the restrictions placed on high school athletes who play Academy soccer. There are so many Academies now that a wide gap has emerged between the top Academy players and those outside of that group. Those at the top are clearly exceptional players in every way. Almost all are on track to play for a premier D1 program, or possibly beyond.
Those outside of that small set of players, however, are unlikely to earn a spot on a D1 roster, and may not even have the skills to make it on a D3 roster. Yet they seek top competition so they play academy and forfeit what may be the highlight of their soccer careers – high school varsity soccer.
Full disclosure, I am a HS boys varsity coach and I lose one or two players a class to the Academies. Again, for those players who are truly at the top of the food chain, playing MLS academy or on track for a D1 career at an NCAA tournament-level program, I fully support their decisions to go for it. There are very few kids who reach this level.
The Federation mandates the Academy-only model. I wonder if it is helping Is this is good thing? It is making US soccer better? Is it forcing kids and families to make decisions they’d rather avoid? Is it helping a small minority of players at the expense of all soccer players?
Thanks for listening! I’m glad you find the podcast useful.
I discussed my perspective on the DA vs High School topic in episode 121.
For me the two are choices that each player and family have to consider if they’re offered a spot on a DA team. There are certainly positives and negatives to both environments.
The fringe players you describe make the choice to play on a DA team and forgo high school soccer because they feel there are more positives to the DA program than negatives.
I’m glad both options exist. Only time will tell which one is better in the long term.
HS soccer sounds like a good topic for a podcast. I appreciate the comments from the HS coaches here. I know there are two sides to every story.
I would like to hear more from HS coaches on how they evaluate ability, how that factors into the style of play they are trying to achieve and how they communicate what they are looking for to players and parents.
For example, I rarely hear specifics on what coaches look for in terms of ball skills and pattern play knowledge.
Tom — Love your podcast. I wish I would have heard some of the easy-to-understand terms and phrases you use to coach much earlier in my coaching coaching career.
What coaches look for varies so much from one coach to the next. For so many they just, “Know it when they see it.”
I’m glad that you’re finding the suggestions helpful.
I’m just saying it might make for an interesting podcast to hear from 2 or 3 coaches and what they look for. I realize it will vary by coach.
I will go back and listen to the podcast Drew mentioned with Terry Michler. That might have what I’m looking for.
I’m a high school boys varsity coach and I evaluate the boys based on five metrics:
Technical (3x), tactical (3x), speed/fitness (2x), strength (2x) and mental (1x). They are weighted as you see in the parentheses. We have a four day tryout. 1 session per day. 2 hours per session. I and my assistant keep separate spreadsheets. We tally it up and see who ends up on top.
A good amount of data, but it’s only four days and I don’t know a some of the players, especially when they come in as underclassmen. Sometimes we miss kids and it’s our fault – we didn’t see them at their best positions, we misinterpreted some of their skills – and sometimes it’s their fault – they weren’t fit, they didn’t handle the pressure of a tryout, they didn’t put themselves in a position to get our attention. There are also the timing of a player’s entry to our system. For example, I may be flush with sr midfielders and the soph boy won’t ever see the field, so we decide to cut him from varsity so he’ll get more playing time (and development) at JV. And finally, there’s the physical fact that an 18 yr old and a 14 yr old are vastly different, physically, and few 14 yr olds have played against 18 yr olds.
Anyway, that how we do it in brief. We are constantly trying to make tweak it to make it better. Any ideas would be helpful
Hi Tom and fellow listeners
Great conversation regarding HS soccer.
I’m in a unique perspective of being a DOC to a club, having a son play for 2 different HS programs (he transferred HS) and also I coach at a HS.
What I have witnessed is a lack of a positive culture or identity within HS
programs. There is time, or as a HS coach find the time to discuss team structure, the teams DNA, its core values, who, what, why and how a HS Student Athlete in your program carries themselves. The best people will rise to the top, that is the best way to make decisions about the make up of your team. You may take a gamble on a freshman because there is no historical data, after that the actions of the individuals speak for themselves, and the coach is no longer making the cuts the individual student athlete decides.
Less discussions with parents, because once the criteria is in writing, it’s very difficult to dispute if they are not doing what’s asked of them why do they deserve an exemption, what makes them more important than the team.
It’s also super important your system of play, and playing styles be thoroughly understood by your staff, and your Freshman or “C” team have the best coach in your program, that and your JV team are development models. That is clear by the fact that your second and third teams do not have a playoff, this is a clear message your game score results mean nothing.
The other part regarding elite athletes is to talk to your student athletes about ENCL. this allows them to play at an elite level, without giving up HS soccer.
When you look into it you’ll find the ECNL is doing some great stuff to for the kids, both girls and now boys.