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Is "Select" Youth Football Destroying America?
“Selecting” a youth football team is a controversial topic for some. If done correctly, this might not be such a bad idea.
A youth football team “select” is simply what they call it, players are “selected” to play on a team. If some players are being “chosen”, it means that others are being “rejected”, where there is a rub for many.
Many elite youth football teams are assembled by coaches who actively recruit a “star studded” team. Coaches put together small groups of players to try out other players to see which players have the potential to play on the team. Most “select” teams have a week of practice and evaluation drills, and at the end of that week the coaches decide which players make the team and which don’t. Needless to say, there is a lot of resentment among football players and parents this weekend.
Many of these teams travel to out-of-state tournaments and cost anywhere from $150 to over $1,200 to play. They play in a youth football league made up of other “select” teams. The competitive nature of these football leagues and the fact that they usually only feature good players means that in most cases less attention is paid to each player getting proper playing time.
Advantages of “select” teams
1) Put more athletic players in competition with other more athletic players. This way you get the highest levels of improvement.
2) Undermatching between superior athletes vs. weaker or novice athletes.
3) Usually but not always, good training.
4) Players are grouped with others of similar commitment level, with less conflict between players.
5) Puts less athletic players back in the “pool” to play with players closer to their own ability.
6) Often allows first-year or younger players to play against other first-year or younger players.
1) Can be highly competitive.
2) Athletes can burn if they practice 5 nights a week and play 14 games.
3) Players are difficult to cut and may walk away from football forever.
4) Player evaluation is not an exact science, mistakes can and usually are made.
5) Those at the bottom of the “athleticism” index on select teams are rarely guaranteed playing time.
6) In most cases high costs or massive fundraising efforts are required.
7) Jealousy and jealousy from players and parents not selected for the “select” team.
With my Omaha program we have a process that eliminates many of the negatives. We have a select team, which plays in a league of other select teams. All other players who are not selected are placed in teams playing in leagues made up of unselected players for their respective selected teams. We have all age groups training together throughout the week. The selection team coaches then select a team that they feel is a good fit for the players’ athleticism, maturity, size and aggressiveness.
Our rural program is not selective, we make a team from whoever signs up in that age group from the flyers we give out at school.
Here are a few things we do to alleviate some of the problems in select teams:
1) All teams in our organization wear the same game and practice equipment including game jerseys. No preference is given to the select team.
2) Teams are designated by the park in which they practice, not “A” or “B”. Screaming Eagles- Spinlake, Screaming Eagles-Smith Park etc
3) We accept anyone who signs up or wants to play, not selective recruitment.
4) Each player is assigned to a team, there is no “cut”.
5) Each player understands that all teams are as important as others and players will be placed on the team that gives them the best chance to play.
6) Select teams are limited to 24 players or less, so everyone gets to play.
7) Instead of announcing which players made the select team, we placed the 5 team coaches in 5 different areas of the field. We let the kids know that we are going to call their names in alphabetical order which team they are on. All decisions about which player is on which team are made the night before, no heartbreaking decisions are made on the field. If a player is not selected for the select team, he is placed on the practice team closest to where he lives. As the players’ names are called, the players run to their assigned team and the coaches and players clap, high five, and make a big deal out of the player being placed on their respective team. Our selection process is a scenario where everyone is smiling and excited. Football coaches really drill into the heads of kids that they are excited about getting each individual player on their team, and that they convey the unique identity of that particular team.
8) Out-of-town bowl trips are awarded to teams based on weekly academic performance through our weekly Academic Accountability Report. Often our best teams don’t travel because they lack the academic performance of our other teams.
If selective youth football is managed properly, there should be no negative connotations surrounding it. Try to remove tension and embarrassment among unselected players.
I remember the selection process for the youth baseball team I played on a long time ago. “Coach” read only the names of the players who led the team to first place. He came in at number 11 on the 12 player list and I was sick to my stomach when my name wasn’t called yet. I was thinking how embarrassing it would be to not make the team, what would my friends on the team or my parents say? The players who didn’t make the team were told to go home, while the rest of us waited to listen to the coach’s instructions. I will never forget the look and tears in the eyes of those players and will do my best to never let that happen in my organization. It’s the right thing to do and we all know that many of these “B” boys progress to make the “A” team the following year. Don’t be one of those teams that lose players because you don’t manage the task well.
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