STEP ONE: Grade/Age Grouping - Making Leagues
The very first step is to establish the leagues using either Grade-divided or DOB-(date of birth)-divided criterion. We use DOB in Baseball and want to see a birth certificate. Higher level teams of all sports use DOB. They usually-but-not-always group kids in a two year segment, i.e. ten and eleven year olds together. Cutoff dates vary; July 31/Aug 1 and 12/31 - 1/1 are popular cut dates. For smaller kids and in intramural programs, the groupings tend to be by grade. Big or talented kids often "play up" a level; less-talenteds play down.
SportAdmins usually "slice/dice" the populations a few times before deciding what the groups/leagues are going to be. One year they might decide on separate First and Second Grade Leagues, the next year on a combined 1st & 2nd Grade League and the next year on a separate 1st Grade League along with a combined 2nd & 3rd Grade League. This depends on sizes of the populations and field resources.
Here are the factors SportAdmins consider in making leagues:
1. Number of kids per team that would result from breaking into a certain even (for intramural play) or possibly a certain odd (if they play outside the organization) number of teams in that particular group. While soccer is somewhat flexible, other sports have a fixed number of at-a-time playing players. So, we "test" each league for team size up and down the organization, possibly using different divisors at different ages/grade levels.
The number on each team will rarely come out even for all teams. So, you might have three teams of 12 and three teams of 13 in a six-team league. I mention this here because later on we'll need to deal with using player ratings to balance teams and we'll need to fairly compare teams which may have different numbers of players.
2. Available fields and field size. This matters most in soccer. For instance, you may have a choice of breaking a group up into 4 teams of 15 so that 13-14 show at each event and you can play 11 v 11 on a full-size field while 2-3 sit out. OR, you could break into 6 teams of 10, so that 9 on average show up and you can play 7 v 7 on a smaller field while 2 sit. You would tend toward the former for an older group (5th-6th grade) and towards the latter for a middle aged group (1st-2nd grade), IF you have the room and flexibility to layout any number or any size soccer fields. Other sports have mostly standardized venues and number of players, so soccer has more options.
3. Parking and traffic in-out considerations. If you don't have the facilities to park the cars from the current event at the same time as the arriving cars for the next event, then you have to spread out the events. This may impact the number of teams you can support, so the SportAdmin might go for fewer, larger teams rather than more, smaller teams.
4. Amount of time it takes to play a single game or all the games per Game Day for a league or town. This consideration is linked to the parking/traffic item, above.
5. Number of Game Days per week or for the season. Most community organizations have one practice per week (Mon - Thu) and a game on Saturday.
6. Balances of girls and boysis a factor. It would come into play if a certain combination of age/grade groups led to or avoided a "few girls" or a "few boys" situation, which is not good.
Four teams is really the minimum for a viable league. If your teams play outside the town ("travelling"), then, in theory, you only need one team as long as there are an even number of teams over all in the league. Or, you would need more than one Game Day per week so that each team plays at least once per week and sometimes twice.
STEP TWO: Designation of Coaches (TeamAdmins)
From the Reg form, we have gathered the lists of volunteers, including coaches (and their license levels). However he/she does it, the SportAdmin chooses/recruits the coaches. Lots of parameters key off the Coach.
STEP THREE: Assistant Coaches (Assistant TeamAdmins)
Depending on sport, coaches get to pick or have to recruit one or more assistant coaches.
STEP FOUR: Distributing Players onto Teams
The number-of-teams decision has already been made, based on Step One. Now it's time to "choose up" or "divvy". This can be tricky, full of politics, upsets, competition and intensity. Coaches naturally want the best team they can arrange, so there's plenty of jockeying. Some Coaches are full-time scouts and really know the talent; others are rather naive and just want to "help out". Without some active balancing, guess which Coach is going to win the most games.
Especially at the older levels, the honorable and correct goal is to distribute players so that teams are as even as possible. The ideal situation would be a .500 season for all teams. In theory, we can achieve this IF all the selection criteria are perfectly accurate and we let a computer do the entire job based on the numbers.
First of all, the Coach gets his kid on his team and the Asst Coach(es) get their kid. Then, here are player characteristics to be considered in choosing up teams:
Ratings are used to balance teams for skill. For Rec Soccer, in leagues for 3rd Grade and older, we suggest using a skill rating performed by Coaches at the end of last season. Players are given a rating between 1 and 10, and a comment which may describe strengths and weaknesses. The computer distributes players onto teams so they are even. Adjustments can be made manually to workout any lack of balance.
Younger children can be extremely shy and are often nervous about doing group activities, especially ones that have some system of "grading" which they don't yet thoroughly understand. At the beginning stages, no sport is about sport. It is about socialization and one of the comforting factors for a kid is having a buddy. There are also other reasonable accommodations we try to allow for in the younger groups, like car pools. The result of allowing for buddies is that when a team is assigned one kid, it might be getting two. For 2nd Grade and younger, we suggest allowing for buddies if at all possible.
This is obvious. Big kids are intimidating to small kids. They may be lumbering and unskilled, but there is a big psyche factor. We try to spread out big kids.
We do our best to pay attention.
Relative age and genders in the league:
We look at the age of the child relative to the others in the same grade/age bracket and their gender when distributing players. For instance, in a 1st & 2nd Grade Coed League, the 1st grade girls would be spread around evenly first, then the second grade girls, then the first grade boys, then the 2nd grade boys.
Youngest girls tend to be wimpy; middle girls whup the boys a lot of the time; older girls are just not as strong/fast. Girls tend to need buddies more often than boys. It is always important to distribute girls and boys evenly.
This is somewhat important in the older groups. In younger groups no one has experience so it doesn't matter anyway. But a never-played player in 6th grade needs allowances.
It is perfectly acceptable to form younger teams based on the convenience of the carpool drivers. Buddies do tend to live next door in neighborhoods.
SUMMARY: here is how we suggest to make leagues and teams:
Younger Leagues:PK - K
We distribute players evenly by gender and age, and honor all requests within reason for buddies and carpools. We don't keep score in these league; it's amazing, games just seem to end in a tie! It's all about exercise and having fun.
Middle Leagues:1st - 2nd
We distribute genders/ages evenly, honor most buddy/carpool requests, but start to pay attention to skill, size and agility. We tend to let the social/convenience factors control a "first pass" through, then edit for unfair skill/size loading. We start keeping score in these leagues.
Older Leagues:3rd - 6th
We distribute genders/ages evenly by skill. No buddies or carpooling. Scores are kept.