Thursday, August 9, 2007

Let's Rank Coaches Instead

Dear Jay,

Soccer Dad got me thinking more about the issue of ranking youth soccer teams in his comment to the post I wrote called My U13s are Ranked! My U13s are Ranked!!"

The big problem I have with ranking youth teams is not necessarily what those rankings do to the kids, but what they do to the adults. I think we should rank the coaches. Every time they lose perspective, they lose points. Each time they sacrifice their "record" for true player development, they gain points.

Here's why ...

I know a dad whose son played on a replacement team in a US Club tournament that is billed as "Nationals." Ok, we know it's not a national championship. How can it be if it takes replacement teams? But it was a well-run, competitive tournament with teams from all over the country. Anyway, this team finished fourth of six in their age group, and the dad started telling people the team was "Top-5 Nationally." They were a second division classic team which means they weren't even top 10 in the state. It's all so unrealistic.

But here is the worst part. If rankings exist, coaches use them as a criteria to measure the jobs they are doing. That feeds on itself and soon the coaches are using it as the main criteria. So if they win major tournaments, they are a good coach. They also start picking tournaments (usually too many and too much travel) to further enhance their ranking. "We have to get into WAGS or our ranking will fall," for example. When rankings are a goal, or the goal, coaches start coaching to win. They develop players to get a result, they stiffle creativity to play safe, they keep kids on the bench who can greatly benefit from game time against strong opponents, they put too much pressure on kids to get what is actually a meaningless result in the long-term.

I spoke to a coach last year. He was trying to decide if his U11 team should enter the Classic Festival. He said, "If we don't win it, can we still get into Jefferson Cup?" First of all, you can't win the Festival, there are no winners. Secondly, if I ever start worrying about that as a coach, shoot me.

I love tournaments. They are a blast for me, but as I've mentioned before, a little perspective is needed.

I remember Bob Gansler, former US National team and Kansas City Wizards coach, telling me once, "When a coach tells you how many wins he has or how many trophies he's won, ask him how many players he's developed."

When I think of more, I'll write.

You know who

1 comment:

Soccer Dad said...

No kidding. I love going to tournaments. They a lot of fun for the adults and kids. I hope I can take my U10 Rec team to a festival/tournament this year just to give them the experience, especially those who may not play travel soccer.

The day I start worrying if we won or lost a tournament is the day I don't think they'll be fun anymore. If we win - sweet - kids get a little added recognition for their efforts, if not - we had fun, hopefully learned some things, and spent a weekend outdoors instead of inside in front of (insert favorite media device here)

Love the ranking coaches idea :) 'Perspective points' should count like x20 over points for wins/losses.