A few weeks ago we got an email from a baseball dad whose son plays in a league where one team was hand-picked by the coach and the other teams were created at random. Not surprisingly, the hand-picked team was made up of the best players in the league and was winning almost every game. This baseball dad’s son was having a hard time staying excited throughout the season because he knew his team was going to get blown out of the water. And while no one likes to lose, especially a close game, knowing you are about to get obliterated because the other team is stacked is even worse. Why bother showing up if you’ll only get to bat once and you can’t stop the other team from running up the score?
The dad made it clear that he doesn’t think the league administrator is doing this to be malicious or stack the teams, and he understands kids that play on travel teams together want to stick together during the regular season, but at the same time choosing sports teams based on friendships is bound to make the talent distribution uneven.
A sports dad made a really interesting comment on LinkedIn:
Many times, a league will assign someone to be commissioner of an age group. It is the commissioner’s job to make sure that the teams are “drafted” fairly. Someone is going to win and someone is going to lose, but the outcome should be determined by the luck of the draw in these youth leagues. It is amazing to me how many coaches I have seen over the years that scout the best kids and then use the lame excuse that “they want to play with their friends” to craft a strong team.Unfortunately, in your league, that $2 trophy meant the world to the coaches who got to hand pick their team.
A varsity soccer coach mentioned the same thing happens in soccer as well:
Stacking’ as it is referred to, happens when the selection process is done by committee of parents. Usually the committee is comprised of friends, who then select their friends kids, and who also have the opportunity to move players to the teams advantage. This happens in soccer also. Sometimes the thought process is to keep as many kids from the same school together so car pooling can be done. Sometimes the committee wants to have a winning season.
Above all else, youth sports is supposed to be fun. And of course getting to play all season long with your friends is going to contribute majorly to the fun factor. But how successful is a sports league if one team gets all the fun (and the wins, which also contribute to the fun), and the rest of the teams are left out? It’s not that everyone needs to win every game, or that we should just chuck the scoreboard entirely, but as kids older they know who won and who lost, even if there is no official score. And while it’s important to learn how to lose with grace, losing every single game can get a little hard to bear.