Nobody wins when the score is a lot to a little. Lopsided games are inevitable, but leagues can take several steps to make sure that players are distributed fairly and that every team has a reasonable chance to win before the season begins.
There are many factors that can explain wins and losses. Injured or missing players, coaching, game preparation, and momentum can all play a role.
All things being equal, teams with better players tend to win more. In many youth and adult leagues, the process of making teams often ends up with an unfair distribution of talent and, consequently, a predictable season outcome.
Keep these points in mind when your league begins the process of forming teams:
All coaches, players and parents should know how teams are formed. Whether you use a draft or some other method, make the process clear so everyone knows what to expect. Avoid the notion that teams are being made through “backroom deals.”
Data from registrations should be available to all coaches and managers. If your league takes measurements like speed or vertical leap, these should be shared. Just like the professional league combines, you can’t expect coaches to share all of their insights, but a core set of facts and observations should be available to everyone picking players.
We are visual creatures, and it can be very helpful to assign a face to a name. Add taking photos to your registration process and make those photos a part of player profiles. Snap a photo of each player holding up a dry-erase board with their player number.
Consider creating an “Admin Ranking” where a committee ranks available players. You won’t get a complete consensus on the rankings but you should be able to get close. When it comes to forming teams, all coaches can use the overall ranking to make sure players are selected or assigned at reasonable places.
In youth sports, assigning sons or daughters to their parent-coached team can be complicated. Whether Johnny is a first round pick or a fourth round pick can make a HUGE difference. An overall player ranking formed by a committee can be very helpful with this step as there should already be a solid agreement as to where these players should be slotted.
All of the professional leagues use a draft … why not your league? A draft is the most transparent and fair way to form teams. The order in which coaches or managers select can be determined by drawing straws or it can be set by other factors (for example, past performance or the relative value of pre-assigned players).
Make an actual event out of your draft. Draft night should be fun and exciting. Having all of the coaches together promotes some bonding that will payoff as the season gets underway.
If your league has done its job, coaches and players should feel as though their team has a good of chance of winning it all. Your league will have more parity and less lopsided games.