a really good article about labeling kids too early. The “b” team benchwarmer sometimes becomes the varsity star…


5 Responses to “a really good article about labeling kids too early. The “b” team benchwarmer sometimes becomes the varsity star…”

  1. December 1, 2009 at 6:17 PM

    More kids stop playing youth sports all over the world by the age of 15. It is not uncommon when you think of factors that are consistent for teenagers at that stage of their life driving, dating, and high school. Soccer probably sees more drop-off than any other sport, and that has a lot to do with the structure of youth soccer in our country.
    Growing up playing sports, I know that most of my best experiences were on a playground or in a backyard with other kids and no adults. I also played on organized teams in soccer, basketball and baseball, but my 8th grade basketball team was the first time that I had to “try out” for a team.
    Think about that — age 14 was the first time that I was put into a situation where players were either being selected or “cut.”
    Why do school teams that pick or “cut” players normally only start doing so in those teenage years? The reality is that a child’s athletic ability prior to puberty is an absolutely irrelevant indicator of a child’s athletic ability post puberty. Where a player is at age 8 is not going to mean anything when they are at age 18.
    Think about looking at two players in the same under-14 age group, with one who has hit puberty and one who has not — the 14-year-old who hit puberty looks like he is 16…and the 14 year old who has not looks 10. The one who has already hit puberty will grade out higher in most areas — motor skills, testosterone, coordination — but the real question is who will be better in 2, 4, or 10 years?
    Alec Dufty was an all-conference goalkeeper at the University of Evansville and is now with the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer (MLS). I coached him as a youth in North Carolina, and he didn’t play for his ‘A’ team in his age group until he was 17.
    Robby Lynch is an all-Midwest region midfielder here at the University of Evansville, and he didn’t play for his ‘A’ team in his age group until he was 15.
    Soccer America recently reported that U.S. national team standout Landon Donovan played at the AYSO (recreational level) through the age of 14.
    Every summer, I see an 11-year-old or 12-year-old at our summer camp that is on the ‘B’ team in their age group, and we forecast them as eventually being one of the top players in their age group in a year or two … as long as they aren’t too dejected from being “cut” from the ‘A’ team and continue their level of interest or enthusiasm for the game.
    One of the real challenges we have in travel soccer is creating all-star or select teams at a very early age. Winning a league championship at age 10 is usually a lot more important to mom and dad than it is to their son or daughter. The problem with being too exclusive at too early an age is that you might have ‘late-bloomers’ that will never be identified. Many of the top clubs in the country try to ‘collect’ youth players at the younger age groups rather than minimize their player pool — knowing that the more players they pool together, if they have a healthy training environment to grow and develop, the better the chances of developing capable players once they hit puberty.
    The reality is that until a player hits puberty, the true development of a player is hard to gauge. Key areas to develop prior to puberty have less to do with physical attributes and more to do with psychological attributes — fostering a passion and desire to play and compete are very hard to develop, but tend to be key components in all successful athletes. Encouraging your child to have an interest level in the game will make him or her want to practice, train and play more.
    There is no question that a kid who plays 300 days a year at age 10 will be better than a kid who plays 20 days a year at age 10, but the more important question to ask is whether the kid playing 300 days a year at age 10 will still like the game at age 14?
    While at one of my oldest daughter’s earlier soccer experiences, I had a parent ask me what I thought of our 8-year old daughters as soccer players — I told the parent that at this age, kids aren’t good or bad…and rather than worry about how ‘good’ their child is, to worry about how much their child enjoys playing.

  2. 2 Eric
    December 2, 2009 at 10:52 AM

    What an amazing story. This article will be added to my pre season parent’s meeting from now on. Do you have additional information on who said this and where the article was originally published?

  3. December 2, 2009 at 12:01 PM


    I am fortunate in that there are people all around the country who scour the internet and chat rooms, etc for interesting stories around youth sports.

    This story was simply sent to me by an interested party who obviously has a pretty good head on his shoulders.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. It is certainly a topic I am very interested in…as should be most parents.

    This is the type of things that should be handed out during the tryout process in various sports.

    • 4 Mark mazzotta
      December 6, 2009 at 9:40 AM


      In this article – I disagree with many of your points….

      I do agree that many kids stop participating in organized sports at around 15-16yrs due to the hormonal changes, as their interest in the other sex begins to spike; in addition the driving, socializing, dating, etc.

      I also have some of my fondest memories playing sports- football, baseball & basketball in very modest playgrounds and fields; I did not have the privilege that our children have today. I came up the hard way in the Bronx/Yonkers and did not have the discernment over privileged kids and their affluent communities. Which brings me to my point:

      **I had to try out for team sports beginning in the seventh grade, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that then or NOW. I have no problem with a 13-14 yr. old kid that has to learn the meaning of dedication, hard work, devotion & commitment. The bottom line is we (especially in the upper suburbs) tend to baby and insulate our children. Look I want the best for my two kids and devote my entire existence to them, but the world is cruel and ruthless. The sooner the kids realize and learn that if you want something you have to work hard for it…the better it is for them. Keeping the kids involved in organized sports develops their athletic ability, fosters great memories and comradery, keeps them out of trouble and is the building blocks for many aspects that apply to real life experiences. In Real life you aren’t always going to make the team, will not always be hired for the top position or have the greatest interview for a job- You have to apply yourself. In the real world it’s survival of the fittest, very competitive, so at the age of 14 years old, for your son to understand he may not make the team and he when he doesn’t make the cut, then the next time around he has to work harder.

      In furtherance, I agree with the fact that if a kid demonstrates passion and desire for a sport, then that’s half the battle- it awesome if your kid has a burn for the game and that after puberty they will clearly be stronger and faster. However people have to accept if their kid is a B player then even after they mature don’t expect miracles.

      -Hard to gauge their athletic ability???? Come on – you know if your kid is athletic at 8, 9 & 10 years old. Yes, as they mature and grow their skill set will improve, but the kid is either athletic or a fair player. Again the parents and the kids have to accept they may not be the top player and only average at best…………. because when they get out there it’s a doggy-dog world. Maybe they’re a big fish in a small pond-
      Let’s stop babying our kids, they can’t ride on Daddy’s coat tails forever!!

  4. December 6, 2009 at 5:52 PM

    Mark. It’s always a fine thing to disagree but I want to make sure everyone understands my positions before disagreeing.

    This article was sent to me and while I agree with most of it, the article was written by someone else and merely posted here to spark discussion and opinion.

    My purpose for including this article on the site isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be cuts or that there shouldn’t be A and B teams. The point of the article (and my own personal opinion on the matter) is that there are too many coaches of young kids who don’t have a clue what it takes to develop and grow young talent.

    The fact is this…There are certainly kids who are born with talents and athleticism but too many coaches think that because a kid “has it” at a young age, that same kid is going to continue to be the star and it is simply not the case. There are endless examples of kids who are superstars at 9 or 10 who simply top out and become average at best when they are teenagers. Similarly, there are examples of athletes who were mediocre at best when they were younger and due to hard work and dedication, went on to become world-class.

    Therefore, the point I’m making is that coaches who pigeon hole a kid and relegate him to the “b” team for his entire youth sports career are making a potentially HUGE mistake. If a kid quits sports because he’s been given the message that he is “not good enough” and this happens before he physically matures, the world could very well miss out on the next Michael Jordan or Pete Rose or Mike Piazza. (if you look up there stories, you will hear some very interesting things about how “good” they were when they were younger.

    The article itself points to more than one professional athlete who played on the B team. Trying to decide whether or not your kid is an athlete at 8, 9 or 10 years old is like trying to figure out at the same age what profession they would be best at. Think about how much kids change between 8 and 13.

    Your point is actually quite true and I agree that cutting kids at 13 or 14 is more than OK. My problem comes from the guy who has no real experience in a sport and takes pride in the power he has to decide who plays and who doesn’t. More importantly, idiots like this are doing it to kids that are as young as 8 or 9, not 13 or 14. This is where the problem lies.

    Coaches and parents can do a world of good to simply make sure there is somewhere for their kids to learn and grow as athletes. 99.99999% of all youth athletes never play professionally so we are we to say if and when they should quit?

    The article goes on to say that the best youth sports organizations in the country aren’t the ones who “weed out the kids who stink” but rather collect talent and teach them and develop them. The best organizations are the ones who know that you should never quit on a kid because you never know what they will become until they become it.

    I even entitled the post in such a manner so that everyone knows that the “B team bench warmer sometimes goes on to become the varsity star”

    I’ve seen first hand, and in various sports, absolute morons who are proud of the fact that they’re not interested in the kids who aren’t good. These are the people who have no place in youth sports.

    This year, I was personally faced with cutting kids from a travel basketball team. Instead of simply saying, “Sorry but your kid just isn’t good enough”, I offered to have every kid who was cut come down and work out with us for the very reason that they may come back as early as next year and be a valuable part of the team.

    I’m not saying we should tell them all that they’re GREAT, but we really should tell them that they can BE great and that they need to continue working hard and developing. And it’s our responsibility as coaches and parents and administrators to make sure they have that opportunity.

    Babying them is not the answer, but giving up on them certainly isn’t the answer either.

    By the way, experience has shown me that kids are rarely spoiled, PARENTS are. And in the rare cases when a kid is truly spoiled, guess who made them that way? You got it, mom and dad give them a sense of entitlement and it winds up really hurting the kid, not just in sports but as they face the many adversities in life.

    Thanks for taking the time to post on this, you bring up some interesting topics and I hope others will jump in as well.


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