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Insight Into Team Making Process

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Introduction
Age Brackets
Travel Teams
Travel Deadlines
Comp or Rec
U10
U19
In-house Leagues
In-house Deadlines
How Many Seasons
Playing Up
Conclusion



INTRODUCTION

Every season we get a ton of questions with similar concerns from lots of parents with regards to the teams on which they would like their children to be placed.  Being an organizing volunteer in our club is very rewarding; however, it could be unnecessarily time consuming having to deal with the same queries over and over again.  This is an effort to address these many issues collectively and comprehensively in one breath.

You may have been directed to this page by one of our volunteers based on your question, or you may simply have wanted to take a peek because you were curious.  Either way, there is a lot of information here.  You may find it too long, or too technical, or too irrelevant, or too redundant.  You could attempt to scroll down to the section which concerns you.  However, we recommend that you take a few extra minutes to read through the whole thing since it all ties in together.  While individual concerns may be all that matter to you, we on the other hand need to keep in mind the big picture, and make sure that the decisions we make at the individual level are made for very good reasons, that they are practical, pragmatic, consistent, and fair across the board.

We hope that if you chose to take the time to read and digest this information, the reasons for our choices are made clearer, and it has shed light on your questions or concerns.


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SEASON AFTER SEASON

The BSC (Branford Soccer Club) aims to provide an enjoyable experience for all of its registrants who come to participate recreationally and competitively.  While it may sound simple, it is easier said than done. Through the tireless efforts and thousands of hours of work that many volunteers put in each season this comes to fruition. For some volunteers this work continues year round.

The BSC is affiliated with the CJSA (CT Junior Soccer Association) and operates its programs under the auspices of the CJSA.

As is evident, with the exception of our recently integrated Tiger Kixx program that Everson Soccer Academy runs for us, all of our programs are comprised of "teams".

There are certain ever-evolving guidelines and criteria that factor into the team-making process that we have adopted over the years. Some of this is strictly mandated by the CJSA that all town clubs must adhere to, and some are based on the unique, population based socio-economic realities Branford finds itself in.

That said, everyone wants to be on some "team" or another with their pre-K, or middle school "buddies", or they are "too advanced" for their age group, thus they must play "up", or they have been at such and such level so many seasons already and that they need to move forward...

That a player is just days shy of the cutoff date with a birthday of August 2nd or August 19th, never mind just a couple of months like September or October birth dates, does not constitute a good reason to move them up.
Just because a player played 2 seasons of Lil' Kicks already does not mean that he or she qualifies for the Micros.

Requests like "wanting to be on the same team as my 2nd grade friends Ally, Bob, Cee-Cee, and Dee", or "with my next door neighbor's kids for carpooling purposes", or "I want to coach the same exact kids as I did last season" do not warrant any priority in light of the many other considerations that do take precedence.
While we do entertain requests to a degree, for all intensive purposes, requests are at the bottom of our team-making priorities list.
Every season the BSC goes through the process of making meaningful teams out of hundreds of registrants.

The guidelines and criteria we must apply to the fluctuating number of participants of various age groups and abilities each season makes it impossible for us to act like the genie from the bottle.  Meaning, that all wishes do not come true.

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AGE BRACKETS

The number one factor that plays into the whole team-making process is the CJSA soccer year and the age brackets.  Please see pages 19-20 of the CJSA guidebook:
 
CJSA Guidebook

...Which in other words means that if the player is born between August 1st of one year and July 31st of the following year, he or she belongs to a certain age bracket.  The player will belong to the same age bracket in the Fall of one year and the Spring of the following year.  The fact that the player may have a birthday in the meantime will not qualify him or her to move up an age bracket.

The CJSA age brackets, when extended, apply all the way from U19s, U14s and down through the U10s (where we combine the U9s and U10s, who are also Juniors), U8s (U7s and U8s, namely Micros), U6s (U5 and U6, Lil' Kicks), and U4s (any player that has not reached age 4 by August 1st cutoff of the year in question, which would be Tiger Kixx in Branford).

We get a lot of questions with regards to players wanting to play in one higher age bracket because they are a few days or a couple of months shy of the July 31st / August 1st age cut-off, and that they want to be with their friends!  One must however, recognize the fact that this date roughly splits the year down in half, or into 7/12ths and 5/12ths to be exact.

Okay so you want to be with your friends born in January through July.  What about your friends born in August through December?  You want to leave them behind; what's wrong with them?  In addition, you would also be mingling with the previous year's kids, born in August through December.  Is that not a problem?

It may seem that the August 1st cut-off date is arbitrary and meaningless because it does not go by the calendar year.  On the contrary, it delineates the beginning of the soccer year as described and encompassed by the CJSA, taking into account all of its legal, technical and logistic repercussions.  Players of all ages from all over the state start practice in August of each year, and thus they must have reached their respective ages as of August 1st every year.  It makes perfect sense.

The primary purpose of the cut-off date is to serve the purpose of acting as a cut-off date.

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TRAVEL TEAMS

(U10-U14)

Our travel teams participate in the SCD (South Central District) of the CJSA.  Each team is assigned to the competitive or recreational group that is deemed most suitable to its level of play. This is determined by each team's playing history season after season, and the coaches' assessment of where the team will fit in best in terms of challenge from its fellow competitors in our district.  We want to prevent our teams from ending up in groups where they hardly get challenged as well as where they cannot measure up to the rest of the teams.  Check it out:

http://scdcjsa.com

That said, you will notice that at the travel age groups the BSC does not always have every age group represented in name.  For instance, we might skip the U11 Girls and field two U12 Girls teams, one competitive, one recreational, comprised of both U11s and U12s.  We may skip the U12 Boys because there is not enough of them to make a team and have a U13 Boys Comp team comprised of U12s and U13s, and have a U14 Comp team comprised of U13s and U14s.  Or perhaps the next season, the same boys would possibly be divided into a U14 Boys Rec and U14 Boys Comp teams.

The SCD allows Rec team submissions only at the U12 and U14 levels.  As of the U13s the field of players switches from 8 a side to 11 a side.  A very small percentage of towns in the SCD do actually submit teams for U13 level competition.  These towns are those who have a sizable soccer population that can field competitive teams with the same exact pool of players that must now play on teams that have larger rosters.  Consequently there usually ends up being only a single U13 bracket of highly competitive teams unlike the multiple brackets of other age groups providing various levels of competition.

Each season we have to take a fresh look at our number of registrants in each age group and reconfigure the teams and levels we must submit to the SCD in order for the players to find themselves at the right competitive level where they thrive and have a good time.  There is a preferred maximum number of players we can allow to participate in each team where the U10s through the U12s play 8v8, and the U13s and U14s play 11v11.  In ideal circumstances, given enough players we would like to have at least one of all of the following teams submitted for competition for both boys and girls: U10, U11, U12 Comp, U12 Rec, U14 Comp, U14 Rec.  It is very rare that we would submit a U13 team of either gender.

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TRAVEL DEADLINES

Each season, the SCD has to create schedules for all submitted travel teams by a certain date, so that each team in each town can plan for their season.

For this to happen, all team submissions must be in by a certain deadline so that the league coordinators have enough time to put together the different brackets in different age groups based on the quantity and levels of teams.

Since we have a team submission deadline, this in turn requires us to have a player registration deadline so that we have enough time to make up viable teams of appropriate size and playing levels.

As can be deduced from this, late registrations will usually pose problems in terms of creating acceptable size rosters.  This is why we cannot guarantee placement on a team if one registers late for a travel program, because more often than not, we cannot change our team submissions to accommodate late registrants if it means that we have to add a team or put more players on a team.

For instance, if we have submitted two U12 teams (one Comp and one Rec) and no U11 team because not enough U11 age players registered on time, and then all of a sudden we have 5 more U11s register which would have originally allowed us to submit a U11 Comp, U12 Rec and a U12 Comp instead (which we may have preferred) ... well it is too late.  We do not want to inflate the number of players on either or both of the U12 teams that have been submitted to create a situation where players are getting very undesirable playing times.

FOR ALL OF THESE REASONS, IT IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT FOR FOLKS TO REGISTER BY THE DEADLINE POSTED.  WE CANNOT GUARANTEE A PLACE FOR YOUR CHILD IF HE OR SHE IS REGISTERED LATE, OR NOT REGISTERED AT ALL.

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COMP OR REC ?

Some players may very likely find themselves playing with altered combinations of players from season to season, based on the above described team submission process, in different age groups and bracket levels.  They may play on a Rec team one season and then a Comp team next, or vice versa.

Some players may end up playing with the same core group of players season after season with very little variation.

And some players may be asked to be cross-rostered on more than one team for various reasons.  Maybe there are low numbers on one age group and cross-rostering will provide a valuable booster to the team which would have otherwise played with too few or no subs available.  Maybe the player is really outstanding among his or her age peers and the coaches feel that he or she will benefit from playing at the higher level.

And in turn, some players may be exclusively rostered among players of one higher age group simply in order to make a viable team of the higher age group because their numbers are too low, while the proper age bracket of those called up has plenty to spare.

While all of these variables, by nature, "vary" from season to season, the BSC aims to maintain a fine balance between providing the appropriate level of play for "all participants" and taking care not to deplete a given age group of its top players which otherwise would have brought a higher standing to the age group in question.

This all depends on who registers on time, how many players are available to make up teams of which age groups, and the overall skill level of the player among the available pool of players that will be placed on teams to be submitted.

One thing we cannot do to accommodate teams is to roster players "down an age bracket".  This is not allowed by the CJSA.

While we like to preserve core groups of players that get to play together season after season, we also like taking on the task of putting new groups of players together to watch them evolve from individually skilled players into a group that play cohesively by the end of each season.

Players will learn and improve at different rates, and they will always benefit more from being on the field and getting playing time on a Rec team as opposed to keeping benches warm on a Comp team.  As seasons progress, so will their skills, and it is likely that their place among a group of players as well as their position on the field will change.  There is no need to panic and think "Oh my child is on a Rec team, s/he will be a social outcast!"

On the contrary, forcing a player into a situation where he or she is not well suited will create problems and resentment.

Of course this is a grand opportunity to meet people and develop lifelong friendships, but it is not a social club; buddies or clicks do not mean anything.  This is a sports club. The only thing that matters is how one works with his/her teammate of the same jersey color once the ball hits the field.

As there is no positive in leaving gifted players in a position where they are not challenged, neither is there any positive in placing players that require a more appropriate platform to improve their skills, in a situation where they're sitting on the bench and watching their friends play 95% of the time.

We do not always have an opportunity to do so based on numbers, but as much as is possible we look to provide the appropriate level playing opportunity for each participant.

Having different competitive levels based on teams' skill level and league history, be it travel rec, lower comp, medium comp, higher comp (or as SCD terms it: very weak, weak, average, strong, very strong) provides kids of all abilities an opportunity to get optimum playing time and get matched evenly against competition.  Kids have a more enjoyable time because they are getting appropriate competition and not getting bored and annoyed because they have to refrain from scoring after a 5-0 blowout in the first 15 minutes, or not getting humiliated because they are on the other end of the scoring train.

The BSC employs the evaluations at the end of each Spring Season as a tool to gauge the optimum placement for individuals for their own benefit as well as for creating meaningful teams out of the hundreds that register each season.  It does not end there, coaches work with the players during and off season, evaluate and consider them for future roles.

Regardless of where a player ranks skills-wise among his or her peers, the goal of BSC is to provide an environment for each player to learn, thrive and enjoy themselves, both within continuity and diversity.

Do we find that some choices made in terms of player placement on teams, and team placement in SCD brackets are not ideal?  Sure, this is not a perfect science, and from the above description, you will see that it can get complicated; sometimes due to reasons beyond our control or preference.  In due time, during a season, or season after season, we look to make as much correction as we deem necessary to remedy any unsuitable situation.

But, to be absolutely clear again, players at any travel level do not get to pick or request their teams. They are placed by the coaching coordinator and staff, keeping in mind the greater picture, and the overall fine balance of all teams the club must field each season.

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(U10)

You will note that players are introduced to travel league competition as Juniors.  They have the option of also registering and playing on the U10 Travel team.  There are no evaluations for this level which is considered Developmental, and not Comp vs Rec.  So each season a chunk of the Juniors players not only take on their Juniors practices and games, they also participate as U10s, attending a separate U10 practice time and game schedule.  The U10s are not allowed to skip their commitment to the Juniors and only play U10 Travel.  The time spent at Juniors after all represents the essential base of their training which is built upon at the U10 events, and is considered an integral part of the U10 Program.

The SCD is very sensitive to age variations at this early stage and puts strict limits on rostering choices we may want to make across U9s, U10s, and U11s.  As for any U8 player that may be playing with the Juniors on our in-house programs, he or she is absolutely not permitted to play on a U10 team.

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(U19)

If a player is too old (already 14 by August 1st) in the Fall of eighth grade, unfortunately they are barred from competition in the U14 league, and obviously they will not be playing on the High School team either.  There are other options available in the Fall for these players, beyond the capacity of the BSC.  In the Spring however, they can come back into the fold as part of the greater family of High School age players by registering under the U19 banner in SCD Spring competition.

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IN-HOUSE LEAGUES

(Lil' Kicks, Micros, Juniors)

Every CJSA affiliated town has a slightly different formula in putting together youth leagues that are pre-travel (U10 and under).  This depends on their population / size, budget, history, coaching and training staff, field availability and their relationship with other participating town entities, like schools and businesses.

The BSC's in-house programs have been in their current form for quite a few years with minor adjustments here and there.

Currently players have to be 4 years old on July 31st of the Fall of the soccer year, to be considered eligible for the Lil' Kicks program.  Likewise, 6 years old for Micros, and 8 years old for Juniors.

As of Spring 2013, we have integrated Tiger Kixx into our programs, in order to accommodate players that fall short of the Lil' Kicks cut off date.  Coaches and trainers from the ESA (Everson Soccer Academy), which is currently our youth soccer training partner, exclusively run this program.  This is a program that ESA offers elsewhere in Connecticut as clinics, mostly independently of its host town.  We found it more appropriate to offer it directly as a BSC program as a logical precursor to our existing age groups.  ESA will accept players as young as around 2&1/2.  We were thus able to avoid turning away the youngest soccer enthusiasts, and encourage participation even at a younger age than 4, by August 1st of the Fall season of a given soccer year.

Tiger Kixx does not have teams playing against one another participating in it.  The very young age of the players is more conducive to alternate means of soccer instruction, deftly provided by the professionals from ESA.  For more info please visit:

http://www.eversonsoccer.com

One thing that the BSC has been able to keep consistent throughout the years is business sponsor participation in our youth programs, Lil' Kicks, Micros, and Juniors.  While this gives more exposure to the businesses, it provides a significant boost to the BSC's operating income, enabling it to help keep its fees at a much lower level relative to most of its neighboring towns.

Whether the business owner has a child in a given program or not, they will enjoy having a team carry their name on the team jerseys, as well as get featured on the BSC website.

Now the tricky part of how these teams are put together...

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IN-HOUSE DEADLINES

Just as we must set a registration deadline for our travel teams as described above, we must also set a registration deadline for our in-house teams.

Ultimately we want all team jerseys delivered and ready to be worn on the first day of games of each season, along with the schedules for the season being posted on our website. For this to happen, we need to know the number of teams, which in turn is determined by the number of participants registered to play in each division.  We also need to acquire the right number of team sponsors to match each team.  On a parallel course, we also need to line up volunteer parent team coaches and managers to helm each team.  All of this can become incredibly tricky and time consuming for our volunteer league coordinators, who must juggle a myriad of variables in a super time crunch.

In order to prevent team-making from falling into utter chaos, and to prevent undesirable outcomes like very strong vs very weak teams resulting in highly lopsided scores, and consequently some resentful parents and children, we must stick by certain criteria like:

Even distribution of younger and older players among teams since each of the in-house programs spans a 2 year age group.
Even distribution of boys and girls at the Lil Kicks and Micros levels.
Even distribution of skill set, based on observation from previous seasons and information gathered from coaches, trainers and coordinators.
Even distribution of travel players for the Juniors Boys and Girls.
Equal number of players per team not to exceed 8 for the Lil Kicks and Micros, and 10 for Juniors.

Makes sense doesn't it?

In addition to that:

Sponsor related players will need to be on the sponsor's team.
If a duo of parents have agreed to coach on alternate days, obviously their kids will end up on the same team.
We may need to accommodate kids with any special needs in various ways.


FOR ALL OF THESE REASONS, IT IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT FOR FOLKS TO REGISTER BY THE DEADLINE POSTED.  WE CANNOT GUARANTEE A PLACE FOR YOUR CHILD IF HE OR SHE IS REGISTERED LATE, OR NOT REGISTERED AT ALL.

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HOW MANY SEASONS ?

There seems to be a misunderstanding out there with regards to how many seasons one is supposed to play in any given league.

Based on the age-bracket driven registration criteria, players need to register and expect to play in their age appropriate programs.  This means if a player wanted to participate in every outdoor soccer season available he or she can expect to spend:

4 seasons (2 Fall, 2 Spring) in Lil Kicks
4 seasons (2 Fall, 2 Spring) in Micros
4 seasons (2 Fall, 2 Spring) in Juniors

Remember, each one of these programs encompass 2 full years:

4-5 years old by July 31st for Lil Kicks
6-7 years old by July 31st for Micros
8-9 years old by July 31st for Juniors

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PLAYING UP ?

There has got to be a very good reason for us to consider moving kids up to one higher playing level.

We will routinely watch out for kids who are too big, too strong, and too dominant in a given age group, and look to give them a more appropriate playing environment at one higher level.

On rare occasion, if possible, once the number of teams per league is established and irreversible at the later stages, we may look to move players to one higher division if there is space, in order to be able to bring in anyone wait-listed in the program of the lower age bracket, so that we are not denying anyone an opportunity to play soccer that season.

That a player is just days shy of the cutoff date with a birthday of August 2nd or August 19th, never mind just a couple of months like September or October birth dates, does not constitute good reason.

Just because a player played 2 seasons of Lil' Kicks already does not mean that he or she qualifies for the Micros.

Therefore, for example:

If we were to move a player up to the Juniors from Micros, it could be for a couple of distinct reasons.
1) The player is very highly skilled and or physically superior, and overpowers and disrupts the flow of Micros sessions.
2) He or she is ready for the challenge of a higher level of soccer on a much larger field with 100% of the players on average at least 1 year older than him/her, and about 50% of the players 2 years older than him/her.  This perspective makes a significant difference in the perception of the matter.  When 7-8-9 year olds are the subject matter, the 1-2 year age difference becomes noteworthy....

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Even beyond all of this, in situations where a player has been pulled up to a higher division at one point for one reason or another, he or she can still expect to remain playing at the age appropriate level even if that means the player could end up playing 6 or more seasons at that level.  Just because the player was invited up one season, this does not mean that this will continue to happen. Every season will start from scratch, by the book, per the CJSA age brackets.

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To emphasize this point, for the sake of redundancy, here it is again: With all the possible different scenarios that come about season after season, the BSC will start every season's registrations afresh from scratch, sticking to the CJSA age brackets and will deal with individual cases as they come up.  Ultimately the BSC reserves the right to make the final call on who gets to play on what division in the combined best interests of the club and the player in question.

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CONCLUSION

As you will realize at this point, the BSC puts forth a lot of thought and effort to make it work season after season.

Requests like "wanting to be on the same team as my 2nd grade friends Ally, Bob, Cee-Cee, and Dee", or "with my next door neighbor's kids for carpooling purposes", or "I want to coach the same exact kids as I did last season" do not warrant any priority in light of the many considerations above that do take precedence.

Invariably, virtually all in-house teams practice and play at the same location, simultaneously.  So don't you worry, you will be with your friends whether you will play with them or against them. And yes, everyone shares the same parking lot if carpooling is an issue.

For the players: This is the last place you want to be if your intention is to preserve your "click" from kindergarten.  This is a place where you should want to be open to new experiences and make new friends, season after season.

Above all, you should want to learn as much as you can and want to excel at and enjoy the most popular sport in the world.  Show good sportsmanship and respect your teammates, opponents, referees, your coaches, trainers, and parents.

Come out and play...