Effective talent distribution the key to a fun season for all
by Randy Pascal
The following article is included among a series of "Sports Administration 101" writings that are being featured in the bi-monthly Sudbury Sports insert
of the Northern Life. The stories are done to help assist newcomers to the world of board involvement in local amateur sports, to highlight of the more
common pitfalls and areas of concerns that are seen with regularity in various organizations.
Among the myriad of important duties that the Board of any minor sports organization must oversee, none likely weighs more heavily on the ultimate goal
of assuring that the experience is an enjoyable one for all participants than the ability to evenly distribute talent among the various teams.
Obviously, this is, generally speaking, far more of an issue when it comes to recreational or houseleague sports, than the rep contingent who might
often host tryouts for their teams. And while it seems to defy common sense that adults in charge would implement procedures that run counter to this “fair
play” goal, local parents who are willing to express some amount of dissatisfaction with the manner in which teams were selected, at some point in the
sporting involvement of their children, easily numbers in the thousands.
Interestingly enough, some might suggest that adults do not possess an automatic predisposition towards leveling the playing field. There was a study,
done several years ago in California, the results of which always stuck with me.
Essentially, researchers gathered a group of children to play a handful of team sports. One collection of kids were left to their own devices to split
the group into teams, while the other camp benefitted from adult assistance. Consistently, the non-adult sample managed to work their way towards extremely
competitive teams, far moreso than the group which included the "help" (?) of the adults.
Children, quite innately, seem to know that sports are far more fun to play when the teams are fair. And to be honest, many a well-intentioned board
member believes they are pursuing the same goal, in spite of the fact that they establish frameworks that make it difficult for this to happen.
Among the more common culprits is the willingness to let adult friends “coach” and “manage” their kids together. While this seems like a benign request,
it can lead to a horrible season overall if those two children happen to be, head and shoulders, the two most talented kids in the league.
Keep in mind that this issue is far more prevalent the younger the age of the participants. Far easier for a small handful of naturally athletic
youngsters to dominate their division, under the age of ten, than when the same athletes reconvene at fifteen or sixteen years of age.
Likewise, trying to form teams to accommodate “friends” playing together, or simply to make it easier for rides to practices or games, is a noble enough
intention. However, it must be undertaken with the caution that allowing this core to play together cannot completely sway any form of reasonable
I’ve known many a coach who will, quite happily, assemble a group of lesser talented children, who are an absolute treat to work with, over the more
talented athletes who require constant attention. The key, in this entire area, is to try and do as much due diligence as possible – monitor the teams year
over year, run a skill-based mini-camp prior to teams being made, bring in non-parental talent assessors that you trust.
And understand that, having taken every possible step imaginable to avoid regular season blowouts, there are still going to be games where it seems that
teams were stacked – in spite of your very best and genuine efforts.