With my son having just finished the obligatory annual skill Evaluations for our local league I have some thoughts to share. In our organization, mandatory player evaluations are performed one or two weeks immediately preceding the draft process which involves all the coaches. Evaluations are the same as try-outs, except that in our case there are no cuts; all registered players will be assigned to a team, but the evaluation process provides an objective set of data to both support the draft process and balance the talent across the all the teams that our town fields in the larger district.
As there is no creation of A,B,C-level teams for our town, it provides some competitive disadvantages when competing against other town’s teams that have been assembled to concentrate talent using a tiered system. It also can limit the amount of individual challenge and development that advanced players will receive compared to weaker players, as it is a truism in all types of education that the slower or weaker learners can limit the pace for the whole group. On the flip side, there are clear developmental advantages for the weaker players by playing on a mixed team which includes having an equal chance to play on a team with a successful record. Given that this program is recreational in nature, I think overall this is a healthy and positive philosophy to have. The advanced players will still have the opportunity to play at a higher level during the All-Star tournament season that begins in June.
All of this said, the annual Evaluations/Draft process that our town follows seems to always “re-invent the wheel” with the result that the entire player pool and coaches are remixed and matched from scratch each year. Players do not know their coaches or team assignments until at least the first week of April, and do not begin practicing until at least mid-April (weather permitting). This leads to a slow start for the season and generally the kids don’t actually fuse as a team until late in a very short 8-week season (with 1 practice and 2 games per week). Likewise, the All-Star team rosters are not officially “finalized” until late in this season, although it is already known that the rosters will be the same as the year before (since the same top players continue progressing each year as 10U, 11U, 12U).
In other communities, once the teams are formed at a certain age level (such as Majors), the rosters remain the same for 2-3 years with a few players cycling in and out based on whether they are moving in/out of the division’s age level. This way, the coaches and teams are already pre-established and the Evaluation/Draft process is only used to assess the skills of new players coming in to distribute them accordingly. The advantage here is that coaches already know their players, can more effectively plan their practice strategies, and can get at least the core of their teams working out sooner (using indoor gym time if necessary). The same is done for the All-Star teams which have clearly been practicing together far longer than ours have by the time the actual Tournament Season begins. This extra practice time makes all the difference where the District, State & Regional Championships are concerned and should be starting in parallel with the regular season for these players who will be actually trying to advance in a national competitive format of play.
Tell me what you think is the better or more effective approach.