Best player on team or middle of pack?

Discussion in 'Youth & HS Soccer' started by ppierce34, Feb 12, 2019.

  1. ppierce34

    ppierce34 Member

    Aug 29, 2016
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Talking U11 girl here. Whats everyone's take on being the best player on a less competitive team in a less competitve program vs. being middle of pack on a team that is more competitive in a program that is more competitive.

    What is better for development? I think it boils down to building confidence and being the leader of a team vs. playing with better players and against better competition.
     
  2. bigredfutbol

    bigredfutbol Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Woodbridge, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Unless you have an exceptionally competitive/driven player--and here "exceptionally" means "at a young age" more than intensity of desire--at the U11 stage I'd push for whatever she enjoys doing more. You're approaching the big 'weeding out' of players at the U13/14 level in a couple years so now's the time to make sure she's still loving it.

    HOWEVER...I don't have a daughter and I don't know how things go for girls vs boys at those ages. So take my advice with some major caveats.

    All things being equal, I'd say being middle of the pack on the more competitive team would be more ideal. That's the short answer, I guess, but again that's assuming that she's having fun either way and likes the coaches and teammates in both situations.
     
  3. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    Based solely on the information you've given, I personally think it's better to be in the middle of the pack of better competition than to be the best of lessor competition.

    Playing with/against better competition will make you better. Playing with/against inferior competition will make you lazy (again IMO). After all, if you can "beat" someone by only give 90% (or 80%), why give 100%?

    Now, if you're using the inferior competition to try different moves and be more experimental, that's a good thing. But if you just "walk" through the training and games, that's not good.

    BUT, there are other issues that come into play when deciding on a club (I assume we're talking club)... financial & time commitment. Does the "more competitive" team practice more? Further away? Further trips for games/leagues or tournaments? Would going to a more competitive team drastically increase time on the bench?

    And you also have to look at the child. How do they feel when they get "beat"? Do they get down on themselves or do they use it as motivation to get better?
     
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  4. mwulf67

    mwulf67 Member+

    Sep 24, 2014
    Club:
    Chelsea FC
    I’ve had this same conversation with myself over the years…U16 boy. My son has had both experiences over the years. Personally, I think being the best player (or one of) on a less competitive team is somewhat overrated. I think the whole building confidence and being a leader, does not necessitate being on a less competitive team…but is more something we tell ourselves, quite frankly, to make us feel better about our kid playing on a less competitive team. Perhaps fine in small doses; but I my experience, it gets old pretty quick, for both player and parent.

    Always strive to get your kid on the most competitive team possible, even if that mean being the “worst” kid (relatively speaking of course) on that team…I find playing with and against better players far more confidence building for my son, then whipping up on a bunch of lesser players; he loses interest in that pretty fast. My 2 cents anyway…
     
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  5. VolklP19

    VolklP19 Member

    Jun 23, 2010
    Illinois
    Do both...

    First off I would say at u11 the best thing for her is a proven developmental coach - then a good player pool. However by u12 you are going to want both. That may equate to a club change altogether but change can be good - really good!

    Being mid-pack will help her to push herself to improve but I woul mix in some outside play as well - which can help greatly with confidence and leadership. For example my 2005 daughter plays on our local rec team because she wants to play with friends (her club is an hour away). This has helped her to really see where all her hard work has paid off - comparing with friends who are in rec exclusively or friends who are a local travel comm clubs on B teams - who also play with her rec team. This is also a sure way for building solid leadership skills and experience.

    I also have her in a u16 boys high school rec team for indoor in Sundays. Some of the boys are very good - so are some of the teams. This past Sunday we lost 0-5 and she got beat up pretty bad with some nudges to her ribs. But she got pissed and fought back hard! When she comes off these she has so much confidence - the only 13 year old out there and the only girl out there - and she can play with them for sure!

    She also plays futsal on a hard court with high school players on Saturday nights.

    All of this is outside the 3-4 days of club soccer with her team.

    If your at a club that precludes this sort of additional training then I would say leave. I have yet to find a club - or know of one that provides a well rounded experience that builds confidence, passion - exposes players to different styles of play, different ages and so on. That's not too say there are not good clubs out there. But to do all she is doing for 500-3000 kids is a lot to ask.
     
  6. VolklP19

    VolklP19 Member

    Jun 23, 2010
    Illinois
    I will also add that mixing it up has really driven a passion for the sport with my daughter. It adds a lot of varience in terms of experiences that the daily grind of an MRL, ECNL or DA season does not offer - not even close.
     
  7. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    I agree if you can mix it up, that would be the best of both worlds. But you may not be allowed/have that opportunity. Our local rec league doesn't allow select players to play. Or the time commitment may not work.

    My DS was able to standout in middle school and to a certain extent in HS. But if you're talking a 10yo, you're still a little ways from that.
     
  8. ppierce34

    ppierce34 Member

    Aug 29, 2016
    Fort Wayne, IN
    For some reason this quote from Richie Williams about Pulisic has always stuck with me. BTW this is a great article about his development. Yes i know Pulisic is rare but the article makes a lot of sense.

    "When you are the best player on your team but your team is not as good, it means you handle the ball more, you have to do more to carry your team and in the process, you are developing your game," says Richie Williams, an assistant coach with the U.S. men's national team who coached Christian, then 15, at the U17 residency program in Bradenton and in the 2015 U17 World Cup. "If it is a loaded team, that same player might be identified as a role player and never develop those skills."

    https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2713937-the-christian-pulisic-blueprint
     
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  9. VolklP19

    VolklP19 Member

    Jun 23, 2010
    Illinois
    I run the rec program. travel players on rec teams is all over - if someone says they are not doing it - they are likely lying. The thing is if a coach uses the travel players in a distribution position only, they become an excellent asset to elevate the rec players ability and even help them to better understand the linear flow of a game.

    Many of the Directors I deal with agree on that - so we're good with it.

    But there are u8/u10 coaches out there with their warmups and clip boards out to win for sure.
     
  10. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    Great article. I think a LOT of elements led to Pulisic's success, and the "being on the 2nd best team" makes some sense, but I think you need to see better players play (which he did as a young child).
     
  11. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    Oh come on, there are U11, U12, U13, U14, etc coaches out there who are there to win. I'm glad it works out for you. I really do. But that doesn't mean it works (or is allowed) everywhere.

    All I'm saying is don't assume and check with your local rec league.
     
  12. pu.ma

    pu.ma Member

    Feb 8, 2018
    I would agree with this. Though not necessarily a large sample set, what I have observed is a lot of coaches for younger age groups create a pecking order whether they intend to or not and it shows on the field where they position stronger players where the action is most likely to be resulting in more opportunities for touches, attacking/defending 1v1, tackling, physical play. Due to this, ones at the top of the pecking order usually gets promoted and still find success at the next level while the ones at the bottom of the pecking order who get used to playing a lesser role get surpassed by those coming up.
     
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  13. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    As a kid (and a really mediocre player), I always preferred playing time over winning but being relegated to a backup role. Even now in adult rec, I moved not too long ago to a not-so-strong team that lacked players that, bad as I am, I can help improve.

    But having watched my son play for strong teams and weak, I think it's better for him to play for the stronger, more technically sound teams. Soccer is such a team sport that, short of being able to pull off some kind of Herculean solo effort, even really good players need the people around them to be able to move off the ball, deliver a decent pass, trap, ..., for anything other than a field-length solo run to work. Based on my sample set of one, I'd say playing with (and against) other good players has done far more for his game than being "the guy" on a weak team ever did.
     
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  14. ppierce34

    ppierce34 Member

    Aug 29, 2016
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Great points here. Once you're passed the rec, u-little, hero ball stuff you truly cannot take on an entire team of 9 or 11 players by yourself no matter how bad they are and how good you are. Well maybe Messi can but thats about it.
     
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  15. pu.ma

    pu.ma Member

    Feb 8, 2018
    Less competitive team isnt necessarily a weak team. Just like the best player on a less competitive team doesnt necessarily imply that the rest of the team is made up of a bunch of scrubs. A fair bit more involved.
     
  16. kinznk

    kinznk Member

    Feb 11, 2007
    My one person case study involved my son playing on a middle of the road team. It was the best thing for him but it's not for everybody. From 2nd through 8th grade he played at a smaller club for the state largest organization. His teams were consistently in the 3rd division with a brief foray into the 2nd. The states other organization's top league was better than d3. So his teams were generally 25th through 35th best teams in the state. Not great, not terrible either.

    He was able to play 99% of the minutes, take free kicks, corners, play a box to box defensive midfield role with attacking responsibilities. I know the pushback against the coach would be that he is not developing the other kids. But you're also caught in the necessity of needing to win a little bit in order to keep the parents on the team happy. They won enough to keep people happy. Rare was the game they won or lost by more than 2 goals. The felt competitive and parents felt that way as well.

    My son worked harder outside of practice more than the other kids on his team. That is not a knock on them as one of his good friends works a lot harder in school than he does, a continuing discussion. His teammates were good kids a several are still playing in high school.

    What being the top dog allowed him to do was develop a competitive nature that had carried him to higher echelons of the youth game. He knew he had to show up each game and give 100% for his team to have a chance. When he got the rare chances to play against d2 teams in summer tournaments or state cups he'd would rise to the occasion and help his team achieve several draws, not many wins or losses.

    He always wanted to play at a higher level and get his team promoted to d2. That desire led to countless hours outside working on his touch. Almost everyday, on his own, had go out and get touches from a video we had called Footabilty 1 and 2 (shameless plug). In 1st grade he said he wanted to be a pro soccer player. I told he wasnt and he asked why? I said numbers and you dont practice enough. We tracked his practice time for a week and he practiced 10 minutes on his own. Since then he's done it all on his own.

    I say these things because I believe that playing on the lesser team actually drove him to succeed more so than if we had switched clubs at an earlier age. He was always cognizant of the shirt he was playing against regardless whether it was the clubs D team or A team. In middle school other kids had cooler jackets from better clubs. That fueled him as well. Had we switched clubs earlier I could have seen him being content with the kit and being on the A team being an ancillary player. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just dont think it would have let him develop as much.

    This may come across as bragging but I assure that I dont have much to brag about. First, he is wired completely different than me. He is much more athletic than I ever was and he hit the genetic lottery in that he is tall and left footed and has been in the right place at the right time.

    In conclusion, I think being the top player on a middling team has some benefits but it would depend on the mental makeup of the player. They would have to be able to handle losing often and use it as a driver for improvement.
     
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  17. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon Member

    Feb 27, 2017
    This is the key point IMO. Obviously being on a "less competitive" (doesn't mean bad) team CAN benefit a player. But when speaking in generalities, I think it's better to be among better players.

    You never know, you son may have wanted to push himself just as hard on a top team in order to "be equal" to his teammates.
     
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  18. kinznk

    kinznk Member

    Feb 11, 2007
    You are correct in it is a study of one with only one variable. I can't know the other side. I only know the results of this one. I still think the adversity he faced, whether game to game or being on a lower team, has helped him handle on field or team adversity now (he is with a different club where he is now a decent player but not the best, but the team is really good) when it comes to fighting for his spot.
     
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  19. ppierce34

    ppierce34 Member

    Aug 29, 2016
    Fort Wayne, IN
    It all depends on the kid. My daughter for instance has a tremendous skill set. If you saw her in training/practice you'd think she was the best U11 in the State (maybe not but you get the point). However, she lacks the confidence (imo) to be comfortable enough to apply and use those skills in game situations. Her current coach is very tough on the girls. He calls out every mistake they make (while actually on the field) and i think its crushed her confidence. I firmly believe that she belongs in a less competitive club (current club is a pressure cooker), where she would be top dog, with a positive coach that fosters confidence. Some kids respond well to the type of coaching and environment she is currently in while some dont.
     
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  20. CornfieldSoccer

    Aug 22, 2013
    That's a fair point. My reference to "weak" teams is an over-generalization. Weaker or less competitive would be a better way to put it.
    And it is all relative, and specific to the player. The strongest team my son has ever played for was run off the field a couple of years ago by a strong team from a much bigger club that, at least according to that team's parents, had been seeded with a couple of DA kids for that tournament. I'm sure those kids looked at my son's team and thought it was a rec team.
     
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  21. VolklP19

    VolklP19 Member

    Jun 23, 2010
    Illinois
    Yeah that was what I was getting at with my last comment for sure!
     
  22. Cantona's Eyebrow

    Dirty Leeds
    Togo
    Oct 8, 2018
    Simple, if you want to improve at football you need to be challenged. As you rightly pointed out, that means playing in a stimulating environment against tougher opposition.

    If you just want to boost your kid's ego, then keep them in a team where they can coast along and enjoy being the Team Superstar.
     
  23. bigredfutbol

    bigredfutbol Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Woodbridge, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    This is U11 we're talking about here.

    It's not a stark choice between "get better" or "ego boosting." Not every kid playing youth soccer is aiming for the next level.
     
  24. Cantona's Eyebrow

    Dirty Leeds
    Togo
    Oct 8, 2018
    Who said anything about reaching the next level? The original post asked what was better for development of players. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to know that if you are challenged in football, like in most things in life, you will improve.
     
  25. bigredfutbol

    bigredfutbol Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Woodbridge, VA
    Club:
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I did.

    I contend that 'player development' at such a young age--when there's no indication that the child is anything than a kid who likes playing soccer--is a pretty vague term.

    Also, the post asks about 'development' in the second paragraph. The first paragraph frames the question:

    Talking U11 girl here. Whats everyone's take on being the best player on a less competitive team in a less competitve program vs. being middle of pack on a team that is more competitive in a program that is more competitive.

    THAT is the question I focused on, not the subsequent elaboration on player development in general.

    Brain surgeons generally aren't experts on soccer OR childhood development, so...yeah.

    "Challenged" is doing a lot of work in your response. In the abstract, I agree with you--my son stuck with soccer through his early adolescence even though he was a late bloomer physically and lost his spot on the "A" squad at his club and I think in the end he became a better player and a more determined one as a result. And I think he developed some positive character traits as part of that struggle. But not every kid needs to go through that.

    If this parent had specified that their 10 year old daughter is serious about soccer, has aspirations to play college or even just wants to make the varsity team at a High School where only kids playing top-level club ball get selected, then I'd lean closer to your position. But the question was simply framed as a hypothetical with no contingent circumstances. Therefore, I answered as a parent rather than a soccer guy.
     
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