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Managing the Game: |
Maximizing Participation Opportunities for Middle School, Junior High, and Freshman Level Interscholastic Teams
Chad Seifried, Ph.D., RAA, Louisiana State University and Tim Casey, Upper Arlington High School (Columbus, OH)
PowerBasketball would like to thank Chad Siegfried and Tim Casey for providing their latest series helping coaches and providing insight into what it takes to really "Manage the Game".
The "B" Schedule is not the same as the "B" Team: Maximizing Participation Opportunities for Middle School, Junior High, and Freshman Level Interscholastic Teams
Coaches "manage" competitive sports at the interscholastic level by placing potential athletes into distinct categories based on their physical maturation, skill level, and age/grade rank. Middle school, junior high, and/or freshman level basketball teams (typically ages 12-15) should be organized differently than those at the junior varsity and varsity levels (typically ages 15-18). For instance, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) presented middle school through freshman level sports should maximize participation opportunities, build basic fundamental skills, promote lifelong fitness and interest in physical activity, and the improve/condition the social skills/behaviors of participants (NASPE, 2002).
Many schools districts fail to realize these objectives and instead "cut" kids from athletic teams, which they frequently connect to budgetary reasons and facility/staff limitations (Abrams, 2002; NIAAA, 2009a, b). The term "cut" as used in this presentation focuses on a coach removing a potential student-athlete from a participation opportunity as a member of the team during the tryout process due to the player's perceived lack of skill and/or potential as compared to his/her peers. This practice is common and most adolescents attempting to make a team know they need to play well, demonstrate potential, and/or showcase a solid skill set to secure one of the limited number of participation opportunities typically available (Petlichkoff, 1992).
Interestingly, despite the common practice of cutting, little research and discussion has emerged with respect to that topic on interscholastic sport teams. As an example, Weiss and Petlichkoff (1989) and Petlichkoff (1992, 1995) argued few investigations in academia focused on cutting children from sports teams and few coaching education books from researchers representing every corner of the world address or entertain the topic (Cassidy, Jones, & Potrac, 2009; Jones, Armour, & Potrac, 2004; Jones, 2006; Schempp, 2003). Appropriately, this topic merits more discussion and attention from coaches because kids generally expect to achieve success when they try (Hallinan & Snyder, 1987; Grove, Fish, & Eklund, 2004; Petlichkoff, 1992) and few records exist which document how coaches can better handle situations where high tryout numbers occur. This work serves to document one tactic shared by coaches of highly competitive boys' basketball programs that sought to maximize participation opportunities, build basic fundamental skills, promote lifelong fitness and interest in physical activity, and the improve/condition the social skills/behaviors of participants.
To accommodate a larger group of players than coaches might necessary desire, particularly at the middle school, junior high, or freshman level, we suggest one innovative option we previously utilized to make sure we could provide a large group with the best experience and opportunity for development, the creation of a "B" schedule. This should not to be confused with a "B team." The "B" schedule essentially allows kids not playing as much to experience significant real game situations they would generally not enjoy as members of a large team or even at the end of a smaller team's bench. For basketball programs enjoying a plethora of exceptional interest at these levels, this could be an attractive option.
The authors recommend if you are willing to accept nearly 20 kids on any of these teams you may find the regular schedule as inadequate to help the growth and development of those players likely to secure a position at the end of the bench. For example, you know it is tremendously difficult to play 20 kids in what is most likely going to be a 24-minute contest. Securing a commitment from the athletic director at your school to help create a "B" schedule is important because it provides extra games on the regular season to help develop the game skills or social/team behaviors you desire your players to posses in your program. Normally, if your middle school, junior high, or freshman level schedule contains 16-18 games (Table 1), we would recommend adding another 8-9 games as the "B" schedule (Table 2).
In the "B" schedule system, we used competition as the main strategy to help provide opportunities each week for the kids to play themselves on to the "A" or "B" schedule. Thus, we used each week as an open-ended tryout where the kids performing the best and meeting the set goals established in practices (e.g., pay attention to detail, communicate with teammates, share the ball, defend the perimeter) played the "A" schedule for the week. We should note the "B" schedule should occur against other middle school, junior high, and freshman level teams and many which the "A" schedule also includes. This should help eliminate the perception by both parents and the players that playing the "B" schedule represents a "B" team.
Abrams (2002) and NASPE (2002) similarly supported the idea of increased scheduling efforts like this one with special attention to game and practice opportunities because it could help keep more children involved with sports, motivate better performances and desired behaviors, and promote later performance ability and interest. This practice also appears to accept NASPE (2002) on the conducting of middle school interscholastic programs because it bolsters "confidence and self-esteem by letting students experience equitable competition and developmentally appropriate activities" (p.6). We would also like to recognize that the growth and develop of this age group (12-15 years old) mentally, emotionally, and physically is difficult to predict because that process is generally out of the control of coaches. Past academic literature also labeled this age group as willing to "sample" a variety of activities during this time thus it is also challenging to predict desire, work ethic, and commitment from potential student-athletes (Weiss, 1987; Weiss & Petlichkoff, 1989). Therefore, maximizing the number of participation opportunities should be important because you never know how a kid will develop or what their interests might be.
Overall, we recommend the establishment of a "B" schedule because we achieved great success from this practice as regulars on the "B" schedule as freshman managed to maintain and increase their interest in basketball to become valuable members of the authors' successful varsity teams as juniors and seniors (16-18 year olds). The competition for playing time on the "A" schedule also served us greatly as a motivational tool because the kids really did want to play two games during the week versus just one for the "B" schedule. Thus, we found their work effort and concentration on weekly goals as desirable. Finally, we believe those members who did not later play varsity basketball remained great supporters of our program, along with their parents, because we made that initial interscholastic opportunity possible when the alternative might have been to cut before the season and possibly their interest in basketball could bloom.
Table 1: Sample “A” Schedule
Table 2: Sample “B” Schedule
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