I recently refereed a boy\’s Junior Varsity high school game. As a referee, you are encouraged to look toward the benches during every dead ball should the teams want to substitute a player or players. During the entire game, I don\’t recall the coaches making more than two substitutions each. During warm-ups and on the game cards, each team had over 20 players. I could not help but wonder why so few players played?
I talked to the other referee about this after the game. He was not surprised. He has refereed high school soccer for many years and he assured me that this is not a rare occurrence. He believes that this is due to the short soccer season in which games start to count immediately and the simple fact that greater emphasis is placed on winning, even at the non-varsity level. To corroborate the other referee\’s statement, it was a close game so perhaps both coaches were going for the win (the game ended in a tie).
In addition, I don\’t know if there were extenuating circumstances that precluded the other players from playing. There could have been issues with grades, injuries, illness, or red card suspensions. Or perhaps each team was dealing with some disciplinary measures that were being meted out. I\’m not sure and I did not inquire.
In the other Freshman (Frosh) and Junior Varsity (JV) games I refereed, I saw much more substituting. So perhaps it may just be a few coaches who place winning ahead of development.
Regardless of the possible reasons, I strongly believe that all Frosh and JV players, unless for any of the reasons listed above, should get playing time in each match. There are many reasons for this some of which are listed below:
- The Frosh and JV teams should be viewed as feeder teams to the varsity program. These teams will not fulfill their purpose if talent is not being developed.
- High school is all about learning, growing, developing, and maturing not just in the classrooms but on the soccer field as well. Playing in games plays an integral part.
- Working hard at practice and being a good team player who is not rewarded with playing time certainly can\’t help build a player\’s self-esteem. If a player is not playing, he/she should either be moved down to a younger team or not have been selected in the first place.
- Frosh and JV final scores simply do not and should not matter. Even if there is a post-season tournament for these teams (there is not one in my area), I would still question the importance of the final score over having everyone play.
- You never know how a player will respond in a game situation. Perhaps a player may surprise the coaching staff if given an opportunity.
If every player gets playing time and the Frosh and JV teams go 0-12 or 0-16, so what. As long as they have improved individually and collectively, the coach has done his/her job. Unless they are unable to, each Frosh and JV player should play in each game, PERIOD!