All High School Freshman and Junior Varsity Players Should Play

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!


3 responses to “All High School Freshman and Junior Varsity Players Should Play”

  1. Gary Avatar

    I certainly see your point with self-esteem, importance of result, and the “concept/idea” of some sort of feeder system, but I have to disagree with the notion of development.

    True development happens at “home” with the player living with the ball at his feet 24/7 over the years, watching countless high-level soccer games on the tube, and playing in pick-up games.

    20,30, 80 minutes of playing time here won’t develop a player. What’s more, in the context of low-level highschool soccer, if these players in question can’t receive playing time on the frosh or JV team, then they just don’t have anything to offer on the field. No amount of minutes will ever change that.

    They will have to work that much harder throughout the year. I just don’t believe in handing over too many charity minutes to the detriment of a team.

    From a different perspective, what does “giving without meriting” teach these players about the real world where you need to work your butt off to the point where you deserve that job, that raise, that promotion?

    In the end, development happens first and foremost with the player himself, followed by proper guidance from a good coach (there aren’t many). Playing time alone in high-school of all places won’t do it.

    Now, if the school/coach/players just want to play the season for the fun of it, and not for serious competition (which is what you might be suggesting), then I completely agree with you.

    Just my opinion of course …

    – Gary

  2. Alex Kos Avatar

    Thanks for the good feedback, Gary.

    I agree with you about development. Development also has to take place at home. High school and club soccer practices needs to be supplemented with other soccer activities to help these players reach their full potential. There is only so much a coach can do. Ultimately it is up to the player and it will require a lot of hard work and dedication.

    I also agree with you about merit. Just because a player makes a team does not mean he/she automatically gets playing time. If a players does not work hard at practice, is lazy, is disrespectful to the coach, then he/she should not play. Playing time still needs to be earned and should not be handed out for free. A good ‘life lesson’ would be for the player to be cut during tryouts.

    As an academic institution, I feel high schools are obligated to develop its scholar athletes. At the Frosh and Junior Varsity levels, I strongly believe that development is possible and should be emphasized. Playing time still has to be earned and not just handed out. But the final score for these teams is secondary.

    However, the Varsity team is a different story. On this team, I believe you play the best eleven players. If it means that not everyone plays, that’s fine. At the varsity level, the goal should be to win and the players and parents should understand this. Hopefully during the course of the season during a lopsided win or lose, the players who have not had a lot will get some playing time.

  3. Self Esteem Avatar

    Thank you so much, there aren’t enough posts on this… or at least i cant find them. I am turning into such a blog nut, I just cant get enough and this is such an important topic… i’ll be sure to write something about your site

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