Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Youth Soccer: Must Win Game

Are there really any must win, do or die games in youth sports? Must win or what? Of course in the grand scheme of life no game is really that important. Save for the 1980 USA Hockey team win over the USSR that lifted a nation and other games in history that garnered a higher importance for reasons beyond the game itself.

My daughter, CC, played in what was deemed a must win game by the coaches and the way too serious parents (like me).

My 10 year old daughter's team plays in the Elite Division (highest division) of the metro area soccer league. Their league record before Sunday's pivotal game stood at 2-2-3. They won or tied 5 of the 7 games, yet they were in danger of being dropped from the Elite division.

After each season is complete, the bottom two teams an upper division move down and the top two teams from the next lower division move up. This fall, the Elite division featured the best nine teams in the tri-state region. After the season, the Elite division is being reduced to eight teams. So for this year only, the bottom 3 teams of the Elite division will move down to the Premier division and the top two teams from the Premier division will move up.

My daughter's team needed to win to guarantee a spot in the Elite division. Staying in the highest division will guarantee that they will play against the best talent in league play. The top division teams are also the teams that garner limited spots in the top divisions of soccer tournaments. So a drop in division can significantly reduce the level of competition for an entire season. This is important because the girls on this soccer team are serious about soccer and they want to play against the best so that they can continue to advance as players.

Game 160

Rough Game
The coaching staff found out right before the game that they did not have to win to stay in. Apparently, the team that could have jumped over our team in the standings with a win, lost the day before. The coaching staff did not inform our kids of this and used the threat of moving down a division as motivation.

Our team ended up winning the rough game 1-0 to end up the season tied for 4th place and a mere two points out of second place. CC's foot is finally healed and she played very well. She had a terrific shot on goal that the goalie made an outstanding split second reaction save on.

The Main Point

In youth sports at the end of the day the result of the game really does not matter, but we all know that it feels like it does. This feeling weighs on the minds of young kids who only think about the present. This feeling weighs on the minds of the crazy youth sports parents who only think of the future, future positions on a competitive high school team or perhaps a future scholarship to college. So in a sense, there are must win games in youth sports. And I think that that is a good thing. These games prepare our kids for the future. Not so much for future games, but for life. The world is a very competitive place.

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