An Overview of the BAYS Evaluation Process
The primary purpose of our Spring BAYS Evaluation process is to group like-skilled players together for the development of each individual player for the following 2 seasons.
Proper placement, particularly for young players, is important for their development. For example, if a player is placed on a team with too high a skill level, that player will struggle to keep possession of the ball, will not have a chance to develop their foot skills, and may lose confidence in their abilities. If a player is placed on too low of a skill level team, they may not be challenged enough to further develop their technical skills or, they may use their size and speed as a crutch instead of developing better foot skills.
Sudbury Soccer recently looked back at the soccer history of 14 seniors on the 2016 LS High School varsity team and learned that these players played across many teams in third grade, including team 1 through team 4. Team placement all the way into middle school has little bearing on where a player may end up.
In addition, it is common and expected to see player movement both up and down from team to team beginning in 3rd grade all the way through 8th. The key to success for SYSA players is proper placement, not higher placement, in order to accelerate player development.
The process for placing children on skill-based teams is based on a mix of objective data and coach information gathered from multiple sources to ensure placements decisions are as unbiased, transparent and as fair as possible.
Years ago, the placement of soccer players in many town programs consisted of a few coaches getting together and deciding where they thought a player should be placed. These placements had the potential for tremendous bias and put all the power of placement decisions into a few people’s hands.
Today, many programs including SYSA, incorporate systems of evaluation that blend coach feedback with objective data into an open, transparent placement meeting process with significant oversight to ensure that players are not subject to any one or two person’s opinions.
At SYSA we go several steps further. For example, during BAYS evaluations, we pay for and utilize professional coaches from the New England Revolution along with non-partisan parent volunteers to evaluate the players. We also do not allow any parents or coaches who have a child in the age group to evaluate that age group to ensure there is no bias.
In addition, if a parent who is coordinating an age group has a child who is placed on the first team, SYSA policy prohibits that coordinator from also being a head coach, to ensure that too much decision making power isn’t centralized in any one person.
These are just a few examples of the policies we have in place to keep our evaluation process transparent and fair. The following is a snapshot of how we evaluate our players:
Sudbury Soccer employs a 3-stage placement process to guide the placement of players:
Stage 1 - Fall and Spring Coach Evaluations: Every season, head coaches and assistant coaches are asked to provide an evaluation for each player using a standardized evaluation form. The skills that coaches are asked to rate fall into the four pillars of the game including, Technical, Tactical, Physical and Psychological. Examples include:
- Technical (Passing, Dribbling/Ball Mastery, Receiving, Creating Separation, Winning the Ball, Beating a Player 1 on 1)
- Tactical (Decision Making, Making Runs, Understands Defensive Role, Keeps Possession For Team)
- Physical and Psychological (Attitude, Attendance, Aggressiveness)
Stage 2 - Open Evaluations: SYSA players attend two nights of evaluations that also provide ratings of each child utilizing the same four pillars of the game. SYSA utilizes professional, independent evaluators to score the players and mixes in parent volunteers who do not have a child in the age group. In addition, when players check-in, they are given pinnie numbers. Those numbers are used to identify each child during evaluations; further assuring that no one knows the name of the child. All the evaluator knows is that he or she is watching player #24. Open evaluations are broken down into two nights as follows:
- Night 1: The first night focuses exclusively on small-sided games designed to test the technical skills of each player. Coordinators group players into blended skill-level teams who play up to 6 different small-sided games with various rule changes designed to test many different technical skills.
- Night 2: The second night puts players into real games of 7v7, 9v9 or 11v11 depending on the age group. In addition to skill level, our professional evaluators are also moving players to different skill level fields to determine where they are best placed. Player movement between the fields allows evaluators to really see how a player performs with different skill level players. For example, player #12 may be scoring at the top of field #3 so the evaluator moves this player to field #2 so she/he can receive a totally new evaluation on a different skill level field.
In addition to the full field games, Night 2 evaluations have small sided, 4v4 games. Players are grouped with other like-skilled players to participate in these games. A New England Revolution coach evaluates the game and force ranks the players 1 through 8. This provides an additional piece of data to use in the placement. All data from Night 1 and Night 2 are captured on tablets and electronically uploaded and sent to each of the age group coordinators, the VP of Boys and Girls, and to the Technical Director, all to ensure the quality and consistency of data by several people.
Stage 3 - Placement Meeting: Our coordinators go through the painstaking process of taking the uploaded data from both nights of evaluations, along with coach evaluation data from the previous two seasons, and formats all of it into a standard template. A placement meeting is scheduled and is usually 90 minutes to 2 hours in length – and oftentimes longer. At the meeting, the data is discussed at length. Each player’s placement is reviewed and a discussion around the placement is chaired by the age group coordinator and overseen by the technical director and appropriate VP. The Technical Director and VP’s are completely independent of the players and are purely there to ensure the correct protocol is followed. Here are just a few of the meeting rules:
- Players can move up as many teams as required. For example, if a player is placed on team 4 one year, they have the ability to jump to team 1 the following year
- Only 1 head coach and 1 assistant coach from each team can attend the meeting to avoid one team having a stronger voice compared to another
- Coaches cannot discuss or convey opinion surrounding their own child as this may provide an unfair advantage
- Coaches are not assigned during the meeting, players are placed independent of the knowledge of who will coach the team
- There are always two moderators from the SYSA board present to ensure the proper protocol is followed
There are a number of additional elements to the evaluation process but our goal with this information is to provide you with a broad understanding of our mission to ensure placements are as fair as possible.
We recognize that no system is perfect and we strive to make process improvements each year, particularly if we find a weakness or receive feedback on how to make the process even better. Please feel free to contact me or a member of the SYSA Board should you have any questions.
President, Sudbury Youth Soccer Association