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All-Star Team Selection: A Better, Fairer Way?

Six Ways To Reform The System

If there are going to be summer all-star teams in your community at all (the wisdom of which, especially before grade seven, is questionable at best), what can be done to make the selection process fairer?

I believe that there are a number of steps parents can take to take the politics out of the selection process system and to make summer all-star teams more inclusive and about having fun and learning new skills and less about winning and cutting kids (many of whom will be so discouraged that they will drop out of sports, never to play again):

  1. The Selection Voting Process Should Be Open. There is nothing like secrecy to breed mistrust among parents about the fairness of the selection process. When my sons were playing youth baseball, the process used to pick summer all-star teams was shrouded in secrecy. Apparently, the coaches and the Board of Directors simply got together and hand picked teams and your son or daughter either got a call or they didn't. It was a classic example of the "good ole' boy network." No one knew how the teams were put together or the criteria used in determining whom the "best" players were. What they did know is that an astonishing number of the coach's kids made the team, with only a smattering of other players thrown in to give the appearance of fairness, or to help with the carpooling duties.

  2. Parents Should Not Vote. Period. If there is one rule that should be followed in all cases in which select or all-star teams are put assembled, it is that the parents of players should under no circumstances have a say in who is picked. My experience, and I am sure that of countless other parents across the country, is that giving the coaches a chance to vote on which players get selected inevitably results - surprise, surprise - in their own kids being selected. It is a rare coach who can resist the powerful temptation to pick his or her own child and who can be objective about their own child compares to his or her peers. In fact, I would bet that, if you asked 100 parents, 95 out of 100 would, if pressed, admit that the chance to dramatically increase the chances that their kid gets a spot on an all-star or select team (as well as getting more playing time or, at the very least, getting to play the "glamour" positions, such as pitcher and shortstop in youth baseball) is one of the principal reasons they are coaching their own kids year after year after year, in the first place. Eliminate their ability to advance their own personal agenda and the selection process is bound to be fairer and, just as importantly, perceived by all the parents to be fairer.

  3. Survivor Type Voting.  The players themselves know who are the best players.   As in the popular TV show Survivor, when the time comes to decide who makes the all-star tem, why not give every player a marker and a ballot and ask them to vote for the players on the team who they feel should be on the all-star team. Have each player use a magic market to fill in the box next to the name of the player they think most deserving of selection, fold the paper and place it in a basket. By coloring in a box, no one sees anyone's handwriting. Opening and counting the ballots should always be done when all of the parents can be present to see the vote.
  1. Every Child Who Wants To Play Should Be Given A Spot And Equal Playing Time. Where is it written that there can only be one all-star team for a particular age group, with those who don't make the cut left on the outside looking in? Organize as many teams as there are players wanting to play. And set up rules to ensure equal, or at least significant, playing time. Not only will this help develop all players, but it will prevent the benchwarmers, who might be terrific athletes when they grow up, from becoming so discouraged they quit. Girl soccer players sitting on bench

  2. Teams Should Be Comprised Of Children Of The Same Age And Be Of Mixed Abilities. All too often, a player who the powers that be believe to be exceptionally precocious will be asked to "play up" on a team of older kids. All that this does is deny a roster spot to a player in the older age group and throw the younger child in with kids who he or she doesn't know, that aren't his classmates in school, and feeds not only the kids' ego, but his parents' as well. In response to those who say that "forcing" the more "talented" players to play with players perceived as less talented, point out that asking them to play with kids their own ages, of mixed abilities, won't dilute the competition, hold them back, prevent them from being a high school, college or pro star. Ask them what is more important: winning or ensuring that the kids have fun?

  3. Teams Should Play Against Other Communities With Mixed Teams. One reason that you may hear why all-star teams have to be comprised of just the most "talented" kids is that this is the way other towns field their teams, so the deck will be unfairly stacked against your teams when they play head to head. The solution, of course, is simple: play teams from other towns that are equally committed as your program to including every kid who wants to play in their summer all-star program (in fact, when it comes right down to it, there is no need at all to even call the teams "all-star" if they are all-inclusive). And, if they aren't, so what? Your program shouldn't be that fixated on winning that it really matters.