One question we get often is how we go about splitting the teams up?
All of our teams are Travel teams, however we balance them evenly so that there are no A, B or C levels. Our whole league operates this way to ensure fair and competitive games.
Eastern and Central Mass is home to the Mass Bay Youth Lacrosse League, or MBYLL. The league is divided into five geographic regions. During the regular season we play 8 games within our region, and at season's end we play in a huge Jamboree at Devens against three teams from the other regions. For more about MBYLL click here.
Our program has grown tremendously over the many years we have been in MBYLL.
In order to split the teams evenly, we have the coaches and outside college players grade the boys on multiple factors including size, speed, skill and coachability. The coaches do this during the first two weeks of the season. Multiple people will score the boys, and then those scores are aggregated to get true scores per boy. The scoring is typically done by the Assistant Coaches.
Once the scores are done, different coaches will take the sheets, and proceed to divide the boys equally. The first slice is done by grade and by town. So the score sheet will be divided into four worksheets: 8th grade Northborough, 8th grade Southborough, 7th grade Northborough, 7th grade Southborough. Inside each of these buckets we also have noted who will coach, who volunteered to be a team parent, which boys want to play goalie, and which boys are left handed.
The coaches then try to ensure that each team has a Team Parent, two goalies, and an equal share of the lefties (lefties typically make up 15%-18% or our program).
After each of the four buckets (town and grade) are split evenly, the coaches put the respective groups together to get a look at the full team. They then analyze the scoring system to ensure that each team is equal according to the relative strength and skill of the boys.
Then it gets one step more complicated. The U15 coaches split first, and then the U13 coaches will do exactly the same exercise, however the siblings become the first to be placed. Each season we have typically 60 siblings to factor into the splits. Why do we care about this? Because the same color team usually plays at the same location on each given Sunday. Gold U15, Gold U13, Gold U11 will be scheduled at the same field location whenever possible, as would the Maroon, White and Black teams. For this reason we try to place all siblings on the same color team. The U13 coaches then do the same split exercise trying to balance the four individual buckets and then combining them into evenly balanced teams.
When the U11 Coaches take their turn, they are factoring in two levels of sibling placements first, then taking the grading sheets to strike even teams. We do not always have the same number of teams at each age level which poses additional challenges.
We finish by doing this exercise for the U9 squads, noting that since we only have two teams at this level we must try to factor in and avoid an older sibling on a third color team.
Paramount to following league philosophy is to wind up with balanced teams in terms of score and skill. This is even more important as we tell the boys to trust us that the teams will be of even strength, and the most damaging aspect of a stacked team is to lose the trust of the boys with what we say versus what we do.
The wild card in all of this happens when a team has several good players who also play multiple sports and then miss several games and practices. The teams are balanced if everybody shows up. If stronger players are missing and a team loses that is not due to imbalance of the teams. We have yet to figure out how to gauge an honest commitment to avoid this problem.