This year in eighth grade football, the athletics department decided to move away from the previous one-team system and instead implement an A and B team model. When the decision was announced in tryouts, some players were shocked because this system was not used the previous year. They were expecting a similar system to the one utilized by previous eighth grade years. (one team) when tryouts began.
According to Middle School Athletic Director Mr. Akay Mustafa, there are a number of things that determine how teams are created each year. “With every middle school sport, once we know how many kids try out, we ask ourselves, how can we retain as many players as possible.”
Mr. Mustafa explained that game time, training grounds, and game venues also played a role in the decision. He also added that last year there were not enough players for the A and B team groupings which is why there was only a single squad for the previous year.
Mr. Mustafa doesn’t have a preference for the A and B system saying, “Whichever system allows us to retain more players is better for us.” The goal of the A and B system was to retain as many players as possible. But why the A and B team system instead of two evenly split teams like for the 7th graders? “There are two reasons for level based teams at grade 8. The first is that the LSSA conference asks for level based teams for that age group/category. The second reason is that from our own philosophical standpoint, we want to ensure level appropriate training. At grade 7, where we have evenly split teams, there is still much work to do on the basics and therefore everyone can improve when working together. At grade 8, the introduction of a full-size pitch, as well as tactical and structural themes, comes in. If players are not ready to be introduced to those themes, because they still need to improve the technical aspect of their game, we have to spend time getting them up to speed.” Player reaction was mixed to this new system. In an anonymous survey, 75 percent of the players in grade 8 football this year felt that the A and B team system was a good move. One player explained that he liked the current system because it allowed him to play with athletes of a similar skill level. This response seemed to be a theme within the survey.
In contrast, 25 percent of people said that they were not fans of the newly formed system. Several players made it clear that it felt as if they couldn’t get onto the A team once on they were selected for the B team even though the coaches had told the players this could be a possibility.
Further-more, sixty eight percent of people said that their confidence levels were affected, for better or for worse. The athletes who made the A team felt more confident with the sport. To add on, certain people stated that, as a result of the team groupings, they felt more confident with themselves, in school and in sports. Nathan Lewis was one of these people. “I made the A team which put me in a great frame of mind going forward,” said Lewis.
Another group of players felt very differently, with one athlete explaining on the survey that “every time we go into a game, we are sure we’re going to lose.” This seemingly reflected how some of the players’ confidence had been damaged.
This season, however, it seems that the majority of people are pleased with this format and, as Mr. Mustafa said, the A and B team groupings have allowed almost double the amount of players to take part in football in this fall season.