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Read Why We're Changing to 2-Year Age Groups This Fall!!

By John Power, 06/07/21, 5:15PM EDT


Better Development, Better Teams, More Fun!!

Weston Soccer Club

Moving to 2-Year Age Groups

Spring 2021


We hope you’ve enjoyed this Spring 2021 season, which has seen our young players allowed to play with fewer and fewer public health restrictions.  As wonderful as this has been, the season has also highlighted some challenges that could make future seasons more difficult if we don’t address them now.


Please take a few minutes to read this note about our decision to move to 2-year age groups for our 3rd-8th graders for the Fall 2021 season and beyond; we’re excited about the ways in which this change will enhance the experience of our players.


What Are Our Challenges?


We are a small town to start with, and our school class sizes are declining.  Births in Weston are down.  We used to have 3 or 4 teams in our 3rd and 4th grade programs for each gender.  Now we have 2.  Or even just 1.


Our size has reached a point at which it risks undermining the quality of the experience our young players enjoy:

  • The skill gap on a team gets wider when there are fewer players, and thus fewer teams, in the grade.  That makes it harder for EVERYONE on that team to have fun.  Why?
  • The less skilled players can struggle to enjoy success or to feel that they are contributing when the more skilled players dominate the ball
  • The more skilled players can get bored
  • The coaches have a hard time designing training sessions that engage everyone
  • It’s harder to place our teams in divisions that offer good competitive matches because it’s harder to pinpoint the competitive level of our teams – the skill gap is too wide.


We are a fortunate and ambitious community.  Our children enjoy many activities.  Soccer attendance can suffer as a result.

  • When a few players don’t show up for training with a larger team, it’s no big deal; when a few players don’t show up for training with a smaller team, the coach’s entire session plan may be shot.
  • We’ve had a number of teams have to play multiple games down a player, or with no subs, or just one.  You get the picture… 


To be clear…we’re discussing numbers for a Spring season, and our numbers are typically lower in the spring than in the fall (more sports options).  But our structure has to be robust for both fall and spring seasons…and future spring seasons may yield lower numbers than this as the post-Covid desire to be outside with friends normalizes.  


We estimate, based on current registration numbers, normal attrition, etc. – that 7 out of 10 age groups from Kindergarten – 4th Grade, Girls and Boys, will not be viable on their own when they reach 5th grade and play 9v9.

  • 9v9 teams need 13-15 players to give each player good playing time when everyone shows up while still being able to field a team and avoid running players into the ground when a few players don’t show up.
  • 2 teams of 13-15 players requires an age group of 26-30 players.
  • The 7 age groups that are unlikely to be viable by 5th grade are either already well below that number or can reasonably be expected to fall below that number with natural attrition between now and 5th grade.


Without more flexibility in our numbers we are increasingly likely to find ourselves with too many players for 1 team in a grade and not enough for 2, having to turn some players away, and with problematic skill gaps on the teams we do field.  We need to take measures now to ensure that all of our young players have a team to play on and that those teams provide fun, engaging development experiences for everyone.



What Is Our Solution?


The WSC Board has decided to create 2-Year Age Groups in our BAYS (3rd-8th grades) program for the Fall 2021 season and beyond.  Our 3rd and 4th grades will be one age group, as will our 5th and 6th graders.  Our 7th and 8th graders already function as a single group.


This structure will give us the option to create single-grade teams, mixed-grade teams, or a combination of both, based on the number of players registered each season and their levels of physical and skill development.


Single-grade teams will play against other towns in their grade as they already do; mixed grade teams will, of necessity, play teams that are either mixed or comprised of players from the higher of the grades in the 2-year age group.  For example, a mixed-grade team in our 3rd/4th grade age group would play in the BAYS 4th grade divisions, where there are both 4th grade teams and mixed-grade teams from other towns.


Here are 2 examples of how this structure would have helped us give many players a better experience this spring:


  • Our B3 (3rd grade boys) age group has 19 players & our B4 group has 26 players, for a total of 45.
  • They play 7v7, which means that both B3 teams (9 & 10 players) have no margin for error re: attendance while one of the B4 teams (with 13 players) has almost an entire team on the sideline waiting on days when everyone shows up.
  • Combining these 2 grades would have enabled us to create 3 teams of 11 and 1 team of 12 – a much better balance across a variety of attendance scenarios with plenty of playing time and fewer instances of not enough players.
  • Our G3s have 15 players (all on one team) and our G4s have 21 players (11 and 10 players).
  • The G3 team can’t give anyone more than half a game when everyone is there, and the G4 team with 10 players must often play with few subs or with fewer than 7 players on the field.
  • Combining these 2 grades would have enabled us to create 3 teams of 12 players; nobody is ever short players, and everyone gets reasonable playing time.



What is the Development Rationale?


Our development philosophy has always been that players develop best when grouped with players of similar skill.  This is why we create ranked teams in the first place.  2-year age groups enhance our ability to group similar players more closely.  This is why US Youth Soccer builds its development model in 2-year age groups; why the Coastal Youth Soccer League on the South Shore is built entirely on 2-year age groups; and why youth lacrosse and youth hockey use 2-year age groups.


Changing the Game, the prominent youth sports research and advocacy group, has this to say about how to group young players:


  • “Every youth sports organization should have well thought-out policies in place that allow for athletes to compete not simply against players their chronological age, but their developmental age.”


The developmental age range of children who are the same chronological age can be up to 5 years, and we know that an old 3rdgrader (for example) can be closer in age to many 4th graders than to many of her 3rd-grade peers.  The developmental overlap between adjacent grades is significant and offers our young players many developmental benefits.


Combining grades into 2-year age groups will enable us to do what we have always sought to do:  assess your whole child – athletically, socially, emotionally – and then surround him or her with teammates of similar skill so that all can enjoy the success of developing and contributing.


We’re excited by the flexibility this structure will afford us to give the greatest developmental benefit to the greatest number of players.




What’s Next?


We expect registration to open later this week, and it will remain open until 30 June.  You’ll receive a separate email from us announcing the opening of Fall 2021 registration.


We’ll hold professionally run mixed-grade evaluations next week (schedule below).  We’ll also have our player rankings within each grade, including for our current 2nd graders, and Chris DiCecca, our Temporary Director of Coaching, has seen all of our BAYS players in training and at games this spring, so we will have abundant information with which to place players on appropriate teams for the Fall 2021 season.


Here is the evaluation schedule; all sessions will be on Fields 7 & 9 at the Middle School/High School complex.



(NOT the grades they are in now)


Monday, 14 June

4-5:30:              RISING G3 & G4 together

5:45-7:15:         RISING G5 & G6 together


Tuesday, 15 June

3:30-5:00        RISING B3 & B4 together (pls note the earlier start time to accommodate Woodland School ceremony)

5:45-7:15:         RISING B5 & B6 together


Wednesday, 16 June

4-5:30:              RISING B7 & B8 together

5:45-7:15:         RISING G7 & G8 together


All of our young players are encouraged to attend these evaluations, even if their parents haven’t registered them for the Fall 2021 season yet  ;-).  We’ve tried to avoid as many conflicts as possible with other youth sports and leave Thursday and Friday free for family moments like Middle School graduation and the last day of school.  We know there will still be challenges.  If you do your best to attend and we do our best to place your young players as accurately as possible no matter what, it will all work out exceedingly well.  We’ll make sure of it.



In Conclusion


Thank you for taking the time to read about this important change in our club’s structure.  We discussed various aspects of the change, including numbers and development, but all of these aspects converge in one single and vital metric:  FUN.


It’s fun to play more.  It’s fun to get better.  It’s fun to play with old friends.  It’s fun to make new friends.


As always, ask us anything; my email address is below and I’m happy to discuss.  We can’t wait to get started!!



John Power

President, Weston Soccer Club