Weston Soccer Club
Moving to 2-Year Age Groups
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:
We are a fortunate and ambitious community. Our children enjoy many activities. Soccer attendance can suffer as a result.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE GRADES LISTED ARE THE GRADES YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE IN NEXT FALL
(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.
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!!
President, Weston Soccer Club