Players on the “A” Teams should be the most talented and focused group, requiring the most commitment to the game. However, the “B” Teams should be trained according to the same training principles as the “A” Teams. If you are a coach for a “B” Team, you should prepare your players to move up to a higher level of play. If you are coaching a “B” Team, do not keep your best players on your team in order to get better team results. Typically, the more players you send to the “A” team, the better job you have done.
Ability to Play Up
The majority of clubs, leagues and district, state or regional Olympic Development Programs in the United States allow talented, younger players to compete on teams with and against older players. This occurs as a natural part of the development process and is consistent throughout the world. Associations that create rules restricting an individual player’s option to play at the appropriate competitive level are in effect impeding that player’s opportunity for growth. For development to occur, all players must be exposed to levels of competition commensurate with their skills and must be challenged constantly in training and games in order to aspire to higher levels of play and thus maintain their interest and passion for the game.
When it is appropriate for soccer development, the opportunity for the exceptional player to play with older players must be available. If there is a concern regarding the individual situation, the decision must be carefully evaluated by coaches and administrators familiar with the particular player. When faced with making the decision whether the player ought to play up, adult leadership must be prepared with sound rationale to support their decision. Under no circumstance should coaches exploit the situation by holding players back in their quest for winning team championships, nor should parents push their child in an attempt to accelerate their ascension to the top of the soccer pyramid. In addition, playing up under the appropriate circumstances should not preclude a player from playing in his or her own age group when it is evaluated to be in the best interest of the player’s development.