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Hummer: Addiction to GotSoccer stifling youth soccer progress

If you are involved in youth soccer and value team rankings in any way, you are an accomplice in killing the future of our game. For the sake of our children, I’m begging you to quit.

America’s obsession with winning games as the primary measure of success, even before kids are in high school, sucks the fun out of the game for kids and undermines proper teaching of the sport at every level.

Rankings are like an addiction, and in this case, GotSoccer is the drug. It gives too many parents and coaches the euphoria of earning a reward, all the while undermining the health of our sport because the thing it’s rewarding – winning – is not where the focus should be. Even if focusing on winning was the right approach, GotSoccer’s so-called ranking system is so deeply flawed, it doesn’t even get that right.

Playing to win any game is fine, and I certainly don’t think everyone should get a trophy. But selecting which 11 year old players will start a game should be based far more on rewarding players with passion, effort, creativity, and grit; and far less about which players make it more likely the team will win that particular game.

Players who take the right risks at the right time, and who try things they learned in practice that week should be celebrated – loudly and frequently. Coaches and parents who “allow” players like that to learn within the game regardless of the final score should be praised and encouraged by all.

+READ: U.S. World Cup miss makes best case yet for Promotion – Relegation need in MLS

Rewarding winning first is what leads to coaches who shout play-by-play instructions (“joysticking”) non-stop. It leads to parents cheering louder for big kicks than they do for an instinctive and perfect first-touch out of pressure and a pinpoint switching of the point of attack with the second. Using winning as a primary measure completely ignores pretty much all the things our kids should be learning so they can continue to have the success and joy in the future that will keep them in the game for life.

EVEN if you assume that judging teams on winning was the RIGHT way to nurture a love for the game in our youth… GotSoccer’s rankings “formula” would STILL not be worth the electricity used to host its web pages.

Their ranking system seems to have been created as a marketing gimmick, and has barely improved since. It would not get past the smell test of an entry level high school statistics course, let alone something that should be at the core of an entire industry.

What would you do if The College Board’s SAT system rewarded kids from high schools that paid to advertise with them, or that rewarded test takers who signed up for a prep course they profited from directly, or scored the test based almost entirely where the student placed only within the group of kids taking the test at the same school and time? All of these oddities and more are inherent in GotSoccer’s rankings “formula”. (For a good read that, check out their FAQ: https://gotsoccer.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/categories/204576548-Rankings)

GotSoccer’s system…

  • Rewards tournaments and leagues that use their software to manage their competition
  • Rewards final placement far more than head-to-head, even awarding points for finishing above a team in a group that they didn’t even play at the event
  • Favors tournaments more than leagues in most cases, where far more games are not contested as seriously and players often play “championships” as a 4th or even 5th game in 2 days
  • Favors tournament play with championship games more than showcase formats that don’t have a “final”
  • Rewards a fixed amount of bonus points for a win or draw regardless of the comparative strength of the two teams
  • Rewards quantity over quality, leading to teams based near more events that use GotSoccer to rack up more points. And worse, because they get more points, the future events they play in build more points for all, and the cycle repeats
  • And… Where are the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and ECNL teams? The ones with multiple U.S. Youth Soccer National Team players and that have over 50% of their players get full scholarships to play in college? If those teams even show up on the first page of GotSoccer state rankings at all, they’re not at the top where almost everyone (Except of course the parents and coaches of the State Cup “Champions” in a state with 4-12 teams in their age group in the DA or ECNL) HAS to admit they should be.

This isn’t a Youth Soccer Ranking, it’s a Loyalty Rewards Program For GotSoccer Clients.

Unfortunately, the youth soccer world is addicted to this GotSoccer drug, which rewards unhealthy behavior and perpetuates so much of what’s wrong with youth soccer in America. And the coaches and club directors who play the GotSoccer Game act surprised when players jump teams mid-season to a higher ranked team?

It’s time for every parent, coach, board member and anyone else who even looks at GotSoccer’s rankings pages for anything other than a good laugh to go to rehab. The future of our game may literally depend on it.

By | November 7, 2017 | 21 Comments | Tags: ,

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  1. Mike Sweeney says:

    Chris,

    You are 100% correct about the debilitating effect rankings has on development. I would add one additional point that it takes the power from a coach trying to develop the love of the game in a young player and transfers it to the crazy parent (who very quickly gets the rest riled up into a linch mob of parents) looking to be nationally ranked. I get that it is an American system (most notably college football) everyone understands but it is extraordinarily destructive to learning any skill. A young athlete needs to be able to make a mistake under pressure and the world doesn’t end.

    The insanity of attempting to rank a U11 game when teams can use guest players on any given weekend, games are decided by referees with very limited experience and ability to keep up with the play, weather, field conditions, 5 games in a weekend, travel and on and on. College football, the media and the gambling industry spend hundreds of millions of dollars on their “ranking system” and are way off on so many occasions.

    And guess what? There is actually a very simple solution. The USSF should simply mandate that no affiliate can sanction a tournament which uses a ranking system below the age of u15. That would be a more positive impact on the youth environment than any of their mandates so far. Certainly not a solution but at least a positive step.

    Thank you for having the forum in which to raise important points and the character to write the truth.

    From an old coach who is very tired of pushing the big rock up the hill who doesn’t see us any farther ahead than when he started 30 years ago.

  2. Learn to Win says:

    Yes, Got Soccer is flawed. There is a better youth soccer ranking site out there that is more accurate and uses a bubble sort to figure out a team strength value. Google around and you can find it.

    So, what other sports place so little emphasis on winning when the kids are…say…12 years old? I can’t think of any off the top of my head, can you?

  3. Jeff Huddleston says:

    When i first found GotSoccer, I looked into the ranking methodology and saw that it was arbitrary and subjective. However, what other data is available? I agree that the point of youth soccer should be about development, but how is that objectively measured?

    I devise formulaes almost every day for one reason or another. You must constantly ask “what is the best variable to measure what I am trying to measure?” and “how difficult is finding the data for that variable?”

    I wish GotSoccer wasnt about $ (but I wish all of youth soccer wasn’t about $). But without access to a better system, GotSoccer will have to do.

  4. Hot soccer mom says:

    I want to first say totally agree aboutgot soccer. However why is this directed at parents? Are parents crazy…yes. Why are the smart parents crazy about got soccer? Because largely that is how you are placed and accepted into tournaments. And why do you care about that? Because if you are NOT ECNL. And now NOT DA you need to be at the top tournaments and in the top brackets in order to be seen by college coaches when you are in 9,10,11 grades sad but true There is so much ruining youth girls soccer the parents are the least of the problem.

  5. Fabio Diletti says:

    Chris

    You are my hero for making this right statements.
    In the US it is all about adults making money and very little player development. Too many leagues and tournaments where, even at the highest level, players have no fundamental skills and even less understanding of how this beautiful game is played.
    If the US, to qualify for the World Cup, would need to play all European teams, will never ever make it to the final stage. FORZA ITALIA

  6. Broken Footballer says:

    Thank you so much for speaking to this problem.

    Throughout US soccer its wins over development. Coaching money now over development is another example of the phenomenon.

    GotSoccer plays at stats but is $ driven. Parents without knowledge place wins over all else and many put way too much time into GS. Coaches for cash push for wins and GS points. GS is emblematic of many problems with our your game and development today.

  7. PlayToWin says:

    This is a load of crap. Attitudes like this are the perfect example of why our Men’s National Team didn’t play to win in a play-in game for the World Cup. That team is full of players who have the attitude of the author of this article. Soccer is a sport. Sports are about winning and losing as is life.

    • OverTheHillStriker says:

      Your username says it all. Comparing youth soccer to the Men’s National Team is a microcosm of the problem you are proliferating.

    • Alan Goldstein says:

      Playtowin, you miss the point.OR you don’t know much about developing good soccer players.
      It takes thousands of touches and many many game condition experiences to create players capable of winning against top competition from around the world, and strictly playing to win at young ages stifles that development and prevents winning as the players get older.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good luck. I hope you win life.

  8. Nicholas Adams says:

    Hear, hear!

  9. Chris,

    Amen. I have been involved with the Hempfield Adidas Fall Classic in Lancaster, PA for 23 years. I do team seeding and scheduling. This year we have 780 teams and 1,334 games to schedule.

    Whenever a coach or team manager opines about their seeding position based on Got Soccer rankings, I cringe. Now I at least have an intelligent reply to them as to why we do NOT use Got Soccer rankings for our seeding. (Note: We are now a Got Soccer tournament. For the first 30 years of the tournament we did not use Got Soccer)

    Thank you.

  10. Stephen Clemens says:

    Excellent commentary and very true. Too many youth coaches do “play by play” instructions and most parents have no clue what good play is. Fortunately I have found that the Development Academy teams do not suffer from these issues. They actively tell parents to not instruct their children, simply because they don’t know what the coach is trying to teach. Many practices are off limits to the parents as well.

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