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Commentary Nov 07, 2017

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.

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:

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.

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