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Understanding Team Selection

Whatever sport your child is involved in, once they have got started and got their teeth into it, they are likely to have a goal within that sport. That might be to make it onto a particular team or crew within their school or club, or they may have loftier ambitions of county, regional or national selection. Whatever their aim, it is important that they have a clear idea of how to go about this. It's very frustrating to have a solid ambition, “I want to be on the school first team!”, but to have absolutely no idea how to go about it.

Obviously, being 'good' at your sport is going to be an important factor and your child, when they are being 100% honest with themselves, will have a feel for how well they are doing in the rankings. But 'good' can mean a lot of things.

One of the most common reasons that parents contact me for one to one support is to do with team selection. It is a constant point of conflict between parents and coaches, and although it is always going to be an emotive issue for parents, there are ways to make it more transparent and less ambiguous so that parents and children understand the process, even if they don't always like the outcome.

As a coach, there are various factors taken into consideration when selecting a team. Performance is obviously very important, but is it clear to athletes and parents which performances are being counted? Is there a particular competition or race that is going to be used to select a team? Is there a particular qualifying time that an athlete needs to achieve in order to be considered for selection? And if this is the case, does everyone know about it? Is the information clearly available for athletes and parents alike to access?

And although performance is important, what about potential? What about the young, inexperienced athlete that an intuitive coach can see is going to be a leading light of the future, how do you give them the vital experience they need when their performance levels are not up there yet? As a coach, if you intend to use potential as a factor for selection, it is also important that everybody knows this, otherwise it can potentially lead to bad feeling within a team.

And there are other factors such as attendance, age, equipment availability, personal circumstances, confidential health issues, leadership qualities, teamwork; I could go on.....all of which can have a bearing on why a coach chooses a particular athlete for a particular team.

And then there is the thorny issue of the coach's hunch, their gut feeling. Which although it is very difficult to accept if the decision doesn't go your way, coaches are aiming to select the best team, and their opinion, as the person who spends the most time with the athletes actually engaged in their sport, is important.

Whatever the criteria, it is vital that everybody, coaches, parents, athletes and club officials all understand how a team is going to be chosen. Does your club have some kind of selection policy document that can be accessed by everyone on the club website? As a parent you are well within your rights to ask about the selection policy, and as a coach, I would highly recommend having one. That way, those difficult, time-consuming, emotional conflicts over team selection just don't have to happen and athletes can come to terms with missing out on the team without thinking it was all unfair, and that's got to be a good thing.

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