Scrap Your Elementary Teams (Part 1)

One of the benefits or the Christian school athletic department is the built-in feeder system. Most Christian schools go kindergarten through twelfth grade. This structure gives the athletic director the ability to have a direct influence in the development of future high school athletes. Always invest in your elementary athletes. But what’s the most effective way to develop them for the future?

Many schools have elementary sports teams that compete locally against other schools elementary teams. Typically, these are for fourth through sixth graders. They provide a fun experience and reinforce school spirit at a developmental age.

However, if you want to really take hold of the development of your elementary athletes then SCRAP YOUR ELEMENTARY TEAMS!

You may see that last statement and think that we have no idea what we’re talking about (maybe we don’t), but at least hear us out.

First, let us start with this disclaimer. Every school situation is different. Smaller schools can’t have intramural programs. Other schools may have the numbers but simply don’t have the staffing to operate an entire league.

Our goal today is to get you to reconsider your elementary sports structure. Whether it’s soccer, volleyball, basketball, or baseball, we believe your overall player development will improve if you incorporate an intramural program.

 

Participation

This is the biggest benefit of an intramural program: maximum participation!

The fourth grade boy that wouldn’t make your elementary team (or even your elementary B team if you have one) now has the opportunity to attend practices and play in games. Even if he made one of your elementary teams, he probably wouldn’t have gotten a lot of playing time. Really it would have been a wasted year for him, athletically speaking.

School teams typically have larger numbers at the elementary level. However, intramurals usually splits up into smaller teams with less substitutes. (Think teams of 9 in a 7v7 soccer league or teams of 6 in 4v4 basketball).

More teams with smaller members make for maximum playing time for all those involved.

We’ve all seen how youth teams tend to focus on the top three players. Even the most well meaning coaches end up neglecting the bottom of half of the talent barrel on their team.

Intramurals divide the talent so thoroughly that kids who normally wouldn’t even start are now the second or third best player on their team.

More participation, more playing time, more touches, more reps, more improvement, more participation. (lather, rinse, repeat)

 

Competition Level

It’s certainly obvious that the competition level of an intramural program is not as high as if the best players from School A were playing the best players from School B.

In intramurals the best players from School A are divided up on different teams. So technically they aren’t getting the best competition that they could be.

However, on the flipside, the younger and less experienced athletes are playing against and alongside of the better players. This will bring the level of play up.

An intramural program will do more to develop your lesser athletes.

The lack of higher talent will help the better players in that they’ll have to learn to be a leader on their team whereas they might not have had to be that leader on a school team.

Playing with less developed players will also help them to learn how to work with those that aren’t as experienced as they are.

 

Check back on Friday for three more thoughts on why you might want to scrap your elementary teams… or keep them… it depends.

The point is you should always reassess and reevaluate.

Do the what you can, with what you have, where you are.   – Theodore Roosevelt

Jeff is the athletic director at Victory Baptist Academy. He is also the founder and administrator of TheAthleticDirectors.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “Scrap Your Elementary Teams (Part 1)

  1. Really appreciate all of the articles on this website! Such helpful stuff!! This is a huge focus for me at our school and the main word I use is development. We have to be developing our players at all levels, so that they can take the next step in their ability. We are privileged to be able to have two elementary teams as well as intramural programs for 1st-3rd and 4th-6th. We have talked about so many different ways to help our players out and this allows our most talented players to play at a high level in a conference against other schools, and also gives our players that don’t make the team the ability to develop and get better during the season. We allow our players on the school team to choose if they want to also play on the intramural teams especially like you mentioned who may not play as much.

    Obviously, one of the hardest things I deal with is finding enough coaches, staff, helpers to do the intramural program. We actually utilize our High School athletes as coaches, or scoreboard helpers, or even refs. This allows them the opportunity to be leaders and to learn what it is like to be in charge and learn how to teach players concepts.

    This allows us to have all of the students that are at all interested in playing to participate. Again, I know many schools wouldn’t be able to accomodate for all of these teams, but it allows our players to develop at whatever level they are at.

    Looking forward to reading the second part of this also! I know we struggle to get our teams small because we have such a large amount of kids who participate, but we try to keep teams as small as possible to allow for more instruction from the coaches.

    Again, thank you very much for the website, it has been a great help for me as an AD.

    • Kyle, thanks for commenting. Part two actually outlines what you just said about coaching. It will offer a few other ideas as well, but the biggest part is getting your high school athletes involved. The coaches are the hardest part.

      Follow up question: with the size of your program (2 school teams and intramurals), do you have kids that do both school team and intramural? Also, do you run the leagues concurrently?

      Once again, thanks for engaging. We appreciate the feedback!

  2. Hey Jeff,

    Yes we do run them at the same time due to having baseball come quickly in the spring and needing to use our space indoors for practices for girls soccer and boys baseball.

    The players are able to play on our school team and also in the league if they want, but it is not required. Several of them do, but it depends on family situation and the time they have.