Balanced Teams

The first five years of AYSO play was critical to the growth of AYSO in that each following year coaches were able to retain key players from the previouis year. But, the result was that new teams formed were disadvantaged with players of lesser experienced talents. The coaches of the stronger teams from previous years had entrenched themselves with power house teams and one-sided scores resulted. Balancing of teams in playing skills would require management action to provide equal opportunities to each and every team and player therein. 
The solution in the fourth year was to assign only 12 players to each team at the beginning of the season and the league commissioners would assign additional new players based on skills with the better atheletes going to the weaker teams. This was acceptable to the coaches who retained the best players from the previous year simply because they had a starting level of strength and substitutes played but 1/4 of each game. Unfortunately, new teams remained disadvantaged and returning coaches were adamant in retaining their skilled players that they previously coached.
In the 1969-70 season, the sixth year, in Torrance/South Bay, commissioners Ron Littlefair and Joe Bonchonsky with eight new District commissioners in one of their weekly pre-season meetings requested a consensus from amongst the eight commissioners on steps to be taken to balance teams. Ron Crabtree, commissioner of South Torrance, devised the following procedure that was accepted by all commissioners of the South Bay.
In a league of six teams (as an example), the coaches would evaluate and rate all players with respect to playing skills. Then the six coaches would meet and each coach would alternately select a player for a team one at a time in round robin fashion. The coach was fully informed that the team he was selecting would be numbered and at the conclusion of teams being formed, the coach would draw a numbered team from a hat. The fact that returning coaches were fully aware of the best, experienced players, the coach made sure that the teams would be balanced because the team that he would draw would be his team. Each coach would assign his son after the draw and the league commissioner of the six teams still had the advantage of further balancing by the addition of players who signed up during the season's play. The Balanced Team concept resulted in one of the major contributing factors to the growth of AYSO primarily because of the improved competition and the resulting joy of each player in this act of fair competition and fair play. 
Additionally, the AYSO Balanced Team concept had more to do with the learning skills developed by each player. A "lesson in life" was attatined in that throughout life everyone had to learn how to "work together" with teachers (coaches) and players of different abilities. The leadership skills learned on the AYSO FIELD OF PLAY were more important than the outcome of the score in each game. The parents marveled in watching their offspring either giving assistance or receiving assistance from fellow players during the game. Comradery, friendships, and leadership skills developed during "balancedd team" play became a hallmark that resulted in the increased return of players from year to year. The elimination of one-sided scores moved the AYSO growth agenda forward as noted in the statistical growth in all Dividions but especially in Division III (ages 7 to 9) in subsequent years.             
There were complications to overcome. In the sixth year of AYSO in the South Bay, at least 10% of the returning coaches resigned after the initial announcement of the above Balanced Team procedure (meeting at Joslyn Center in Torrance). Many of these coaches were the most experienced. The problem was solved when their sons' teams were selected absent a coach (purposefully) and they all returned to coaching. Ron Littlefair and Joe Bonchonsky, commisssioners, had previously recognized the possibility of a walk-out and noted the names of the coaches as they departed. After this first year of play with Balanced Teams, the coaches fully realized the challenge of competitive games and that the youth came first.  
In the years to follow, many regions were to pattern their Balanced Team procedures from this early innovation and one of the objectives of the Pioneers of AYSO STORY is to present the experience of successes with the intent of encouraging innovations to grow AYSO NATIONALLY. Consequently, here in the Pioneers of AYSO Story, we encourage all regions to provide their efforts to add to the "fun" of playing soccer and, therein, the environment to truly provide the future status of our youth in sports.