Should Middle School Teams Have A and B Teams?

   The middle school basketball tryouts will happen on October 15. Let’s imagine eighth-grader Baker Collins is a talented basketball player. He plays on a travel team during the summer, he plays at the Courthouse on the weekends, and he plays point guard for his team. However, after tryouts, Collins receives news that he made the B team. Is this good for the program? Is this good for Collins to deal with?

The A and B Split is Wise

   First, making either the A or  B team doesn’t affect kids negatively.  A lot of the other programs that the middle school plays only have one team.  So when the West Ottawa program splits the teams, it automatically puts kids into a competitive disadvantage. Playing teams like Mona Shores, Muskegon, and Reeths-Puffer is a big letdown to the kids. These teams are almost always a lot better and I now know why.  They only have one team. All the best players from one school get the opportunity to play together and get better before they enter high school. I never realized this until we switched to having an A and B team and I realized how big of an advantage it was. I still clearly remember back in eighth grade when the teams were still split evenly, and we played Muskegon. We got killed and only ended up scoring a whole 2 points in the entire second half.  It was embarrassing. Being a player on that team, I would have rather not played as much on an A team surrounded by good players and only lose by 5-10 points than play the whole time with a mediocre team and lose by 50. Speaking of which, playing time is highly impacted by the new change. According to middle school basketball coach Rick Becker, “Another benefit is for the best players on the B team to get a lot of playing time. If they were on A team, perhaps some players would never get game experience.” This is a great point.  Being on the B team means kids are playing other teams at your level. Not teams like Muskegon and Reeths-Puffer, but other B teams. Being split into A and B teams lets players that might not play a lot on a split team get plenty of playing time. And even more, the kids can play against others of their own skill and strength. A kid could go from getting maybe 2 or 3 minutes of playing time on a split team to starting and scoring 10+ points on the B team. This only enhances a middle schooler’s confidence. Freshman Basketball Coach Paul McNitt states that “B team players are asked to do more; they are required to be more than role players (which they would be on two split teams)…I think in general the A/B is beneficial to more players”

   Blake stated that if a player who would be on the B team plays against better players, they’ll benefit.  I disagree. Why set these kids up for failure by having them play other A teams? Why do you think the rocket football teams play teams with the same record as them? It is so the kids play at an even level with other players and get real experience without getting killed and losing all confidence.  Why start a player on a split team and have him play badly instead of starting on a B team and play great and feel good about himself?

   This leads to athletes feeling better about themselves and working hard over the offseason because they feel like they could be a good player. This will only help the young kids’ self-esteem and the future of our already successful basketball program. Some may say kids will cry and feel they aren’t good enough. Although it sounds mean, won’t everybody get told they aren’t good enough at some point? I know it may be early but it is good for kids to face adversity in their lives. It has happened before and it has helped me get where I’m at today.  And more than that, if you aren’t willing to work harder to make yourself better, maybe sports aren’t for you.

Program Effects

   By having two separate A and B teams, the kids who will play together in high school get to play with each other at a young age.  Becker also stated that “Also, if we have our 8 (or 10 or 12) best players together in middle school, as they get into HS they will have more familiarity and cohesion as a team.” Having familiarity with each other is a big advantage.  If we had split teams, the players wouldn’t be as comfortable with each other when they got to high school compared to the other school who only have one team in middle school or have already switched to A and B teams. Split teams force kids who won’t get much playing time in high school to move up to the 6th man or maybe even a starter.  Even at the middles school level, this is counterproductive. Why force kids to play with someone they won’t play with in high school? It seems most logical to help develop kids connection with each other in middle school so they can carry it with them in high school. For example, I played on a travel basketball team in 8th grade with my friends.  They had all been playing on it since 4th grade and it paid off. This year when the West Ottawa JV basketball team went 20-0 The first undefeated team in school history. 7 players on the team and 4 out of the 5 starters played on that team. If we could do this with the middle school teams, we could almost guarantee the success of our program.  We will be on an even playing field with the other teams that do this in middle school. Spectators can tell the difference between a team who has played together and hasn’t. Whenever I go to my sister’s game and the other team is superior to hers, my mom always says the other “has been playing together for a while”. These teams go to show that kids who play together become a better team.

   A and B teams are the way to go.  When deciding, think about the kids and the program.  While yes, being told you are on the B team might sting a little, but winning solves everything.  Winning is the best medicine. Both the A and B teams would win more than split team. And winning only increases confidence throughout the young career of these players and high school teams will surely benefit.  For these reasons, having an A and B team is the way to go for all middle schools.                                      

Teams Should Be Split Evenly

   Having A and B teams in middle school should not happen because of the negative impact on players and the negative impact on the program.

   Making A and B teams for the intermediate school impacts the players hastily. Telling players they do not make the A team should not take place at such a young age. Middle school kids should not have someone tell them they are not good enough. Having two equal teams represents much more advantages than an A and B team.

   Say Collins is the 11th best player in eighth grade. If a school had two split teams, Collins might start. Not to mention, even teams will boost Collins’ confidence because he will believe he is one of the better players in the program. If a school had A and B teams, Collins would likely be on the B team. Not only that, but Collins would feel like he is not good enough to be on the A team, resulting in a shortage of confidence. Placing players on a B team will alter their self-confidence in a negative form. Players will feel they are not good enough because they made the B team. Not only that but maybe they will have friends on the A team and that makes the situation worse. Freshman Basketball Coach Paul McNitt believes that there are negatives to having an A and B team. For example, “Unfortunately, players 8-12 get far less playing time during games than if they were the better players on one of the evenly split teams.” Sure, creating A and B teams allows the players on the A team to play at a higher level of competition, and the players on the B team play against teams similar to their talent. But, a school must consider the effect of telling middle school kids they are not good enough. At a young age, kids struggle to recognize their level of talent. So, if a coach tells players they made the B team, then most players will not respond well. Most would respond with “Why am I not on the A team?”. But, if a middle school had two split teams, then everybody benefits. For example, the better players still would play against quality opponents and the players that might have made the B team would benefit because they would feel as if they are one of the better players on a split team.

   Kobe claims if middle schools had A and B teams, then the players who made the B team would be more motivated to work hard in the offseason. The following statement provides false information. Most middle school players do not have the motivation to put the time and effort into a sport. Not to mention, once they tell middle school players that they are not good enough to make the A team, then they will cry.

   Most middle school students will not have the motivation to work harder after not making an A team. Although, some may believe that as players become older, their mindset changes and they become more vulnerable to becoming better in the offseason. However, this is not the case for middle school players.

   Middle school players do not have the urgency to get better in the offseason. So, choosing to have A and B teams would cause many players to end their basketball careers.

A and B teams Negatively Affect the Program

   Middle schools should not have A and B teams because of the negative effects they provide for the program. Sure, the players on an A team will have more comfort and familiarity when they play with each other on the high school team. However, the players placed on the B team will not want to continue to play in high school because their self-confidence will lack. The following situation affects the program. Why reduce the number of players at such an early stage? Athletic programs want to have numerous players try out. Having many players try out and compete for a spot on a team shows a healthy program. So, for that to happen, A and B teams must not happen. If a middle school had an A and B team, then Collins and the B team players would not tryout in high school. Programs can not afford that. Programs need as many players to try out as possible. Not to mention, players can change a lot from middle school to high school. A player could grow 3 to 4 inches. A player could add 15 pounds of muscle. So much can happen to a player’s body from middle school to high school. So, why crush a player’s self-confidence by placing them on a B team at such a young age? Collins could grow 4 inches from middle school to high school and he might be a star player, but he could be too scared to try out because they placed him on the B team in middle school. This cannot happen in a program. On the other hand, creating two “equal” teams will allow Collins’ confidence to boost, which results in better chances of him to continue to play in high school. West Ottawa’s basketball team should have had more players tryout last year. For example, West Ottawa’s varsity basketball team had 14 players try out. However, a program should have over 14 players tryout when 12 or 13 players make a team. So, by having two “equal” teams in middle school, the players who might have played for the B team appear as one of the more skilled players on the team. By doing that, the player’s confidence will boost and they will probably try to continue to play basketball in high school. Middle school basketball coach Scott Pedersen agrees that A and B teams should not exist. “Why place kids on a B team and make them more likely to quit a sport at such a young age? Not to mention, it’s middle school sports. These kids are not playing for a state championship like in high school. Give every kid, no matter the talent, the chance to play on an evenly split team.” Pedersen has a point. Middle School sports are not competing for a Super Bowl. So, why place players on a B team where they will be unhappy, when instead, a school can create two evenly split teams and players confidence will improve. A program wants a large number of kids to try out. Why have a kid stop playing a sport at such a young age by placing him on a B team? Having an A and B team does benefit in some ways. However, A and B teams must not be present in middle school because the players and program become affected negatively. The player’s confidence diminishes once placed on the B team, which evidently, results in fewer people trying out in high school.