So what can clubs and coaches do to make sure that those who are left on the bench are still on side?
Selecting a team for a sporting event is a big responsibility. It’s not always straight-forward and the added pressure of finals time makes the task even more challenging.
Even in the junior ranks team selection can be a serious issue, particularly if bench time could affect a player’s chances of representative selection. It can also be a big issue for clubs if players feel they ‘are forced’ to go elsewhere for their share of playing time.
Choosing junior teams involves balancing participation with skill development and the shift towards greater competition as children mature. For older, more experienced players, performance may be considered a greater factor when selecting a finals team.
Many problems with team selection arise because the club lacks a clear and consistent policy. The off-season is the perfect time to develop such a policy document, which outlines the various criteria for selection in a team. Following are a few ideas to get you started:
- At all levels the selection process must be free of favouritism or bias.
- Let your members know about your club’s values and processes. For example, if your club values participation over winning (often the case for junior teams), your policy will focus on giving everyone a go and rotating positions.
- Even at senior levels where performance and winning is important, other factors such as attendance at training and payment of fees may also be included as key selection criteria.
- Coaches should be involved in the policy development process.
- Ensure all coaches are familiar with the club’s selection policy and have them develop their own team selection criteria based on those guidelines.
- Encourage coaches to finalise selection criteria well before the first game so players know exactly what is expected of them throughout the season.
- Make sure all players get a copy of the club’s team selection policy and the various team selection criteria. Reiterate the selection criteria mid-season so players know what they have to do to be on the field come finals time.
- Develop an appeals process for those players who feel they have not been treated in accordance with the club’s selection policy.
Some complaints about team selection can be a result of unlawful discrimination. Not choosing a person because of their race, religion, sexuality or other personal attribute may result in a complaint being made to an external body, such as the Australian Human Rights Commission or a state/territory anti-discrimination agency.
Your club can save a lot of confusion and avoid emotional disputes with an effective selection policy; allowing everyone to focus on having fun and also enjoying finals success.
The Play by the Rules website includes a toolkit with easy-to-use Team Selection Policy templates for open and junior grades. There is also practical advice about team selection, plus information about discrimination law and how it applies to the issue of team selection.
Play by the Rules provides information, resources and free online training for clubs and sporting organisations to ensure everyone involved in sport can do so in enjoyable, safe environments, free from discrimination or harassment.