Our older son, Aidan, was asked to join another team for an optional post season tournament our club organizes. After some discussion and explanation of what it was with Aidan, we accepted.
Saturday was our first opportunity to join the other team for a match. Aidan had earlier played 36 minutes in his own team’s match, and after a quick meal we were back on the field in new colors. The new team had only five of their six regular players, so they needed a substitute to help them get through the game (we’ve been there before with our team!)
Aidan played about 30 minutes, providing an assist to a new teammate on the team’s only goal. He played with a lot of effort given that he had already played a match two hours earlier. It was also interesting for me to join the opposite sideline – and I enjoyed watching Aidan from the sideline silently and feeling no compulsion to do anything to “help” the team by shouting instructions (but that’s a subject for another post).
But it brought to mind something that would be really useful in Recreation soccer at this age – a permanent list of players willing to join a team for a match now and then to ensure that teams get to play their full schedules and not forfeit matches. We play in a no-records league – thus bringing in a guest player is not a situation where a team is looking to gain advantage through a “Ringer” player but just to have enough to field a team.
Our team won a game in the spring due to forfeit – but I’m sure the kids would have rather played their match and had the experience of it instead.
The same outcome could be had from teams sharing players with a short-sided opponent – but in our age group most teams have 7 players with five needed on the field at once. There’s also mentally a difference to the player in playing for your opponent against your own team instead of playing an extra match each week.
It also means extra playing time for players who are interested and engaged with the game. Seems like a lot to gain through allowing and encouraging this practice.