Saturday, December 3, 2016

50-50: Player Allocation on a Dual-League Team

As teams grow and develop, the development of competitive second sides brings new opportunities and challenges. Considering the ebb and flow nature of most teams' rosters along with eligibility regulations, coaches may need to be more careful about the selection process. Teams like the Cleveland Crusaders and Cincinnati Wolfhounds, to name a few, are fielding teams in different divisions, so it's important to think through the process as thoroughly as possible and make the right moves.

Here is what USA Rugby has to say about players switching between two divisions:

USA Rugby is announcing a correction to USA Rugby Eligibility Regulation 3.5(c), which may impact players associated with your club.

The correction reads,
“Any player that has played in at least 50% of the total number of League/Qualifying/ CR/Recognized matches to be played in the current competitive season by a club’s Upper Division side is not eligible to play for that club’s Lower Division side.

Basically, if a player plays in more than half the matches in a higher division, he or she may not play in a lower-division match. If, for example, a DII team has 12 matches on its schedule, a player becomes ineligible for competition in lower divisions after playing in six of them.

With this in mind, there are a few considerations that should be explored when picking players from week to week.

What does the future hold?
The greatest ability an athlete can have is availability. If a player can't make it to a match, it doesn't matter how skilled or conditioned they are. Getting a rough idea of who could be available for which matches could go a long way towards making selections easier. It can also allow a coach to save players and move them around more easily in the waning weeks of the season.

What have you done for me lately?
The majority of rugby players want to remain game-ready and active as long as possible. Whether it's to get away from three wife and kids or for the love of the game - for lack of a better term - everybody's working for the weekend. Life gets in the way sometimes and production levels vary. A once prominent player could see a fall from grace. On the other hand, a newer player could rise in the ranks. Another consideration is presence and performance at practice. These two areas could go a long way in determining where to allocate talent if a club has teams in two divisions.

Where do I have the most resources?
Props and front row players are always prized commodities in a rugby club, and there never seem to be enough to go around. If there is an abundance of players in a certain position, perhaps spreading the wealth if there are multiple matches in a weekend. This will reinforce the lower side and get everyone some precious playing time.

What are my opponents' weaknesses/my strengths?
Obviously, the primary purpose of the selecting process is to put the players on the field that give the side the best possible chance of winning. Another element of that pursuit is the team's strategy. For example, if a team's offense hinges on the forwards, it might be a good idea to spread the pack talent around a bit. On the other hand, if dynamic backs give a team a competitive advantage, then mixing up the back lines to give both permutations the best chance of being successful.

Where do I have the most chemistry?
Loading a side with talent is an easy tactic to get the upper hand on an opponent. A team playing as a unit can take out a group of talented individuals more often than not, though. If there has been a pairing that works well together in prime positions - i.e. the 9-10 connection, the centers or the back three - it would be wise to keep them together if at all possible. Now, to prevent a coach or selector from being handcuffed to a certain player should production start to dip, it would be wise to continually mix up combinations in practice. This will help create chemistry between all the players; and it may produce a new, better combination that may not have been considered otherwise.

With any given situation there are a litany of variables and considerations to drive the selection process. From jobs moving to that guy who gets married during the season - don't be that guy - players are always entering and exiting the player pool for a club. With more and more teams fielding teams in more than one division, deciding who plays where and when becomes and more of any involved decision.

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