I. Guidelines for Team Size
1. Team Size is an important concept because of MBA's minimum playing time requirements, and the fact MBA relies on volunteer Coaches.
2. Generally, Teams should be composed of 7 players. This ensures an adequate level of playing time and coaching instruction. CAVEATS:
Beginning Leagues need at least 7 players, and can accommodate 8 because of their special rules. Jr. High teams work better with 7 to 8 players, too (scheduling conflicts result in a higher rate of no-shows at this age).
If the numbers in the 3rd to 6th Grade require a couple of teams with just 6 players, this is tolerable, but does create a risk of either forfeit or "4 against 5" during the winter flu season (likewise, a couple of teams of 8 players can work if necessary).
Teams of 9 DO NOT work in any League, as they create too much demand on Coaches, unduly dilute playing time, put those Teams at a competitive disadvantage, and put too much stress on crowded gyms.
II. Player and Coach Identification; Rating
1. The Commissioner should write the name of each player in the league on an Index Card and include the school they attend and their height. The cards of children whose parents are to be head coaches should be marked with a colored dot, and those whose parents will serve as an assistant should be marked with a different colored dot, so they can be easily distinguished. For Grades 1-2, it is helpful to put another, different colored dot if child has played organized basketball before.
2. Each player should be assigned a numerical grade of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the best) that is noted in pencil on their Index Card. Mathematical precision is not expected; there will likely groupings of players with the same numerical grade. Commissioners should solicit and encourage the participation of all Coaches in this important step. The Coaches' consensus will determine the rating of each player.
3. A color code or other system should be used on the Index Card to keep up with very good ball handlers and capable tall players. This will help each League attain balance at these important positions for all Teams.
III. Team Selection (A Two Stage Process)
A. Team Selection is premised upon a "grid" of all players, from most advanced to less advanced. As cards are placed on the grid, they should be shuffled and randomly drawn in all instances where players have similar ratings. This helps randomize the selection process as much as possible.
For example, if the League has 3 players rated 10 that are of similar size and skill, shuffle their cards face down and then place them in the grid so that no one knows in advance in what order the 3 players are placed on the grid.
Do the same with other similar groupings of players.
B. With the shuffling of similarly rated players in mind, lay out 3 rows of players in a grid to match up with the number of Teams in the League. For example, if a League has 72 players, and is striving for mostly 7 person teams, there will be 10 teams (8 teams of 7 players and 2 teams of 8 players). This means there will be 3 rows of Index Cards with 10 cards in each row. (See Team Selection Grid on page 4).
NOTE: Leagues have the discretion to lay out only two rows of top players based upon the skill level of the players in that League.
C. Continue laying out all of the Index Cards, snaking each row back and forth until a grid of cards is created. The complete grid in our example league would consist of 7 rows with 10 columns of cards with 2 other cards on the bottom row. (See Team Selection Grid).
Leave an obvious space between the third and fourth rows. Because this is a two stage process, a coach will likely end up with the first three players from one column, and the remaining players from another column.
D. Stand back and have everyone review only the top 3 lines. Are two kids of head coaches in the same column? If so, the Index Card for one of those children should be shuffled with a player or two of similar ranking so that no column has no more than one player who is the child of a coach.
Do the teams appear fair? Are ball handling skills and height balanced in each column?
If not, then have all coaches participate in making sure that these situations are corrected with everyone's input and agreement. Remember: A perfect league exhibits lots of parity with no cellar dwellers.
E. Once all Coaches agree that each column of 3 players has the potential to be as good as every other column, any Coach whose child is in a column is assigned that group of 3 players and pulls those Index Cards from the table. The Commissioner then assigns a number to the remaining columns, and has the remaining coaches randomly draw a number out of a hat to receive their column of top 3 players. At this point every coach has three players for his or her team, and takes the Index Cards for these players.
F. Next, turn to the remainder of the players in the League in the grid of cards. Balance ball handling skills and size within each column, and spread out the children whose parents will be assistants!
Try to ensure each column has players from more than one or two of the four elementary schools (as a Community League, we want broad representation on each team, and for children to get to know one another as part of the experience).
Have all coaches participate in arranging players until everyone agrees that each group is as good as the next.
G. If several teams will have more players than other teams, the column for those teams should not include the lowest ranked players. This is because those teams will have to spread playing time among more players, which means some of their better players won't play as much as their peers on the other team. One way to address this is to shuffle players and make sure these columns have the better players in the top 2 rows of this stage of the process.
H. Once everyone agrees that each group is equal, then ALL coaches randomly draw numbers out of a hat for their remaining players. This second drawing is totally separate from the first. The coaches will naturally want to scoop up their group of cards as they draw but do not allow this to occur. Leave the grid intact. Some coaches will have their children in this second grouping. If in the drawing they do not draw their child's group then the coach's child's card is swapped for the commensurately rated player in the grid until all coaches have their child on their team.
I. The teams are now done. No alterations, trades or swaps are allowed for any reason. Players can be added to Rosters in Boys Grades 2-6 and Girls Grades 3-6 only in the case of injury or drop-out, before the season begins. Players can be added in other grades under certain conditions. See the separate link to MBA's Late Sign Up Policies.
J. Have each coach pull all of their player's cards from the grid. Distribute one copy of the enrollment form to each coach. The commissioner should retain the other part of the enrollment form so a league roster can be assembled.