How our Saturday league and Sunday competition teams complement each other
Since its start over forty years ago, ANZA Soccer has been based on the philosophy that children learn character, grit, and social skills through sport. “Play with your mates” has been our unofficial motto for decades, and today on Saturdays, our players continue to play on mixed-ability teams that generally stay together year-to-year. While our Saturday games are competitive, with ANZA League and Cup competitions often ending in nail-biting finishes, it is the emphasis on Fair Play and friendship that attracts new players to ANZA Soccer and provides veteran players and their families with a soccer home through the years.
Some years ago, ANZA Soccer joined the JSSL Sunday league to give our most committed players the opportunity for more competitive games. ANZA Soccer’s competition teams (or “comp teams”) are selective teams, formed through tryouts and placed in ability-based divisions within the JSSL Sunday competition format. Comp teams have a separate practice once each week, in addition to the practice sessions provided for all ANZA Soccer players. Comp team players must be ANZA Saturday league players, and they are allocated across the Saturday teams to maintain balance and encourage friendships with diverse teammates.
Over the years, this approach has worked well, and we continue to see it as the best way to encourage and develop all our players while maintaining the unique ethos of the ANZA Soccer programme. Our 2019 success in the JSSL International 7s competition underlines the success of our approach: in a field of over 400 teams from 190 clubs, ANZA was the only club to earn four first-place trophies (Boys 12, Girls 14, Boys 16, and Girls 16), and we took home the Paul Parker Trophy as overall winner!
A few times since we moved to this dual Saturday and Sunday model, we have had parents or coaches raise the idea of comp teams playing together in the Saturday league, to help them prepare for their Sunday matches. Each time, the ANZA Soccer Committee has discussed this suggestion and agreed that it would not serve ANZA Soccer well. The Committee is composed of parents committed to considering the health of the whole ANZA Soccer programme, which is not-for-profit and seeks to serve a wide variety of families. Many Committee members’ children have played with ANZA through multiple age groups and on both Saturdays and Sundays. As a group, the Committee has a broad understanding of the likely implications of changing our current model.
The unanimous opinion of the Committee is that there are significant benefits to maintaining our current mixed-ability, age-based teams on Saturdays:
- Our Saturday all-play leagues and Sunday ability-based teams are a tried and true format that has served the league and its players well for nearly two decades.
- This is the approach the majority of ANZA Soccer’s 900+ players and their families support.
- Children learn teamwork, patience, perseverance, and leadership through playing with a variety of teammates and experiencing both victory and defeat together.
- Mixed-ability teams foster friendships that last through the years and are based on factors beyond soccer skills.
- Players wanting more competitive soccer may try out for our Sunday comp teams.
- Comp team practices give these players extra, more targeted instruction in skills and tactics.
The Committee also predicts significant negative results if comp teams were to play together in the Saturday age groups:
- The regular (non-competition) Saturday teams would be stripped of their most skilled and experienced players.
- Age groups would become unbalanced; even if comp teams played “up” in an older age group, they would likely still be much stronger given that far fewer top players would be spread through the regular teams.
- An “us versus them” mentality would develop among the players and coaches on Saturdays.
- Morale and player development would suffer, potentially leading to negative experiences and a drop in ANZA Soccer membership.
- Such an approach would not align with ANZA Soccer’s Code of Conduct or philosophy.
We recognize that there are many different models for learning and playing soccer in Singapore. The island’s youth soccer scene includes everything from hyper-competitive and expensive for-profit soccer academies to pick-up games in the neighborhood. At times, ANZA Soccer players have chosen to play elsewhere, and we always wish them well with their new clubs. More frequently, players join us from other clubs; their reasons for switching often include wanting less emphasis on winning at all costs and more focus on fun, friends, and enjoying the game. We hope all ANZA players, parents, and coaches will unite in supporting our unique, successful, and healthy approach to the beautiful game!