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North Reading Youth Soccer

North Reading Youth Soccer

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to participate in travel?

Our travel program is for North Reading children in Grade 4 and higher.  We also have high school level teams that play in the spring season.

Children who have previously played for NRYS but have now moved out of North Reading, or have some continuing relationship with the town, MAY be eligible to participate.  We also welcome new players who are moving from out of town.  If your player does not currently live in North Reading, please contact us prior to registering so that we can confirm eligibility and registration requirements.

Is there a difference between the boys and girls travel programs?


How do we determine travel team rosters?

We evaluate players in an age group relative to each other, and group players of roughly comparable abilities together on a team. We believe that by grouping players of comparable skill on the same team and then having that team play against other teams of comparable skill, we provide the best opportunity for those players to improve their game and maximize their enjoyment.

To assist us in this evaluation process, we require all players who will be traveling on Grade 5-8 teams to attend "evaluations".  These are normally held around the end of league play in the spring season (i.e. the beginning of June). We also have our coaches provide feedback as to how each of the players on his or her team performed during the previous spring and fall seasons. And finally, we ask our coaches, age directors, and board members to observe games and provide their feedback.  Grade 4 players are evaluated during the last two weekends of spring intramural play.  Grade 4 players not registered in the spring intramural season will be contacted by the travel director to make arrangements to join a game before the end of the intramural season.

At the older grades, roster decisions are sometimes based around position needs for the team overall.  A team that is heavy with forwards might need a goalkeeper or more defenders, for example.  In addition, we aim to keep our player’s long term development in mind, while also balancing other factors such as attendance, attitude, work ethic, and similar.  Our coaches spend a significant amount of time considering all players and making the best rosters possible.

It sometimes happens that the overall evaluation of a player’s level of play is different than that of the player’s parents. Should this situation arise, we would be willing to have a discussion about it, but parents’ opinion will not change team placement. However, we do adjust rosters from season to season, and if it becomes apparent that a player is on the wrong team, we will have an opportunity to correct it in the next season.

Do rosters change for the spring season?

This depends on the registration numbers and fall results. We aim to keep stable rosters to enable players to continue to develop, but if registration numbers change, or a player was placed on a team that is not suitable for their best development, we will consider a roster change for the spring season.

What are your ideal roster sizes?

Grade 4 (7v7): 10-11 players
Grade 5/6 (9v9): 13-14 players
Grade 7/8 (11v11): 15-16 players

We do our best to meet these roster sizes based on registration numbers.  Occasionally we are forced to combine or split teams to make the numbers work.  Too many players on a team can result in less playing time, while having too few players makes it difficult to field a team, potentially resulting in a forfeit.

Are players “cut” from travel?

No. There is a team for everyone. We are a development-oriented organization.

What does it mean to be development-oriented?

We feel that every player grows at their own rate.  Some will grow in quick bursts while others make slow steady progress.  Taking a long-term view of a player’s development means finding the right level of competition for them to encourage this growth.

Children learn many more lessons from sports than winning games.  They learn friendship, teamwork, effort, competition, negotiation, dealing with adversity, and more.  Players need to have opportunities to try new things and succeed… or also fail, learn how to regroup, and try again.  We will encourage players to try new things, be creative, and to build on their experiences to enable development.

Our teams and coaches will focus on both development (effort) and winning games.  The point of playing a game is to win, but a growth mindset comes from learning lessons even in defeat.  A purely results oriented approach is one of the most detrimental mindsets to a young player’s development.

How do we determine travel team coaches?

Usually, travel team coaches are parents of children on the team. Our policy is to select the teams first, and then select coaches for those teams from the pool of players’ parents that have volunteered to coach. If the pool of such parents is large, then we will have some decisions to make. If the pool is small (or non-existent), we will come looking for volunteers.

The NRYS Travel Director will work with the intramural age director to identify the best candidates.  This includes both soccer skill as well as organizational skill.

If you are interested in coaching one of our travel teams, get in contact with the Travel Director.

How many coaches per team?

We typically have 2-3 coaches maximum per team.  In very rare circumstances we will add another coach, typically due to team mergers or to keep continuity for future seasons.  Having 2-3 coaches is best for communication, organization, and covering practices/games.

What is ECYSA?

ECYSA is our county soccer association, the organization in which our travel teams participate.

Why do we have to register so far in advance?

The Essex league organizes games for more than 500 teams each season. This requires a tremendous amount of hard work and time in order for things to proceed smoothly. As a result, the league requires us to submit registration packets to them at the beginning of January for the spring season, and July for the fall season. As part of this registration packet, we must tell the league how many teams in each age group we intend to field, and to provide documentation to verify that we have enough players and coaches to field those teams. We need some time ourselves to assemble this information, and so we ask that you register by early June for the fall season, and late November for the spring season.

Once the registration packet is submitted, we normally cannot add teams. As a result, if a large number of players register late, it is very possible that we will not be able to place those players on a team. Waitlisted players are assigned to teams on a first come, first served basis. Register early to ensure that your child will be able to play.

How are teams placed in the appropriate level of competition in ECYSA?

Our goal is for our teams to win enough games to provide enjoyment while losing some games to provide opportunities for growth. Prior to each season, our coaches and board members evaluate our teams and make recommendations to ECYSA for placement for the next season.  This recommendation considers the prior season results, team roster, and the experience/skill of the players and coaches. ECYSA combines this feedback with the other towns and attempts to place our teams in groupings of similarly skilled teams from other towns.  Occasionally this placement does not align with our views.  We regularly communicate with ECYSA to improve their placement process season over season, but with over 500 teams, there are times where the placement is incorrect.  Typically these placements cannot be adjusted.

What does MTOC, County, Select, and Regional mean?

MTOC is the highest level of travel competition for Grade 5 and above.  Teams that win in the ECYSA end of season tournament can advance to the state tournament (MTOC means Massachusetts Tournament of Champions).

County is the developing level of travel competition for Grade 5 and above. County teams will participate in the ECYSA tournament but do not advance to the state tournament.

Grade 4 competition is not results oriented and no standings are published.  The highest level of travel competition for Grade 4 is Select, while the developing level is called Regional. In lieu of the ECYSA tournament there is a Grade 4 Jamboree on the Saturday after the regular season ends.

Within each level there are further groupings by skill/strength.

What happens during evaluations for rising Grade 5-8 players (current Grade 4-7)?

Players are pooled by their upcoming travel level.  For example, all rising Grade 5 and 6 girls attend the same session.  The players work through a sequence of technical skill exercises, small sided games, and scrimmages.  NRYS board members, coaches from different age groups, and professional coaches act as evaluators.  The evaluators monitor the sessions and evaluate the players relative to each other and the expectations for their travel level.  The entire process takes about 1.5-2 hours.

How do evaluations work for rising Grade 4 players (current Grade 3)?

Player evaluations for rising Grade 4 players are done by NRYS board members and older age group coaches by monitoring games over the last two weeks of the spring intramural season.  The evaluators use their experience and judgment as travel soccer coaches to rate the players in their relative skill/development in real game situations.  We combine the evaluation notes, player coaches’ feedback, and NRYS board input to form the most appropriate teams for our players' development.

What happens if my player cannot attend evaluations/are they eligible to play?

Every player who registers is eligible to play.  All players are strongly encouraged to attend evaluations but we understand that conflicts occur.  Please inform your coach and [email protected] if you are unable to attend your scheduled time.  For those players, we use coach feedback and observations of their prior season(s) of play to determine the best team for the upcoming season. 

What does it mean to be grade pure?

A “grade pure” team means that only players from one grade are on a team.  Compare this with a “mixed” or “blended” team that combines players of two grades.  NRYS aims to keep our teams grade pure but will blend grades due to registration and roster size reasons.

Why do we keep teams grade pure?

The year over year stability of a grade pure approach has been the most reliable method of forming teams for NRYS.  This approach builds stability in the teams and reduces year-over-year churn in rosters.  It is much easier to integrate a few new players into a team each season than it is to see half of the roster turnover each time.  The longer a group of players is together the more they understand how each other plays, how they move the ball, can build on their strengths, set pieces, and so forth.  Coaches can work with players longer.

Re-mixing teams every year or season leads to greater instability, less team familiarity, and frequent coach changes.  In addition, if tryouts are used to decide teams, it makes the experience significantly more competitive for all.  Blending also had a greater likelihood of splitting friends/classmates than keeping them together.  Playing with friends is among the top reasons that children play sports.  All that said, blending happens, and we try to do it thoughtfully.  Each group solves this differently and with the best interest of the age group in mind.

Why do other towns blend their rosters?

No two towns approach roster formation the same way because each town has unique circumstances and populations.  Some towns mix their grades and some do not.  Some towns do not hold any form of tryouts, while others like NRYS hold evaluations.  Some larger cities continue intramural longer and will cut young players from travel to intramural.  Other smaller towns can barely field 1-2 teams per grade group, so must mix the grades.  Still others are so small that they combine with other towns and field what they can get.  For example, the City of Andover (55 teams) is 2.5 times of North Reading (21 teams) and Andover does not travel their Grade 3-4 players.  Some towns will travel Grade 3 players so that they can field a Grade 4 team, while NRYS do not.  The bottom line is that each town brings a different approach to this process.

Why do other towns enter Grade 3 players into travel, unlike NRYS?

There are two reasons.  First, in our experience, players in third grade are still learning the basics of the game and get the most enjoyment by playing with and against their town friends.  Splitting up the players (and friendships) at this early age is not good for the overall growth of the players and our program.

Second, our travel organization (ECYSA) does not have a great placement process for the Grade 3/4 teams.  Because each town has different policies for travel for Grade 3, it often results in lopsided games where even our Grade 4 teams struggle, which can lead to players dropping out.  If ECYSA changes their policy we can re-evaluate it at that time.

Why not travel just the “top” Grade 3 players?

As a town, we’ve seen the benefit of keeping our Grade 3 players in town for an additional year of development-oriented soccer.  Yes, some players are ready for the travel experience, but many are not.  We want all players to develop at the appropriate pace and grow in the love of the game.  Taking the so-called “top” players into travel early may make sense for some players, but this removes too many players from our town program. We want to maintain sufficient interest so that we can field two grade pure teams in their Grade 7 or Grade 8 years.

What is a Guest Player?

ECYSA has a "Guest Player" system that enables towns/teams to borrow players from other teams in the event of absences (due illness, injury, conflicts, and similar).  This also allows us to keep our rosters smaller, resulting in more playing time and therefore greater development/enjoyment.  In addition, ECYSA does not reschedule games except in unavoidable circumstances like weather or school events, the guest player system allows us to loan players and avoids forfeits.

The guest player system follows the ECYSA team strength expectations: we can only bring players "up" to a stronger team (e.g., County to MTOC); we cannot take a player from a higher strength team and use them as a guest player on a developing team.

While being invited as a guest player helps our teams, coaches have the ultimate discretion on playing time based on the team, competitiveness of the game, the weather (e.g., extremely hot days/games need more frequent subs), and sometimes the specific positions/players involved.

What is the difference between NRYS and club soccer?

NRYS is a community-oriented volunteer organization.  Our goal is to develop and grow all players in the skill and love of the game of soccer.  Everyone who plays town soccer does so for different reasons.  There are some very dedicated players who work hard on their skills, practice often, attend extra training, and perhaps play club too.  There are others that play just for exercise, and some that play just to socialize with their friends and have fun playing a game.

Club soccer is different in many ways. Players are coached by professional/semi-professional coaches, not volunteers, and participate in many more weekly training sessions.  For many players this is an additional avenue to develop their skill.  Club soccer still tends to have a development mindset but the promotion of talent factors much more heavily than in a town travel program.

What is the Refund Policy?

North Reading Youth Soccer plays on fields managed by the town's Parks and Recreation Department, and incurs costs for usage fees for those fields and fees payable to the Mass Youth Soccer state organization. These fees are payable at the beginning of each soccer season. To help recoup those expenses in the event of a late withdrawal from our program, North Reading Youth Soccer has instituted the following policies regarding refunds of registration fees.

An administrative fee of $5 will be deducted from all registrations.  After teams are announced, you can receive a 50% refund on the remaining fee.  After week 1 of the season there are no refunds.

Note that for the purpose of refunds, soccer weeks begin on Saturday and end on Friday.

Waivers of partial refunds will be considered for soccer injuries, medical issues, financial hardships, or other special circumstances, and granted with board approval.

To request a refund, you must notify the Registrar, the  Travel Director or the Intramural Director by email.

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