Friday November 2, 2012

Over the years, high school soccer associations have tried a variety of game-play formats in order to find a method that best fits the safety and competitive goals of its athletes and coaches.

From two full 15-minute overtime periods to golden goal to penalty kicks, attempting to determine a winner of a soccer game is not always as easy as letting the kids play. In fact, as evidenced by the large number of overuse injuries that can be attributed to players enduring demanding physical requirements over the long course of a contest, there is a significant safety factor that many coaches, administers and parents may need to consider when determining whether additional minutes on the field are beneficial to their children.

Brattleboro girls’ head soccer coach, Edwin de Brujin, has personally seen overtime take its toll on some of his players, as he lost two girls to serious concussions last year in overtime. "The play in overtime can be sloppy because of the fatigue," said de Brujin, "is it worth putting the girls at risk to determine a winner in a regular season game? I don’t know."

Bellows Falls girls’ coach, John Broadley, also sees overtime as putting his kids at risk, especially during the first part of the season. "100 minutes of soccer is a lot," said Broadley. "There are times when my kids will come in the next day exhausted because of the additional strain that is put on them, which is especially evident during the first part of the year when they are not fully conditioned.


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However, beyond the physical demands of the game, which are elevated if teams are forced to go into overtime, there is also vastly differing views on the psychological benefits that kids are able to extract from with winning or losing in extra time.

"I like overtime because of the pure excitement of it" said Buddy Hayford, the athletic director and head boys soccer coach at Twin Valley High School. "The fans love it and the players love it, because they want that extra opportunity to win the game".

Hayford, who over his 30 years as the head coach at Twin Valley has never seen long lasting effects on his players after they went into extra time, feels that as a coach, it is better to teach his kids after a loss than a tie. "Generally, neither team is happy with a draw, "said Hayford. "I would rather use the loss as a coaching tool than a tie."

For Broadley, he sees many benefits for his girls playing to a draw, especially when they are outmatched talent-wise. "There are games that are being played around the world where a team goes in just looking for any points they can get," said Broadley. "If your kids work hard to secure a tie during regulation, they should not go home empty handed because of overtime."

Brattleboro girls’ soccer coach, Edwin de Brujin, who grew up in the Netherlands, says that his experience in foreign soccer has lead him to question why overtime is necessary in Vermont soccer.

"Everywhere else in the world, a tie in regulation is the final result," said de Brujin. "I don’t know why we feel that we need to declare a winner in regular season soccer. Sometimes a tie is a beautiful result."

In a recent email survey of soccer officials, coaches and fans, it was found that 69 percent support overtime during the regular season, while 31 percent feel it should be eliminated. Although there appears to be some dispute as to the fate of overtime in regulation in Vermont, it has not been a subject that the Vermont Principals’ Association has addressed.

"The matter has never really been discussed," said Johnson, who also stated that they have tried all sorts of overtime mechanisms in the past, which currently is decided by golden goal format. "We changed to golden goal for a wide range of reasons, but most importantly we had to find a way to get games in before it got dark."

Although a large number of coaches support overtime, many of these coaches also see a benefit in rewarding a team who forces overtime, even if they lose. "I have no problem with overtime," said Peter Alexander, the head girls’ soccer coach at North Country Union High School. "But I think there should be some reward for an overtime loss, like in the NHL (National Hockey League)". 

What Alexander is referring to is the NHL’s decision to award the losing team in overtime one point, while the other team secures three points for the victory. In Vermont soccer, the points associated with a tie can range from 2-4 depending on where the game is played and the division of the opponent. These points can become crucial at the end of the season when the VPA releases their playoff pairings, which determine who will be hosting tournament games.

The suggestion made by Alexander has given at least two coaches on opposite ends of the overtime spectrum an acceptable compromise to the current system.

"I think that would be better than what we have now," said Broadley. "That way our kids are rewarded for taking a team to overtime no matter what, which in many cases is an impressive feat."

"Sure, why not," said Hayford. "There is something to be said for taking a team into overtime."

Although the matter has not been tabled for any discussion at either the VPA or Vermont Soccer Coaches Association Level, it is certainly an issue on many coaches’ minds, as they try and continue to find new ways to teach their young athletes the many lessons that can be found when two schools meet on the field of competition.