It was one of the first All-State selection meetings I attended, but there was a discussion that I will never forget. The voting for running back in Class 4A (then the highest classification) was now on the table and there were quite a few nominations.
The New Orleans voting representative looked at the ballot and said “I’m going to take one of my guys off the list. He’s really good and is going to play in college, but he only ran for about 800 yards and he just doesn’t stack up with some of the guys on this list.”
The three running backs chosen all had much better statistics, were on playoff teams and all later went on to Division 1 schools. The guy we didn’t vote for?
Marshall Faulk, who has since made it into the Louisiana Sports, College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fames.
Suffice it to say, he managed to pick the pieces of his shattered life after not making the All-State team.
Compare that to where we are now when it comes to post-season teams in high school football and other sports. A year ago, 31 players were on one local post-season football team.
On offense. (There were 56 total.)
One All-District team this year had four running backs and four wide receivers. And an Offensive MVP. And a tight end. And an athlete. (How would they all know where to line up?) Counting second team and honorable mention, there were 81 players total – 16 from a team that did not win a game.
You go into just about any All-District meeting these days and you are almost certain to hear one of the coaches say “let’s remember, it’s about the kids.” And while that is a noble concept, it is not entirely true.
First of all, when that many players are chosen, it stops becoming special. Instead, it fits right in with the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality that is making its way up from the youth sports level.
But that’s not entirely it.
“I’ll tell you when it all changed,” one current coach said. “When high coaches started getting fired for not winning enough games. Getting as many kids on All-District teams as possible became a way of trying to make everybody happy even if you didn’t have a great year. They can always say ‘But I got seven kids on the All-District team’ to try to save their job.”
Almost every post-season team is done by acclamation instead of an actual vote. And if there is a vote, rest assured there won’t be any ties broken.
There’s nothing wrong with a coach trying to get as many people from his team as possible on the team, but some take it too far by literally nominating a player at every position. Even if they came in last place.
A few years ago in North Louisiana, a coach with a great deal of stroke pushed the idea of choosing the team based on how the team finished in the district standings. The champion got the greatest number of selections, the runner-up got the next-highest number and so on. It didn’t matter how the positions fell; that was the team.
“It’s almost impossible to do it these days,” one coach said. “Are you really going to watch video of which offensive guard deserves it? You remember certain guys from other teams, but at some positions, you have no idea. It’s just easier to do it this way now. I’m not saying it’s better; it’s just easier.”
One myth that needs to be put to rest — no college recruiter is going to go after a player strictly because he made an All-District or All-State team.
There’s a template that should be followed to reward those who make the first team. No making up positions (flex? athlete?). The Outstanding Offensive and Defensive Players should come from the first team selections, not in addition to it.
Make the first team mean something and then put as many as you like on the second team or HM. “The kids” will still appreciate it.
Tough choices need to be made. Like Marshall Faulk, they’ll get over it.