In my local competition, teams start grading at the Under 9 stage. Players are graded into groups of perceived similar skill level. From U9-U11 they are placed in non-competitive groups that are usually given a name, this year it was the names of Socceroo’s and Mathilda’s players. When players enter the U12 age group players are ranked into div 1,2,3 and so on.
The grading system itself is massively flawed. There is no such thing as a qualified grader and there no pre-requisites to become one especially at community level. This is a problem for a few reasons. The first is that people who have not done any courses on Talent ID or grading as a whole will often pick the player that’s the fastest, biggest and strongest. But these kids might not be the most skillfull or talented. These teams quite often just end up playing route 1 style of football because they will have big strong players at the back and quick players up front. What they should be doing is picking the players who have a combination of skill and the physical attributes to back that up.
This however does have its drawbacks, this often means that clubs should be sacrificing the desire to win as the only priority. This poses a problem though. Good players want to go to good clubs and good clubs are the clubs that win. Meaning that often clubs who try and do the right thing lose their players to clubs who are perceived to be more successful. But success in youth football should not only be judged on the result of the game. It should be judged on the development of players, this can be measured objectively, for example a player improves their shot accuracy by 20%. Or subjectively through the eye-ball test.