Few things invite more debates regarding high school sports coverage than a newspaper's all-area or all-state teams.
Incite could be a more accurate term in some cases.
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That time of year again has arrived as you'll see in today's Daily Herald with our all-area boys soccer and girls volleyball teams. The football all-area teams will be appearing later this fall.
A lot of time and effort goes into putting these teams together. Receiving player nominations and making selections. Presenting all of the pictures and information on each player in a way that is appealing and makes it clear this is something special.
But there are some people who wonder if we put in any time at all. They'll wonder if we're just throwing darts to pick these teams, which, if that were the method when I was involved, wouldn't lead to many selections.
All-area teams such as these are a way of recognizing tremendous achievement. These are among the best players around. The honorary captains in each sport often produce spectacular accomplishments for special teams.
However, we always recognize there will be disappointment for some of those who didn't make their all-area teams. With teams such as these, there will always be players who believe they should have made the cut. In many cases their credentials are certainly worthy of inclusion and they definitely received significant consideration.
But there are only so many spots for so many kids on these teams. So, one of the frequently asked questions is how are these teams selected?
The process usually starts with a combination of what our reporters see and hear at games. The stats of some players may make them no-brainers, but there is still a need to pick the brains of coaches.
They are the ones who are around these players every day and also have an idea of where they stack up compared to other players in the area and state. Football is always an area where the input of coaches is crucial because the often-overlooked offensive linemen aren't always easy to determine and the limited number of games makes it tough to see some teams more than once in a season.
But coaches in all sports are always vital to the process because they know who works hard every day in practice and who doesn't. Sometimes the top goal-scorer isn't as valuable to his team as the athlete whose work doesn't garner a lot of attention.
Although these aren't all-saints teams, some coaches don't reward their players who have received athletic code violations. Everyone's opinion on whether that should matter or not is different.
The vast majority of coaches understand if their football team is 2-7, they probably aren't going to have as many all-area players as a playoff qualifier. They know how their players compare to others.
And each sport requires certain balances since you can't have a football all-area team with seven quarterbacks and two offensive linemen or a baseball or softball team with 10 pitchers and no catchers.
The final say ultimately comes down to the reporter who picks the team. It's one of the least enjoyable parts of the job, but there will be kids are left off the team, and that's why it's a role which is also taken very seriously.
Not everyone will agree with the choices and some will disagree more vehemently than others. But it goes with the territory in what is definitely an inexact science.
So, let the debates begin.
Marty Maciaszek is a freelance columnist for the Daily Herald who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org