MAX Field Hockey recently completed the first ever field hockey player rankings.
We wanted to take some time to explain why and how we did these rankings.
One of our primary goals in creating MAXFieldHockey.com was to connect the pieces of the sport in a way that wasn't being done at the time. There was a big void in High School field hockey coverage in general and no real connections were being made between the High School game, the club game, college commitments, the college game, USA Field Hockey events, and the junior and senior national teams. This was something that was being done for numerous other sports and we wanted to bring that same level of coverage to the sport of field hockey and to the athletes who work so hard and are passionate about the game. We wanted to follow field hockey athletes throughout all of these levels and as they moved from one to the next.
For the last two years we have debated whether to do player rankings. Many other sports do them (and not just the big ones like football and basketball), including soccer, lacrosse, swimming and volleyball (just to name a few). But we didn't want to do them just because other sports do. We wanted to rank players because it made sense for the sport of field hockey and because doing so will enhance what we are covering on the website. With the ranking of anything (teams, athletes) comes controversy and that is why we held off for quite some time. We didn't want player rankings to take away from our mission to help grow the sport and connect the people involved in it. Also, we wanted to make sure we could do them well before we jumped in.
In 2016, after reflecting upon the areas of the website that draw the most attention (player recognitions, selections, college commitments, etc.) and with over two full years of covering High School teams and athletes, major club events, USA Field Hockey events and the junior national teams, we decided the time was now.
These player rankings are a way for us to connect the coverage of players at all of the different levels and areas of the game. College commitments are among the most popular content on the site (with over 700 college commitments in our system and over 25% of all of our site traffic visiting college commitments). We believe these player rankings will enhance the coverage of those commitments and allow us to expand into areas like evaluating and ranking incoming college classes. Ultimately, we want to increase the coverage that the sport and athletes receive. We believe these player rankings are an additional way to do that.
Some massive Excel spreadsheets! We compiled information on athletes by graduating class, spanning all areas of involvement (USA Field Hockey, High School, College Commitments, etc.) for the last year or so. We then added player feedback notes in (from club directors/coaches, high school coaches, etc.) and any relevant notes from player profiles that were submitted. Any number of criteria could have landed a player on our list- Junior National Team Membership, Junior National Camp Participation, NFC Participation, Junior Olympic Participation, High School All-American or All-Region selection, High School All-State selection, a Division I college commitment in our database, a player feedback nomination, or the creation of a player profile. If we knew of a player who was deserving from covering her in the past, we would add her in (even if she didn't meet one of those criteria). It would not be fair just to base our selections on one or two of those criteria because we know not all coaches nominate players for awards and we know selection processes don't always yield the top players. We added in so many options for how a player could make a list that we are confident that a top 5, top 50, or next 50 player in the country should make the list and be on our radar.
Selecting the Top 5 Players in each class:
We really wanted to get the Top 5 right for each class and we knew we weren't the only ones to be making the call on who it should be. We went through the top candidates for each class and put together a list of approximately ten potential top players. We then sent this list of players to a group of the highest level national and collegiate coaches (who have experience working with and recruiting those specific kids) and asked them to rank their top 5. Since coaches look for and value different qualities and styles of players, the coaches' votes of 5 players were not always the same. What we did was tally up those votes and the 5 players that had the most votes were the ones selected.
Top 50 & Next 50 Players:
We went through our player lists by class and sorted through the compiled player information. The older classes (2016s and 2017s) were relatively easy because we have covered the majority of those players for the last couple of years and know them well. We also had a lot more information on them. The 2018s and 2019s were a bit more difficult this first time because beyond the top 25-50% a lot of the younger players have relatively similar backgrounds and experiences. We weighed heavily the club/high school coach feedback we received and also the players who received early recognitions, started for top high school Varsity programs, competed on top club programs, etc. We gave those players somewhat of a "proven" factor. So, while there may be a lot of young talent out there, we tended to go with the proven young talent.
While there is no mathematical formula or ranking of criteria to share, we will tell you that we spent an INCREDIBLE amount of time compiling this information and doing our own thorough research on players. While a club director/coach or high school coach or parent may believe that a player or certain players should have been ranked or ranked differently, it is our difficult task to look at the entire country, every club, every high school region, every program and look at all areas of involvement (high school, club, usa field hockey, etc.), and consider all factors, make these comparisons, and decide on final rankings. We also worked very hard to include players from all regions of the country.
The reality is there are a TON of talented players out there and we certainly missed some. There are certainly other ways to complete these rankings. These are MAX Field Hockey's Player Rankings and we believe that in year one, we used the best possible method of completing them. Our goal moving forward now is to improve our method, incoporate on-field player evaluations and further college coach feedback, learn more about the new players added to our lists, and put out even better rankings the next time around--most likely next spring. Over the next several months we will gather feedback and spend time evaluating our method.
LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK?