Smaller Boarding schools: JV + Varsity or just Varsity

I’m curious about how various small boarding schools handle the ebb and flow of the sports talent pool with regard to maintaining a JV team or not. I would think this would be an issue that would come up almost every year at smaller schools, and I’m curious what the best practices seem to be.
(If you know me in real life, feel free to comment, but keep this question for us, and not our kids.)

I understand why a small school might temporarily decide to stop supporting a full JV program, if they don’t have enough talent to support that one year (or even several years in a row). But then what happens when there is too much talent to let every capable player make varsity? Are those intermediate players just out of luck? Do schools re-instill a JV program for that year? (that seems logistically tricky given league play is probably figured out in advance?). Do they add a few extra players to the varsity team, knowing that the younger players might be benched a lot?

(And yes, it doesn’t take a genius to put together the facts that my kid was edged out of a spot on the varsity team, and was told that the JV team won’t be playing this year, or even training the full term. It will be a developmental experience intended for novices. Unfortunately, we did not know this when we made our school list, as the JV team is a competing team on the website, and the sport came up in a million different ways during interviews, essays, etc. as the top extracurricular. But I digress into being annoyed, which isn’t my purpose. I really want to understand how schools handle this ebb and flow, outside of just brushing the handful of experienced freshman aside and saying Oh well next year. Surely there is a better plan than forcing them to miss a quarter of their high school sports experience of something they love more than air?)

It seems short sighted… What are they going to do when the varsity students graduate, if they aren’t cultivating the jv level?

(My kid’s school doesn’t require sports. So our experience has been quite different.)

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Thanks for the reply.
I’m really not trying to bash small schools on this sports front. It just occurred to me that this must be an issue that many of them face and I wondered how it was typically handled.

Sorry that happened. Can you ask the school if they are going to offer anything to your daughter like a club or intramural team, or if there are any local teams she can play on? Did this happen because of covid and not wanting too many students traveling off campus?

It happens at very large schools too. Local high school has 3400 students. They have a freshman, two JV teams, and a varsity for boys and for girls lacrosse (and other sports like soccer). They tried to have 2 varsity teams but it became too confusing (several schools tried it for a couple years). Do you make one team the ‘super’ team and the other just okay? Do they play in the same division or does one play in the top and one in the lower division? Does the second goalie play on varsity 1 as the backup or as the starter on varsity 2? Basically 150 girls and 150 boys get on the teams, and that still means almost 75 of them don’t see much playing time.

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That sucks.

Cate doesn’t cut if they only have a varsity team. The baseball team had a ridiculous number of players on it a couple of years ago, and some rarely got playing time. But at least they could practice.

One factor to consider is that small schools are usually in leagues with other small schools. So even if they had enough to populate a jv squad, it doesn’t mean there would be a jv squad in the schools they play against.

I dunno. Seems to me a school should give the kid an option to practice with the team/benchwarm or find another sport? Or maybe cuts are the school’s way to make sure the other sports have enough players?

I hope your DD finds an alternative that she falls in love with.


Just an idea - if a school doesn’t have a club or a sport sometimes students can propose one if they can find a faculty member to sponsor it. My son talked his friends into playing ultimate frisbee instead of their regular season sport and they had a professor agree to be their faculty member attached to the sport, they organized their own competitions and ran practices and workouts. Just an idea but maybe your child could propose to organize a team, run practices and organize some scrimmages with local school or town teams - it could be a great leadership opportunity and they could play what they love and develop their skills- hopefully there are some other students who would like to play or try the sport as well. I am sorry, I know it is easier if there is just a team for anyone who wants to try or play a sport.


Ugh - I’m so sorry this happened to your child! I am new to boarding schools but I would NOT be happy with this! If it were my child, I would advocate that they practice with the team etc. even if not rostered with the justification that they should be given the platform to continue to develop and improve so they have a chance at making the team in the future.


That would be a huge issue for me as well.

I am also confused, are you guys so much smaller than Groton? We have a JV team for every sport - are they carrying more than 18 on the varsity team? Oh, I guess if it’s field hockey I have no idea how much is reasonable.

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I would immediately find a local club team she can play on and tell the school that she won’t be doing any school sports this term and will be playing a club sport instead. Is that possible?

Even if there is a “requirement” I would not take no for an answer - they need to provide a reasonably leveled experience if they are going to make requirements!


Where are these boarding schools that roll over and play dead when the parents tells them what they (the parents) are going to do and the school caves? That was not my experience.


Looking at DD’s schedule, I can tell two of her opponents this season have no jv teams. One is over 600 and the other is 460 so mid sized schools. They are both ISL schools, maybe that’s why? I mean maybe non of the schools in the league has a jv, and the decision is from the league and not the schools?

Continued playing time is critical for young athletes. If a local club is not an option, maybe working with other kids in similar situation and hiring a coach could work?

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And to answer your question regarding having players for a JV team, that is the reason that playing a sport was required by my sons previous small private school. Every JV team had a handful of players that just missed making the V team and the rest were very new or brand new to the sport. That approach has its own challenges but at least there was a team and they could play. The better players were allowed to practice with both teams and it was an opportunity for them to grow in leadership, maturity, humility etc. Again, not perfect but that is how they handled it.


We had this issue last year at a large school, though it was mostly a covid issue. Kiddo1 was really excited to try out for JV water polo. She’s never played before, but she is a great swimmer. They were told early on, that because there were no games scheduled (covid), they would only have a Varsity team and they wouldn’t make any cuts. And then they made cuts. Kiddo was devastated. I asked her what happens now that they’ve lost an entire year of training JV players and she just shrugged. Most of the girls who were cut went on to find a different activity for Fall term, so I suspect the school will struggle to fill both a varsity and jv team. It all seemed incredibly short sighted to me. It will only benefit the school to have players practicing and getting better so they become the next varsity team.

Edited: It also happens at our local public high school specifically with girls lax. Some years they have Varsity and JV teams, and some years they don’t. In that case, it almost seems to depend more on the coaches than the amount of players. It’s been incredibly frustrating for friends of ours who have high school lax players.


You went to school under normal circumstances. Covid has changed everything about how many schools operate. Pulling a bait and switch with sports is not ok.

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We have a partial version of one side of the story with zero details. Calling it a bait-and-switch would be extreme. Regardless, I am still unaware of schools that are just throwing the rulebook out the window.

The OP asked if anyone has had this experience. All the responses so far have been in the negative. A WWYD question, at least one that would get meaningful responses, really needs a more fully fleshed-out question.


Doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense what is happening there, assuming the school has traditionally had both a Girls V and JV team.

Either there aren’t enough kids to field a JV team, which usually means you enlarge the Varsity team for those kids that are truly committed to the sport.

Or you have enough kids for 2 teams and you field a JV team.

If you have lost the JV coach, then you get a caretaker assistant for the season.

School Athletics department sounds like it is being lazy, and quite insensitive to kids and families. Worth a polite discussion with the V coach and AD.

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At our school - they would tell the parents - “Roll over and play dead” :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:……now go lay in the corner


While I know that the school is not going to cave in to parents, they also know it doesn’t serve them well to have unhappy students and families. Finding a solution that would be “easy” for the school to accommodate would be my approach. I would want to know why my child couldn’t practice with the team. If it is because “if they do it for my child they have to do it for everyone”, that tells me there is more than a few players having the same issue and potentially enough for a JV team? If it is because they don’t have a coach, that is harder to solve but at least I could be getting closer to the root cause to look for “win/win” solutions.


I love my lively internet friends!
Thanks for joining the brainstorm with me.

To add more detail: (@skieurope I wonder if you know the voice I have unwittingly created for you in my head over the years that says things like “we need a better question from the OP…”). (said with love.)
It’s good to be back after a few months away from CC prep school side!

OK, a bit more context (plus replies):

There are essentially 3 categories of athletes at play: advanced (varsity-worthy; all upper classmen), intermediate (a few years of competition under the belt), and novices (who are arriving at boarding school with the great attitude to try new things. yay for them! I love their spunk!)

The problem is that the “JV team” is purely a developmental team targeted at novices. (The other day they spent a practice doing an exercise without the ball, just to practice in the air how best to hit it.) And “JV” team training lasts for only a few weeks, not a full season (not sure what the kids do for the rest of the term for their after school activity, but that’s a question for later.). This is great for brand new players! A quick introduction to a brand new sport – dip a toe in without commitment! But a complete loss of a year for someone who has played for 3 years, but “just missed” the varsity cutoff.
There are 2 or 3 girls in this situation. The rest of the “JV team” is completely novice.

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I am kind of OK with newbies not getting into a competitive sports situation. Life happens and focussing on learning the basics (how to hit a ball) isn’t a bad thing before you have the stress of representing your school in competitive play. But students who are quite good for their age, but not as good as seniors, are getting shut out. I hate to see an intermediate athlete miss a whole season of high school play. (especially after missing out last year due to covid.)

You all are confirming the solutions I saw, which are:
– add a little more space to the varsity team, so that these 2-3 intermediate athletes train well, but probably warm benches in most games. Maybe they even crosstrain with both JV and V? (there are separate coaches available.)
– expand the scope of the JV team to include some competition.

School is in the middle of nowhere so club isn’t an option.
Also: strong-armed parenting (“too bad for your rules! we are doing THIS!”) is really not my style.
And, the good news is: I have complete faith that our school cares enough to help us find a solution. I was just trying to be a bit more educated on the typical paths that exist at other schools in this same situation – where an extra handful of kids who play well can significantly sway the team dynamics and needs – How to be nimble and respond to those shifts?

We have already been in communication with the right people on this and I will let you know what solution we come up with.

It’s an interesting shift into new space, so thanks for sharing your experiences and wisdom. and for giving me some smiles.


“You all are confirming the solutions I saw, which are:
– add a little more space to the varsity team, so that these 2-3 intermediate athletes train well, but probably warm benches in most games. Maybe they even crosstrain with both JV and V? (there are separate coaches available.)”

This is sometimes what happens - a few crosstrain with both squads if JV is really rec.