One of the many challenges of youth sports is playing time. Distributing a fair amount of playing time is and always will be at the discretion of the coach. Having huge rosters full of participants is any coach’s dream come true and it gives them a nice number of key players to choose for the various positions that may be assigned. However, tempting to play only specific athletes, this must not interfere with the mission of the organization or the league – to provide a positive experience to all players and not just the key players. Coaches should recognize that some, if not all, participants registered may not have the necessary skills or that limited abilities may prevent a team from winning many games. So those athletes that have “earned their time” on the field or mat are the ones that benefit from playing time. Unfortunately, lack of playing time is all too common and it is important that a coach makes every effort to give each athlete an opportunity to play. While playing all your key players may guarantee a win, it certainly does not make one a great coach. Coaches should demonstrate their leadership abilities by balancing all of the team’s players. Let’s keep in mind that parents do not register their child to be part of a winning team but mostly to be part of a team.
Playing time gives the athletes the experiences necessary to utilize the skills they learn and face adversities in winning and losing. Coaches that limit playing time take away opportunities for the kids and reflect poorly on their coaching abilities. If you want to pick those athletes that guarantee a win, then make your program a try-out sport. If you pick them and register them, then you play them. It’s that simple. Sports programs are sometimes envisioned to take parents’ money, only to see their child on the bench or standing on the sideline. If that’s the case, change your program to reflect position on the field. It is not acceptable to destroy a child’s love of a sport, regardless of their skill level.
We often hear that it’s all about the kids. We say it, but do we adhere to these principles? Holding evaluations is a way to classify talent, skill level and possible outcomes. There will be plenty of time for making a team at the high school level and if parents want their child to be on a competitive and winning team, they would have chosen an AAU program, ALL Star team or a club. You get my point. Not all volunteer coaches know how to best manage a group of individuals. Organizations train their coaches and discuss playing time for their players. Parents should ask about the organization or league policy when it comes to their children’s participation in a sport. They should know what the team expectations are for practice, etc. Not all children start the season will equal abilities, but the expectation is the kids will work to improve throughout the year and earn more game time as they progress. Just like there are bad coaches, there are spoiled children that demand and expect to be the star of the show but they need to put forth the effort to show the coach that they deserve more playing time. With that said, parents should not tell the coach what position their child should play but rather ask what they can to do help their child become a more integral part of the team. Let the coach do the coaching and let the organization keep coaches aligned with rules and regulations in youth sports. The Danbury Athletic Youth Organization, DAYO, continues to work with all coaches to give a child in any sport quality skills and the necessary playing time for them to learn and to have an enjoyable experience. If we fail to recognize and to play their child, they are sure to be disappointed and will not return.
This article was written by Estela Camacho, Danbury Athletic Youth Organization (DAYO) secretary. For more information, visit www.dayosports.com, or contact Estela at 203-530-2457 or Bestelacamacho@sbcglobal.net.