Talking with the coach about playing time

Many parents have been sending in their questions, asking for some help to do the right thing, not just for their kids, but for all the kids on the team. Here is a popular question from parents: How do you talk to the coach about playing time?

Well, you aren’t going to like my initial response, as I would like to tell you that the parent shouldn’t have that conversation during the season. That particular conversation should happen before you agree to put your child into that particular coach's care. In a perfect world, you would know what you are signing up for. I encourage all parents to have these very candid conversations before they agree to start the season with a particular team. If the coach is clear that he is going to play the best players...period, then it is in the hands of your child to earn that playing time. If you have read the previous posting, you will see that I think this philosophy should be saved for kids when they get to the 12ish age group, but not all coaches are going to agree. If your kid is on the bubble, and your family commits to making the best team possible, and that team is committed to win as many games as possible, then be prepared that playing time may not always be as much as you had hoped.

If you were sold a different bill of goods from the beginning and all kids were supposed to get equal time, and are not, then we have another issue. I believe in this instance, you have the right to have a conversation with the coach. I absolutely believe this conversation should not happen around the kids, or even at the field. The first thing to think about is timing. I always find it best to give the issue a little time, and that time can help you get your emotions and thoughts into check. A professional approach of meeting away from the playing field, and if possible, having another person to sit in on the conversation who really doesn’t have skin in the game, is a good approach. A phone call, or email to ask for a brief meeting would be appropriate. As a coach, I know I would respect a parent who would meet with me and respectfully remind me of my commitment to play all the kids equally, and how I haven’t fulfilled that promise. I would then have an opportunity to defend myself, and hopefully get back on track of doing what I said I was going to do.

Please remember that coaching youth sports is a thankless job and everyone of these “volunteers” are competitive by nature. It is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture from time to time. The very best way to have these tough conversations, is to first make some deposits into the coaches by encouraging them and supporting them and their decisions, then the tough conversations are easier to take, and the motive seems pure. Ganging up on the coach, gossiping in the stands, and creating drama that the kids are sure to see, is a recipe for friction...on your team, with your coach, and with your kids.

Your other option, on this topic, is to let your emotions control you, blow up on the coach right after the game, and earn the title “Crazy youth sports parent” and watch your kids cringe and take one step closer to quitting a game they could one day love. Your call.

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