Beyond The Score

Central Vermont Sports Blog


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Playing time is probably the single biggest issue facing players, parents and coaches in sports today. It has always been an issue but more so today because individual needs have a higher priority than team needs. Youth (K-8) sports demand participation by all players. It’s the time when developing skills happens. It’s when the seed for the joy of competing is planted. As players get older individual talent and skills start to separate players. Once they reach the varsity level in their sport things change. The idea of universal participation and equal playing time take a back seat to teams striving for success by utilizing the best fit, most skilled competitive athletes on the field as much as possible. Team concepts become more important than the individual satisfaction of getting some playing time. Athletes earn playing time by the quality of performance during practice and games A players attendance, attitude and character also play a major role in a coaches decision for playing time.


Why do kids choose to participate in a sport? There are as many reasons as there are players on the field but basically they just want to play. They want the thrill and challenge of competing. They want the excitement of being with their friends and sharing the joy of success. From the day they sign up until the final team gathering at the end of the season, players, coaches and parents face many challenges and the dynamics of sport can get complicated, especially when parents and players begin to have problems with playing time.

Parents and players often question the decision coaches make and that’s when the joy of sport starts to dim. I hear parents wondering why their kid is playing a certain position or why they’re being substituted. Parents like to talk strategy during games and question the coaches, referees and players decisions. These questions and attitudes can sometimes set a negative tone for a sport. Support can turn into criticism and the team concept can be compromised. The fun of playing slowly gets diminished.

How coaches and parents deal with dissent and outside criticism makes all the difference in having a successful season or an unhappy experience.


Players come home disappointed in their performance or lack of play and complain to parents. How parents handle these moments is the difference between their child growing and learning to solve problems or not. I feel it would be more beneficial for parents to teach their children how to approach solving their problems. Parents solving problems for their kids just makes them passive and they will lack the strength of character to deal with problems in the future. Give players the skills and strategies to address problems on their own before taking aggressive action as a parent.

Recently a local girls high school soccer team welcomed a new coach. During the first meeting parents asked the coach many questions about her philosophy of the game and coaching. They asked the usual question about playing time. Her response was enthusiastic and strong. As a young varsity coach she emphasized winning. She said that things like fitness, athletic skill, attendance at practice, attitude, and game specific situations would determine playing time.

As I watch players develop during a season, I notice that some players lack the skills, fitness and experience to compete at a high level. If they were to play against a physically strong and highly skilled team they could get hurt or hurt someone else. All coaches face this situation. It is not always easy to recognize when it’s safe for them to play. It is often difficult for parents to recognize ability and safety issues when they are focusing on playing time.

The question of playing time is key to everything a coach believes about their sport. It is key to why players play. When parents get involved distraction enters the game. Parents can often lose sight of the goals of the program and see things from a narrow point of view – playing time for their son or daughter. This, of course, takes the game away from the coach and players. Another game comes into play. This other game has little to do with sport and success.

I believe the best coach ever was John Wooden, the UCLA men’s basketball coach from the 1960-70’s. He touched the lives of many people during his lifetime. His philosophy was simple and he never wavered from it.

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.”

He created a “Pyramid of Success” and all the building blocks are about character. The joy of the journey was more important than winning. Winning was just the result of reaching success and knowing that as a coach, player or parent, you have given the effort and developed the character to reach the top of the pyramid.

Coach Wooden has written many books about his journey in sport. He has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and touched the lives of many in and out of sport.

To learn more check out Coach Wooden’s website.


Written by Roger

September 25, 2014 at 11:18 PM

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