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Equal Playing Time: Should It Be the Rule, Not the Exception?

Equal Playing Time: A Winning Formula

Deciding on a substitution pattern in advance, and then following it during the game, creates a win-win situation for players, parents and the coach:

  • Players (except, perhaps, for the spoiled star who feels it is his or birthright to play the whole game) because they will have more fun, won't be resentful or jealous of each other, will play together more as a team, and be less selfish;

  • Parents (again, with the exception of those who feel their son or daughter is so much more talented that they are entitled to more playing time at the expense of the weaker players, or those who value winning above all else) because they will know that their kids are being treated fairly, so there won't be any need to confront the coach after the game or on the phone about a lack of playing time for their child; and

  • The Coach because (a) she can concentrate on watching the game instead of thinking about the next substitution, or worrying whether she has forgotten to give Judy enough playing time; and (b) because the players on the sidelines won't be constantly pestering her; and (c) will not be allowed to show favoritism for their own child.

Tip For Parents

At the pre-season meeting, ask the coach if he or she plans to give players equal playing time and offer to help set up a substitution grid and keep track of the time with a stopwatch. Ask the coach to put the playing schedule in a place where all can view it.

If you notice your child sitting on the sidelines during a game, approach the parent who has been designated as a go-between parents and coach, to relay a question to the coach. Don't automatically assume that the reason your child isn't playing is that the coach is playing favorites. Your child may have told the coach that she is not feeling up to playing in the game but would rather cheer for her teammates, or has forgotten her asthma inhaler, or has an injury.

Tip For Coaches

Don’t assume that your top players are always going to be there. At the sub-varsity level and below, developing all your players insures that someone will be able to step in if a player gets injured, becomes ineligible, switches to another sport, moves away or decides to enroll in a different school.

Tip For Kids

Remind the coach that if all kids got equal playing time, all would have an equal chance to develop new skills and the team would be stronger for it!


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