Coaching and Playing Time
photo is one from my last full season as a coach. All the players in the photo have graduated from school.
Perhaps the most criticized aspect of coaching a team is the amount of playing time a player receives. As a player improves their skills and move into more competitive aspects of a sport, the player and their parents begin to expect more playing time. Sometimes their expectations do not meet the coach’s expectations and this can result in a variety of problems.
Most sports have introduced rules at the introductory level that provides for equal playing time and even have gone to not scoring the game. The idea is to develop player skills and by not keeping score it takes off the pressure that winning a game brings to a coach’s decision on who plays when.
As a player ages the sport becomes more competitive and the ability to determine a winner becomes more important. Sport in many ways is similar to Salmon going upstream to spawn. In the beginning all Salmon start at the mouth of the river, but in the end only the strongest and quickest are successful in reaching their spawning grounds. As a player progresses through his chosen sport he/she will notice that there are fewer players. Some of their ex-teammates have left the sport because they have found other sports or interests that they enjoy, some have found they enjoy a sport where their success does not depend on others, and others have decided that sport no longer fulfills them as an activity.
Most individuals playing school sports entering high school face the most competitive aspect of their athletic career to date. If they are fortunate to enter a large school they have an opportunity to play on one of two teams, the Varsity or the Junior Varsity teams. If they go to a smaller school then they have to compete against individuals that are several years older and much bigger than them.
Fortunately Canadian high school coaches do not face the pressures like their American counterparts where winning determines their ability to continue coaching. Even so, the success of the sport often depends on the success of the coach in producing successful teams. (By success I am not referring to winning, but the development of skills and the adding to the players’ knowledge of the sport.) If players do not have confidence in the coach then they will stop competing or stop trying out for the team.
One of the trickiest and sometimes controversy decision a high school coach has to make is when to play his youngest and least experienced players then facing a parent who do not agree with his/her decision.
Coaches, for the most part, are conservatives, especially in games that are close. They tend to stick with the players that are contributing to the team’s success in keeping the game close. If they have a bench with young and inexperienced players they generally will reduce those players time in the game. This is done for two reasons. The first is that coaches do not want to place undue pressure on young players. Too many players will blame themselves for a team’s lost if they miss a tackle, a foul shot, or a serve and this does nothing in building their confidence. The second reason is the opposite side of the first and that is to let his experienced players know he has confidence in their abilities to bring the game to a successful conclusion.
The most difficulty time for parents and players to understand is why they may not receive as much time as they think they should when the team is being blown out of a game. Some coaches when this happens will “dump” their bench, however a successful coach knows that this is actually a good time to work their young, inexperience players in with their veterans. It is an opportunity to develop the team. Too often the “dumping” ends up with young players learning very little and feeling like they are only good to be fodder for other teams.
When a team is “blowing” out an opponent many coaches will provide additional time to their younger players, often as a group and work on certain skill sets. A young player often earns additional time as the season progresses depending on how they preform during the limited opportunities they have early in the season.
Coaches that hold a preseason team meeting with parents are able to avoid having parents and players wondering about playing time by covering their reasons and philosophy regarding this issue. It is the parents’ responsibility to attend this important meeting and to express any concerns they may have regarding this or any other issue they may have in order to have their child have the best possible experience wearing the uniform of their high school.
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