Wednesday, October 7, 2009

5 Strategies to Give Equal Playing Time in Sports

As a coach, playing time can be your biggest headache. It can be difficult to give each player fair playing time. However, the opportunity to participate in sports with meaningful playing time is essential to childhood development, confidence-building and overall athlete development. PLC believes strongly in the distribution of equal playing time in youth sports. We recommend at a minimum for 6th grade and below as close to equal playing time as possible and for 7th and 8th grade at least 25% playing time for all participants.

So how do you do that? Here are 5 strategies taken from the Play Like A Champion Today™ youth sport coaches manual:

  1. Communicate with your players and their parents. Let your players and parents know your commitment to fair playing time and what they can expect throughout the season. Make sure your playing time commitments are explained to the parents at a pre-season meeting. The better you communicate up front, the less push back you will receive during the season.

  2. Plan ahead. Prepare a detailed substitution pattern before each game. Set your line-ups to have the best chance to be competitive in each quarter, half, or inning. Don’t “stack” certain line-ups to try to win – players pick up on this and might think of themselves as the “B Team.” Make everyone feel like they are on the “A Team” and you will get the most out of every player.

  3. Stick to your playing time commitments, regardless of the game situation. Is sacrificing a player’s opportunity to have fun and feel accepted by his/her coach and team worth improving your record? You decide.

  4. If possible, have an assistant keep track of playing time; this could be an assistant coach or a trusted parent. Recruiting some help will allow you to focus on game strategy and instruction of your players during the game.

  5. Take advantage of lopsided opportunities and give more time to your less-used players (especially when equal playing time is not guaranteed). Don’t wait for the other coach to do this. If he/she wants to play their stars the whole game then that is their problem. Also, make sure this isn’t your only playing time strategy.

Feel free to comment on this post to share any of your strategies in distributing playing time fairly. We want your feedback!