A formula for playing time success

By Janis Meredith | Posted 10/13/2014

For some children, the playing time war is easily won. For others, it is a heart-wrenching battle every practice, every game.

If your child is one of those who struggles with it, then you must remind him that there are things he can do to help his chances.

A formula for success

If your child is to have any chance of reaching his playing time goals, he must exhibit these traits.

  • Hard work. In games and in practice. Coaches love kids who give their all.
  • The extra mile. If your athlete is serious about improving and getting more time, he must be willing to go the extra mile by staying after practice to work on his weak areas or work at home or whatever it takes. I’ve seen my daughter stay after volleyball practice so the coach could hit balls to her. I’ve seen my son stay after football practice and throw extra passes, and I’ve seen my softball daughter spend extra time in the cages. Each one was fighting the playing time battle and looking for ways to improve.
  • Team player attitude. This not only means that your child doesn’t complain about playing time, it means he does what is best for the team, whether it’s handing the ball to a better runner or giving his position to a better player and playing another spot.
  • Coachability. Coaches love kids who listen and follow instructions.
  • Leadership. Often when your child is neck-and-neck with another athlete, one thing that could give him the edge is leadership. Not bossiness, mind you, but a willingness to speak up by helping and encouraging as well as leading by example. We always told our kids to be someone who the coach did not want to take off the field or court, someone who made a difference when they were playing. That difference often was in their leadership.
  • Consistency. Coaches look for athletes who they can depend on to do their job. Help your child see that he doesn’t need to be the hero, the home-run hitter, the star. He just needs to play his position and do his job to the best of his ability every time.

Not a fair fight

Sometimes, the playing time battle is not fair. Your child may do all of the above and still be overlooked because of youth sports politics.

But when your child learns to “leave it all on the court” – as we used to tell our kids – then the measure of success will not be in minutes played but in character developed.

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.