What if your athlete loses a starting spot?

By Janis Meredith | Posted 5/28/2014

My daughter played on a team one year where her friend lost her starting spot when the season was two-thirds done. The reason: The coach was drowning in a losing season and was trying a new offense, desperate for some wins.

Dad was mad, the friend was mad, and my daughter felt bad for her friend.

What if that happens to your child? What should he do?

If your child is in the dark, encourage him to talk to coach.  When an athlete is stripped of his starting spot, the coach should communicate why. If your child has no clue why, then he should ask the coach. Not angrily, not pouting, just a simple, “Coach, why was I taken out of the starting lineup? What was I not doing that I needed to be doing?”

This is a chance for your child to fight for something that is important to him.  If your child is struggling to return to his A game, learning how to bounce back will be the first step. If he is not struggling but the coach is just making changes, then encourage your child to continue to fight for what he wants. If starting is important to him, then he must keep working hard in practice, doing his best and staying positive.

He will learn what it means to be a team playerIt is not fun, it is hard to watch and as a parent, you most likely will want to wring the coach’s neck. There’s no easy way to get through a situation like this. Any way you look at it, it’s hard to swallow. But with your positive encouragement, your child has an opportunity to learn an important lesson on being a team player. These are the kind of lessons that will affect the rest of his life.

He can better appreciate and understand others’ feelings.  Chances are,when your child loses a starting spot, it will be an experience he won’t forget. He will know what others feel and how they see the court or field from the bench.

What you can do?

Be objective about your child’s performance. This is probably the hardest thing of all for a parent to do. We all see our kids through very biased eyes. We all think our kids are the best players on the field. But if you really want to help your child, you must be able to see the issues clearly. Was he struggling? Was his frustration felt on the field?

Don’t project your frustration on your child. Maybe your child is not frustrated with losing his starting spot because he understands what the coach is doing. If he is not upset, don’t poison his positive attitude. Keep your aggravation to yourself.

If your child is upset, listen and sort. Listen to his anger and hurt, and sort through it. What is real and what is simply perceived by your child? Does your child understand what has happened, or has the coach left him in the dark?

Parents, help your children come out on top of situations that can make them feel low. Your positivity will help them weather the disappointment and come out stronger because  of it. 

Janis Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. Check out her Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series with survival guides for football, softball, basketball and volleyball moms.