When youth sports seem downright unfair

By Janis Meredith | Posted 2/9/2015

“It's not fair!” How many times have you heard that from your kids? Your response is probably similar to mine: “Life isn't fair!”

Unfairness often rears its ugly head in youth sports. 

It feels unfair when coaches don’t always reward hard work , discipline and coachability.

It seems unfair when playing time will not always be based on hard work and skill.

It reeks of unfairness when kids who don’t work as hard or who have bad attitudes get starting spots over more deserving players.

It looks unfair when some players get yanked after one mistake, yet others mess up over and over and never get pulled.

Every season, there are new issues. The question is not “how can I protect my child from unfairness?” but instead, “how can I help my child deal with the unfairness?”

  • Remember that coaches are human. They may play favorites. They probably have pre-determined ideas about who should start, who should play and who should spend most of his time on the bench. Although it’s frustrating, there’s not much you can do.
  • Focus on what you can control. You or your child cannot control playing time or starting spots, but you can control your attitudes and your child can control how hard he works. Focus on those things if you want any hope of changing the unfairness. Change can come through hard work and a good attitude, not through complaining and whining.
  • Play for the love of the game. Our kids have played for coaches who never seemed happy with their performances no matter how hard they tried in practice and in games. We encouraged them to play for God, for themselves, for their team mates, and not for the coach’s approval because it was pretty obvious that they were probably not going to get it. 

How you help your child deal with the unfairness of youth sports will be yet another lesson learned in the arena of youth sports that can prepare him for life. As an adult, he will undoubtedly want to scream "It’s not fair" many times. It’s just part of life. 

Not fair, is it?

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.