for your article of 12/4. I really enjoyed it and thought that it reflected my own sentiments. I spent several years coaching youth soccer and Little League. I used to spend hours laying out the game plan as to who would play and how much time. I always tried to set up equal time for all players on the team. I remember one soccer game (ages approx 10 yrs) where we were behind a goal or two, in the last few minutes, and the father of one of the better players told me I should not take his son out for the lesser players. I told him “Look, I want those other kids to play.” He was the “sponsor” of the team. He pulled his kid from the team. I don’t know how they did elsewhere.
I also remember one Little League coach who my youngest son played for. He had two kids on the team that always got premium assignments, even though they weren’t very good. My son wasn’t that good either, but sometimes he got no playing time at all.
Anyway, I agree with you that we should let the youth teams let these kids try their skills. Their experiences will last a lifetime. Later years will sort them out if they are not truly athletes ready to move on to the next level. Their experiences in youth sports will be of benefit in whatever they choose to do as a career.
Once again, playing time will go down in youth sports history as one of the toughest issues to satisfy. So many people have a different opinion on how, when and how much to substitute players.
I am telling you that kids at the younger ages need shared, and as close to equal playing time as possible. It is important for several reasons:
It teaches the best players value in appreciating the other players and the concept of being a team player and it’s not only about “me”.
It gives the less experienced kids a chance to learn the game and give it a shot. This is where the “late bloomer” gains momentum as his skills and coordination develop. He starts to improve and play with more confidence.
It minimizes the goal of winning into a goal of teaching and putting the kids best as the priority.
It communicates the right message to the kids; that you value the whole person, how they learn to interact with others, and that they actually learn and improve in that particular sport. They get the message that it’s not about the win/loss record.
It helps coaches become better coaches because strategic substituting and utilizing every player at the right times is important. So, coaches learn how to accomplish a substitution rotation that can benefit the players and the team.
It can be the encouragement needed to keep the kids interested and motivated to continue and to not become one of the statistics that says 70% of all kids quit playing sports by the age of 13.
It creates a family atmosphere where everyone learns to depend on each other’s strengths and to protect each other’s weaknesses.
Now, as the kids get older this pattern will change. But until those Jr. High and Sr. high years, let’s keep these kids playing!