One of the "hot buttons" in sports today is the conversation around playing time.
It's part of youth, high school, club, and even collegiate sports.
From time to time I will hear a comment that goes something like this...
"How are they supposed to get any better if they don't get more playing time?"
I think the question is well-intentioned.
That said, I would suggest that playing time isn't where improvement lives, it's where mastery is displayed.
A game is an outward expression of the skills mastered through intentional preparation.
By the time game day rolls around, the opportunity to work on the technical and tactical aspects of any sport will have already happened (or not).
In practice with teammates.
In the backyard/driveway.
In taking extra reps after practice.
In coming to practice early for more reps.
In studying film to learn from others.
In watching professionals.
In asking coaches questions at practice.
In white-boarding concepts at practice.
Notice how many times the word practice keeps popping up. That's intentional, too.
There is no short-cut to progress.
So how should we handle it when someone says "Why didn't so and so play more today...or at all?".
It's not an attack on your coaching, it's an opportunity for a healthy conversation.
Still don't believe me?
Let's look #InTheClassroom.
You wouldn't expect to earn an A on a test if you never studied for it, or did homework and practice problems.
You don't get better because you took the test, you get better because you prepare, and are ready for the test.
The test is an outward expression of your intentional preparation.
Still not sure?
Think about relationships.
The trust you are trying to earn from the people around you isn't demanded, it's earned. Over time, and intentionally.
Just like playing time.
So the next time that playing time comes up, take a step back. Don't look to defend your position, see it as an opportunity to continue to manage expectations.
Yes, I said continue.
Progress is a process, not an event.
Once parents know where you stand, why you stand there, and what you are looking for...they will likely stand with you to help their child make progress.
And if they don't?
You just got stronger as a team because one of your distractions is headed in another direction. You're welcome. :)
I'll close by saying that nothing brings me greater joy than to see players I've coached learn, grow, and achieve moments they weren't sure they could. Yes, personal development is part of player development.
I've coached long enough now to see former players start great careers, getting married, starting families of their own...and beginning to coach themselves.
And while we may look back and talk about a game here and there...none of it matters as much as we thought it did then. Shocker, I know. :)
No one focuses on how much they played, when they know how much you cared.
But they do remember that they were there, who they were with, and that they had a great experience...together.
Value the conversations and the journey, not the confrontations and wasted energy.
We'll talk more about this topic on and off in my blog. I hope that each time we do, you take it as an opportunity to be a positive influence in the lives of your student-athletes, and their families.
Thanks for stopping by, coach.
And if you are a parent happening by today...it's great to see you, too.
Please know that as coaches we are trying our hardest to provide a great experience for your kids, and honored to be part of your family's journey through life.
I have a practice to prepare for.
From the desk of our founder, Brett W. Gould.