No matter if you’re on the tail end, middle, or just starting your season, this article really hits home.  At ISP we want our athletes to enjoy their experiences competing in athletics as much as possible.  Something that often gets lost in youth athletics is how to handle the always sensitive subject of playing time.  Of course as an athlete, and certainly as parents, we want to see our kids involved as much as possible in their team sport.  The reality is though, at some point in an athletes career, playing time will be an issue.

As we have seen a ton of research, conversations, and articles over the years on the subject, we came across a great post from an actual parent on how to best handle these sometimes difficult situations.  Not only does he address how to handle the issue as it comes up, but makes some great points on how to prepare for the issue when it arises in the future.

Check out the article below and be sure to click the link to visit www.sportsdadhub.com for more great information.

10 Ways To Help Your Son Handle A Lack Of Playing Time

Any kid with a competitive bone in his body would rather be on the field competing instead of sitting on the bench and watching. As a Sports Dad of three young athletes, I sure as heck know that I want my boys to get as much playing time as possible. Since my oldest boy is nine, the issue of playing time hasn’t been an issue just yet. But as my boys get older and their teams get more competitive, playing time may be at a premium.

The other day I was thinking about how I’d handle it if one of my kids wasn’t getting the playing time I felt he deserved. The more I thought about it, I realized something. How I handle the situation will have a huge impact on how my son will handle it as well.

So I thought I’d open my thought process up to you. See what you think. See if you agree with my take. See if you have thoughts of your own to add. (Share them in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.)

Think About Issues Before They Become Issues 
I don’t know about you, but I enjoy thinking about issues I may have to deal with in the future. It kind of mentally prepares me and gives me a plan. I feel like when I have a plan, I’m less likely to have an emotional reaction, in the moment. A reaction that I’ll regret later. A sudden reduction of playing time would be a big deal for one of my sons. It would affect his confidence, his interaction with his teammates, his desire. It’s definitely a topic worth thinking about.

If you’re not careful, a lack of playing time can ultimately result in your son losing his passion for a sport he once loved. But if handled correctly, I believe it can actually re-engage your son to be more focused and driven than ever.

Here are the best ways (I can think of ) to help your son handle a lack of playing time:

Never Let Him Hear You Complain About His Playing Time
I think one of the worst things you could do is allow your son to hear you complain about his playing time. If you’re really frustrated about your son’s lack of playing time, it’s understandable that you’re going to want to blow off some steam about the topic. Just make sure that your son isn’t within earshot when you vent to your wife, neighbor or buddy.

Once he hears that you’re upset about his playing time, he’ll start to think about it more. He’ll think that he should be upset about it, too. Then he could:

  • start questioning the coach’s ability and authority (never good)
  • develop a bad attitude at practices and during games
  • think that he should be getting more playing time now, instead of working hard to improve his game
  • get discouraged and want to quit

Don’t Let Him Take It Personally
It’s not easy for a kid to separate who he is as a person from who he is as a player. A common reaction to a lack of playing time is, “My coach just doesn’t like me.”

For the most part, kids are good at keeping things simple. And in a kid’s mind, “He doesn’t like me” is a simple reason for why his coach isn’t giving him as much time on the field. But as we both know, it’s much more complicated than that. His coach may think he’s a great kid. Heck, he could even be his favorite kid on the team. He’s just not the best player on the team. And that’s OK. Try to explain that who he is as a player has nothing to do with who he is as a person.

I’d much rather my boys be great kids and sub par athletes than great athletes and sub par kids. I’m sure you feel the same about your kids.

Play Up The Importance Of Role Players 
Players who make up a team aren’t equally talented, but they’re equally important. (CLICK HERE TO TWEET THAT!)  Tell your son what a role player is and how important they are to a team. Explain all the different…roles, that a role player has. (e.g., in baseball role players have to be ready to: pinch hit, pinch run, play a position in the middle of an inning.) The coolest thing about being a role player is that you’re constantly put in to play very important roles. When your team needs:

  • a hit to keep an inning alive
  • a fast runner to go from first to home on a ball hit into the gap
  • solid defense to protect a lead late in a game

Try To Be Objective
I know it’s tough when it’s your son out there. But try to view the evaluations his coach has made with some objectivity. Is there a good reason why your son isn’t getting as much playing time as other kids? If you can spot areas of his game that are holding him back and causing his lack of playing time, make note of them. Then help him turn those areas into strengths. (If that’s something he’s interested in doing.) Be careful how you talk to him about working on his areas of weakness. (See one of my previous posts “How To Help Your Son Improve His Game, Without Criticism.“)

Talk To The Coach 
This one seems simple and straightforward, but I think it’s the trickiest of them all. A conversation about playing time with a coach can turn ugly in a hurry. You’ve gotta know that just bringing up the subject is going to make a coach defensive. Just make sure you don’t sound confrontational. You don’t want him to think that you’re questioning his judgement or player assessment. Simply ask him what areas of your son’s game need to improve in order for him to receive more playing time. Ask with your son’s best interest at heart and be sincere about wanting to help him EARN more playing time. If the coach is worth anything, he’ll respect you for asking the question and he’ll have a solid critique of your son’s game. Make sure this conversation occurs when your son isn’t around.

Watch Rudy With Him
(I just realized that I’ve never introduced my boys to the classic movie, Rudy. That’s going to change, very soon.) Rudy Ruettiger was the ultimate role player. The kid didn’t know if he’d ever get to run out of that legendary Notre Dame tunnel on game day. Yet there he was, going all out at every practice. Rudy shows how hard work, perseverance and a dedication to get better can pay off. I still get goosebumps when he gets that sack at the end of the game.

Instill The Importance Of Hustle
I believe that hustle is the greatest skill any athlete can learn. It will help endear him to his coaches and teammates. Hustle is also a powerful tie-breaker when coaches evaluate who should get the lion’s share of the playing time. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of coaches will vote on the side of a player who always hustles over a player who may have a bit more talent, but doesn’t give a full effort all the time.

Once your son learns how to hustle, he shouldn’t have any regrets after practices and games. Knowing that he gave it everything he had is an awesome feeling and something to take pride in. The art of hustling will serve him well in every aspect of his life, for the rest of his life.

SPECIAL NOTE & FULL DISCLOSURE: If your kids are young like mine, teach them what the word hustle means, BEFORE you tell them to hustle. This past season when I was helping coach my 5-year old’s t-ball team, I found myself telling the kids to hustle out to their positions at the start of each inning and back to the dugout at the end of each inning. Most of them didn’t change the pace of their stroll. After a couple innings of this, I finally asked the boys if they knew what hustle meant. Most of them didn’t. So I could have been saying, “Come on boys. Doodle bloba-doo!” and it would have meant essentially the same thing to them…nothin’.

Use It As A Motivational Tool
When handed a setback, champions bounce back. (CLICK HERE TO TWEET THAT!)  That’s exactly how you should position your son’s lack of playing time. It’s merely a setback. No big deal. Sit down and create an action plan together. Let him tell you the areas of his game that he thinks need work. When he’s the one calling attention to his weaknesses he’ll be more motivated to work on them. He’ll feel in control. If you point them out, he may get defensive, frustrated and feel like you’re picking him apart.

Keep His Self-Confidence Up
The most damaging aspect of a cut in playing time is the impact it has on your son’s confidence. Confidence is a huge factor for success in sports. Try your best to keep your son’s confidence high during a challenging time for him. The best way to do that is to practice/play with him and make sure he has success. When you have practice sessions with him, start and end the session with drills that he’ strong in. Put the fundamentals that need the most work in between his strongest drills. By starting and ending on positive notes, he’ll subconsciously begin to feel more confident in his all around game.

Remember, It’s Not About You
Let’s be honest here. If our kids go from playing all the time, to being role players, our Sports Dad egos will take a bit of a hit. It’s always easier to watch the games when your son is out there, involved in key plays and helping his team win games. You stand a little taller on the sidelines, right? Then if his playing time is cut, you’d feel a little lost on the sidelines. But imagine how your son would be feeling . Especially if he is the only player on the bench. Talk about feeling lost.

Whew! I think this is my longest post yet. Do you see what happens when I just start sharing my thoughts? I hope I didn’t ramble on too much for you. OK. Enough about my thoughts and ideas. Let’s hear some of yours. What do you think about these 10 ways to help your son handle a lack of playing time? Like ’em? Hate ’em? Have one or more to add?

Let me know below or on Twitter or Facebook.

Thanks for reading, (Seriously, THANK YOU. This was a long one.)
-Kevin

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