Playing time and irate parents, what are we teaching them?
As I travel around New York coaching games, I get to observe some beautiful human characteristics and unfortunately many very disturbing ones as well. From honest, selfless endeavor to warped selfish acts the contradictions are staggering.
I used to wish I had my video camera with me at all times. Now with I-phone in hand I am equipped to collect evidence.
Parents screaming, kicking, fighting and chasing coaches around the car parks are very common scenes. Understanding why these scenes occur is a bit more complicated, but is a conundrum that is worth getting to grips with.
"Playing time", I believe for any player over 10 in a competitive league must be based upon the following criteria:
1. Attendance at practice
2. Effort at practice
3. Attendance at warm up
4. Effort at warm up
5. Effectiveness in game – am I hurting or helping my team?
Effectiveness in game is obviously the issue that causes the most debate and I admit that my thoughts on this continue to evolve. Often they have changed as the behavior of the players I train has changed. It is undeniable that the youth of today are different than the youth of 20 years ago. Whether it is access to the internet, access to cell phones, values presented to them at home, values presented to them at school, behavior of their sports heroes, or simply how the human race is evolving I really do not know. What I do know is that they are different.
Consider at what age players are capable of picking teams in a scrimmage situation and what values they use. By u10 they are normally considering three things:
1. How well is player A doing, will they help me win?
2. How hard is player A trying, will they help me win?
3. Do I need a defender, attacker etc…
4. Is player A my friend
So it seems the players get it but the parents do not. I believe we should all be concerned about the feeling of entitlement that many youth players seem to bring to practice. With echoes of conversations held by parents on car rides home they appear at practices and games with an attitude that screams loudly;
"I deserve and will play no matter what. My effort does not matter, how I perform does not matter, and if I do not get my minute’s mom and dad will scream until I do"
The basic question it seems then becomes at what age they can understand the concept of TEAM, and that effort in all things really does matter. Based upon my experience in youth coaching I believe the kids understand this at 10 and younger. Parents however struggle with what the kids so easily understand. We need to repopulate the dying breed of parents who support the coach and simply ask their child any of the following questions:
1. Do you feel you tried you best?
2. Do you think you helped your TEAM today?
I find it sad that we have taken the old phrase, There is no I in TEAM and made it in 2011…. The only person that counts in TEAM is I.
Clubs and Leagues, held captive by registration fees and not wanting to deal with angry irate parents, create playing time rules that fuel the parents willing to demand playing time regardless of effort or the needs of the TEAM are the norm. Parents willing to demand playing time regardless of the effort their child puts forth or the needs of the team are the norm.
I believe that all of us those that hold sport dear and believe that it can be a vehicle for moral and social development should be concerned. Please carefully consider at what age you want your child to understand the idea that hard work counts and that often the effort put forth will equate to the result obtained.
The playing time debate also needs to be considered from the player development perspective. Put quite simply a player only fully develops if they play in game situations, trying to perform techniques under game like pressure. They do not develop while sitting on the bench.
I understand the balance and while constantly educating coaches that players have to play! I firmly believe that parents and players understanding the concept of team is equally important. We need to get back to the "no I" in TEAM and we need all coaches, parents and players to carefully consider all sides of the playing time issue and what the concept of team actually means. What values can a good sporting environment promote?