This is final part of this 4 part series on the 4 philosophies all coaches should have. In the first three posts, I covered the “General Athletic/Coaching Philosophy,” the “Sport-Specific Philosophy,” and the “Practice Philosophy.” Today I am going to talk about the “Playing Time Philosophy.”
Many coaches never consider the concept of a playing time philosophy. They just kind of “wing it” when it comes to getting kids playing time, especially coaches of lower level teams (Freshmen, JV, etc.). Sometimes, the head coach of a program has a philosophy for her own varsity team, but she has not established a playing time philosophy for the other levels of her program. This is a mistake. As the head of the program, it is critical that you make sure that your assistant coaches, the players, and the parents all know what the philosophy in your program is with regards to playing time at each level of the program.
As the head coach of a program, I have ideas on what I want to see our kids achieve at each level. I am not focused on winning at the freshman, sophomore, junior varsity, or any other level before the varsity. Of course I hope that our kids will win on those levels, for that is an indication that we may have some future success, and it helps kids feel better about their experience if they are winning more games than they are losing. But my philosophy of the lower levels is that they are for three major reasons: develop players, get them playing time in game situations, and have fun. If we win, great. If we lose, it’s not the end of the world or even a major problem. As long as those three things are happening and the coaches of those levels are working to develop those three things while instilling a “desire to win,” then I’m happy with whatever outcomes occur in our lower level games. With that as my philosophy for the lower levels, I believe that all the kids on those teams should be getting a decent amount of playing time.
When establishing your playing time philosophy, a key component will be your “General Coaching/Athletic Philosophy.” If you look at youth sports as a chance to help kids have a positive experience, then you are going to need to find some way to get kids playing time. There is no greater determiner of a kid’s enjoyment in sports than how much he or she plays. Obviously, for each kid the amount of playing time that determines if they are having fun is different, but no matter what, each kid wants to play. You need to figure out how that is going to happen.
I believe that the only level where there may be large differences in playing time between players is at the varsity level. Here the best players play the most, the next best players play the next most, and so on down the line. However, by the time you get to the last few players, they still need to be getting some kinds of minutes, or what’s the point in having them there? Get them time by swinging them between the JV and varsity if your state and league allow that. Or put them on the JV full time. If you’re at a small school and have only one level and you are not allowed to make cuts, try putting them in in the second quarter to get them some minutes. Or, you could encourage them to be a manager. But if they are on the team, you have to try to find a way to get them some minutes.
As for the lower levels, I said it earlier: no matter what level it is, all kids need to get some decent amount of playing time. They are there to play. Help them to do just that by working them into the game at various times. Some coaches give set amounts of time to certain units or players. Others work weaker players in with better players. Whatever the method, find a way to get them in.
This explanation of the concept of a Playing Time philosophy is by no means a “be-all and end-all” discussion on the topic. Rather, it is a start for coaches to consider as they think about how they want to develop their own Playing Time philosophy.
For a much more in-depth look at Playing Time philosophies and ways for coaches, athletes, and parents to deal with playing time issues, check out my booklet “Playing Time: Guidelines for Coaches, Athletes, & Parents.” I have just released it in a new, downloadable PDF form for $3.99. You can get it, as well as all of my booklets, at www.coachwithcharacter.com.
And don’t forget that in September, my FREE eBook Establishing Your Coaching Philosophy will be released. The booklet will go into more detail on all 4 of the philosophies I discussed in these posts and ways to implement them in your program. To receive your FREE eBook, go to my website and sign up for my Newsletter/Blog in the box that pops up.
I hope you have enjoyed these posts on the “4 Philosophies All Coaches Should Have.” I also hope you are considering your own philosophies and what you believe youth athletics should be all about. As always I welcome any comments, ideas, or questions you may have on any of the philosophies we have discussed. You can reach me at my website or by email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
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