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Coaches Offer Feedback on Minimum Play Rules

Responses vary, though many favor a minimum of 50 percent play time for each participant.

Last week’s column covered one of the questions that I asked on our Coaches Questionnaire and the comment section exploded with your responses. It made for a very constructive dialogue, and I thank you all for your input.

 My views and opinions are always evolving when it comes to what’s best for our kids on the playing field. Your comments have made me rethink my view on the handing out of participation trophies at the end of a season. Yup — guilty on all counts. I’ve always voted yes. But for many of the same reasons expressed by several of you and some of our coaches panel, I would now change my vote.

The other issue that created a lot of feedback was the one regarding the division of young kids onto teams based on ability. This coincided with the early segregation of these players, which often limited, discouraged, or prohibited their participation in other sports. This is a topic that we will definitely revisit again soon.

As I was looking over the roster of individuals who took the time to fill out the questionnaire, I was reminded that many of them are not only coaches but board members from their respective leagues. It’s a solid and knowledgeable group and it’s reflected in their answers.

 So let’s move on to our next question:

 Do you think every youth league should have a minimum play rule (per player – per game) in effect?

Coach A. (Lacrosse): “All youth sports should have a minimum play rule. That minimum should be 50 percent of the game. My philosophy is that all the parents pay the same amount for their kids to play so every player should get equal time. This includes playoff games.”

Coach B. (Football and Baseball): “Yes. In the lower (age groups) leagues it should be at least 50 percent, say up to age 12. Then anywhere from 20 percent to 33 percent, depending on the sport, up to freshman year of high school.”

Coach C. (Football and Lacrosse): “I like the minimum play rule especially with the younger athletes. I am a proponent of reducing the minimum plays as the athletes get older.”

Coach D. (Football, Lacrosse, and Basketball): “To an extent, yes, but it has to vary by sport, age group, and league/team philosophy. Rec leagues, intramural leagues, yes, a minimum play rule based on age and sport. Travel teams and high competition teams do not need minimum play rules (such as the A team for lacrosse) because the players have to make that team and thus have to earn their playing time.”

 Coach E. (Football, Lacrosse, and Basketball): “While I do believe that there should be a minimum play rule for any sport, I also believe that as kids get older (5th - 8th grade), that those kids who put in the time and effort should get rewarded with more playing time.”

 Coach F. (Football and Baseball): “Yes, I think a minimum play rule should be in effect — unfortunately, it is to make sure the coaches do the right thing. I think in a perfect world coaches would use good judgment and manage playing time based on the team, game and kids. I think it should be 25-30 percent. I am basing this on a more competitive environment that I am used to (travel team with tryouts, etc.). I think in the traditional rec league, all kids should play at least 50 percent.”

Coach G. (Football and Baseball): “Why in the world wouldn’t you have a minimum play rule? I’d like to see each player participating in about 40 percent of every game. This could mean sitting the better players a little more, but it can be done. What makes one 10-year-old more special than the next? Is it that he can throw harder or tackle better? Think about that for a minute. And the responsibility doesn’t even have to fall on the shoulders of the coaches — recruit a parent or an older sibling to track time or plays. Of course there needs to be some flexibility built into the rule for unexcused practices, lack of effort, and poor behavior. But if a league really focuses on making this a priority and the cornerstone of their youth program, it can certainly work.”

Coach H. (Football): “Yes, say 20 percent.  It is impossible to have just an average though. A team with 16 kids vs. 30 kids cannot be required to have the same (amount of playing time per player). You also can’t compare baseball to football, where the percentage of active vs. reserve players can be so different.”

Coach I. (Hockey): “No. This is complicated, but this depends upon the level, not age, of the team. Each level needs to have a different level of playing opportunities that conforms to the development of the kids. In hockey, it can be difficult to keep playing time at a specific level since many changes are done during the game and not at a whistle. Plus, keeping track of 15 different players time on ice would be a nightmare while coaching at the same time.”

Coach J. (Baseball): “Yes. Every youth sport should have a minimum playing rule. A fair minimum is 50 percent of the game.”

Coach K. (Football): “Yes, 25 percent.”

 Coach N. (Older dude – not sure what he coached): “Yes, a 50 percent rule or add teams to allow that to happen! Minimize the team sizes. This builds stamina and even removes the bench-riding fear.”

 Me. (A Sporting Dad): I received an email (By the way, feel free if you are the shy type or want to keep your views just between us) questioning my role as a youth sports “expert.” For those that have read this column from the beginning, you may already know my answer to this. I am an “expert” in knowing what I think needs to be fixed. I am an “expert” of my own observations collected from many years of watching, volunteering, and immersing myself headfirst into the depths of youth sports. These are strictly my opinions. But this is our forum. You and I get to toss, and bounce, and dribble these subjects back and forth and see where they land. And while we can debate until someone takes our ball away, I have to insist that everyone on this page be respectful of others’ comments and viewpoints.

Ron Goralski January 17, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Chad - 8 plays isn't even a fourth of the game. That's two plays per quarter. If you ask me it's pitiful. A lot of coaches use that number as an excuse to sit hard-working, lessor-talented kids once they've hit that mark. You can't use a handful of slackers as an excuse to lower the minimum play number. Have a discussion with the parents and the child and explain that more effort means more playing time. So maybe the 50% rule doesn't work for this reason because you need room to reward kids that show more effort - but for goodness sakes give the kids enough playing time so they know they've been in a game. One child playing 8 plays while another plays 40 is just wrong. As far as winning goes. At 8, at 10, at 12 years-old... I've seen kids way more satisfied as contributers to a losing team than benchwarmers on a championship team.
Chad Smith January 17, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Ron - I originally included the issue of playing time for those kids that arent necessarily the best athletes but do make the effort to improve, but I exceeded the minimum number of characters allowed per post. My overall point was that I have issues with kids being rewarded with playing time when they do little to earn it. Good player or bad player...playing time should be given when the effort is made. You shouldn't just be guaranteed playing time just because you show up n
Susan January 17, 2012 at 10:58 PM
The best coach my oldest son ever had put him on the All Star team. My son broke his arm second week of regular season but still showed for every practice. And every game. He had to sit but he cheered and was there. He got his cast off a day before the last game. Coach put him on All Stars for sportsmanship!
Ron Goralski January 18, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I don't disagree Chad. The problem I see is that you cannot trust every coach to be fair with playing time unless you have guidelines. And believe me, even with guidelines some coaches will play the same hard working but lessor talented kid as little as allowed. Some coaches only want to win. And in youth sports that is were everything begins to crumble and eventually bury those kids. I know you've seen it. We all have.
Ron Goralski January 18, 2012 at 02:58 PM
That's what it's all about Susan!

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