Youth Sports and Equal Playtime: Right or Wrong?

As a coach or league member, you’ve likely received a complaint or email or two about playtime. “Johnny sat on the bench for 40 minutes last game!” “Roseanne keeps getting all the field time while my Melissa is a benchwarmer – what gives?!” Your first response is to roll your eyes most likely – these kinds of helicopter parents are always going too far – but they may actually have a point.

Many coaches debate whether or not equal playtimes are actually beneficial to a team or not, but we’re here to tell you that the answer is definitive: they are. Want proof? We’ll back up our argument with five points.

 1. Equal playing time help teams grow and succeed.

Say that Rachel is the star of your soccer team and Alyssa is one of the less skilled girls. You like to sub in Rachel more than Alyssa and usually reserve Alyssa for the later part of the second half so she has some field time. Rachel plays a majority of the game while Alyssa spends most of her time on the sidelines.

In this kind of scenario, Alyssa is given no chance to grow or better herself. With more field time, Alyssa can actually hone her skills. This makes her a better player so you’ll eventually have two great athletes instead of one.

 2. Equal playtimes help promote team unity.

Children know when a peer is getting preferential treatment, and they also know when someone is getting cast aside. This energy creates a bad team dichotomy within your ranks. The “better” players will assume dominance while the “worse” player will resent them for their treatment. Equal playing time helps promote a more unified team.

 3. Equal playing time build a child’s self-esteem.

As mentioned above, the children on a youth sports team know where they fall within the eyes of the coach if you treat them differently as compared to others. Athletes that are reserved to the spot of “benchwarmer” begin to feel worse and worse about their skills and eventually themselves. This is never a position which a team member should be in. However, playing all children equally means they build confidence as well as sports skills.

 4. There’s a question of money.

Imagine that you’re the parent of a youth sports league athlete. You paid $200 for participation and a uniform – only to see your child play in about 10% of each game. When you look at a situation like this from a context of value, you can obviously see the problem.

It’s also important to note that some families will have to scrape and save money in order to put their children into youth sports leagues. Do you want them to see their child played for 10% of their games when they worked so hard to get them involved?

 5. Sometimes it’s the rules.

This may not be the case in your league, but some actually state that equal playtime must be enforced by referees or a team may be penalized. These kinds of rules were put into place in order to create a fair game. Know the rules within your league, and consider creating a similar rule if you’re in a position to do so.