I’ve been receiving a lot of emails and messages lately from baseball and softball players in both college and high school asking me advice on how to handle playing time issues.
Almost every message is an athlete feeling like they have earned more playing time than they are getting.
These athletes are sharing deep and valid feelings with me but when I ask them if they’ve shared those feelings with their coaches the answer in 99% of them is…No.
Here is my advise if you’re having “playing time” issues.
Coaches: We have to do a better job of making it clear to our athletes that we truly have an open door policy. That they can feel safe coming to talk to us about anything and anytime. We need to build solid trusting relationships with our athletes so that they feel comfortable doing so and we have to listen. Truly listen.
Athletes: I know for some of you it is really difficult to approach your coach especially if they don’t do a great job of communicating to you that you can. Having said that, my best advice is to go talk to your coach and share those feelings. Do it in a respectful way and have a solid case for WHY you think X should happen. And then be open and listen to what the coach says is the reason and what things you may need to work on and work as hard as you can on those things. But know this, a good coach if given a choice between equal attitude & effort, will choose the athlete with more talent 9 out of 10 times but will still give you opportunities and you have to take advantage of any opportunities given to you. And lastly, but most importantly, do not complain to your parents and teammates about it. Take ownership of your feelings, actions and effort and take them to your coach.
Parents: I know that you want to step in. I know that you want to be the sounding board for their complaints. But please encourage them to go talk to their coaches about it instead of holding it in or complaining to others about it. And please most importantly, don’t take those frustrations to other parents, the coaches or administration (unless there is abuse involved, obviously). If you are the one driving the playing time “conversation” with your children, please me mindful of how you talk about their coach to them and to others.
If you are a parent of a High School athlete and you feel like “favoritism” or “politics” is happening on the team with the coaches & playing time… here is my best advice and what I would tell MY son:
You need to leave without a reasonable doubt why you should be on the field. You need to outwork every other player on the team. You need play so well in practice that the coach CAN’T sit you.
Work while you wait for your opportunity. In the meantime, be the best teammate and best leader you can be. Find joy in other roles outside of playing time. Know that the most important parts of the team experience isn’t your playing time its learning how to be a part of a team, how to deal with adversity and so many other life lessons.” And then I would tell them that I love them and support them and that I know they’re frustrated and would make it clear to them that their performance on the field doesn’t affect my love for them in anyway.