Once you get past puberty and by that I mean the varsity level of high school sports it should always be play by performance. In hockey we have the saying: “you are only as good as your last shift.” No player should think that he or she is entitled to playing time just because they have talent or are the coach’s kid.

            That actually hurts the development of the player and the team’s chances of winning. Let me explain. Players need to know they will be rewarded for their efforts. We are a goal orientated society and we get rewards in real life (a paycheck) after our week of work. So to should children see the benefits of their efforts? “You always run faster when you are being chased.” Is one of my favorite expressions.
            Let us say you are having a bad game. Why not take a breather and let someone else take a crack at it. If that player should do well we should embrace that as a positive as that will make the team and ultimately all players better.
             Now let’s look at the flip side. What happens when the better player is left in a game when they are not playing well? They start to develop bad habits. They are not accountable for their performance. Other players see this as favoritism from the coach and subs consciously start to resent either the player or coach, OR BOTH.
            Slowly but surely the team chemistry starts to erode and the team dynamics associated with that chemistry start to implode. You want to see an underachieving making it very difficult for the team to get better and play with consistency unhappy team, go watch a team where the coaches’ kid plays all the time and certain kids sit way more than is even remotely necessary.
            You see, most human bodies, that’s right MOST not the 1% of the 1% who are genetic freaks, take time to develop. They do not fully develop until they are into their early 20’s so no one should be sitting on the bench a whole game if they are on a team in youth and high school sports. All that is happening in that scenario is that certain kids are getting a head start and will of course play better than the kids who don’t play…for a while. These kids actually are being hindered and not helped in their desire and effort to win. Then, when they don’t win, well, that’s when the you know what hits the fan.
            Then, the dreaded “it’s not my fault” starts creeping into the picture and finger pointing and sulking start to appear. The coach gets upset and says "the heck with it, I can’t please everybody,” so he stays with his starters. His thinking, maybe winning will satisfy them, or me! The coach has any sub that plays on a short leash and benches that player when they don’t do well all the while letting the more talented  player stay in the game even though mistakes are being made.
VJ’s new book Stop the Tsunami in Youth Sports is now available through his website in paperback. You can follow him on twitter @VJJStanley, on face book at Frozenshorts, email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call him at 585-743-1020