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THE HIGH COST OF PLAYING AND COACHING TO WIN

A coach told a freshman player that he would be in his high school team’s top “20” as a freshman soccer player. He even told the player’s father that his son was going to make the team.  The player had a great camp, but was cut. Let me make this clear. If a varsity coach is going to keep a freshman or a sophomore on his team, they must play at least 50% of the time, and should be in the starting lineup every other game. When the father questioned the coach about keeping his word, the coach blamed “administrative reasons” for cutting the player. Asked by the coach if the player was still playing baseball, even though the father was told it was not a problem, the father was stunned. The coach asked where the player had been. Why wasn’t he at the pre-season pay-for-play training camp?

                The player was the best player on the junior varsity team, according to both junior varsity coaches. (Not the most talented) The next year, the boy got sick during tryouts. The excuse given for the player not making the team was that he was three weeks behind. It was only one week. The next excuse was that they hadn’t seen him play a certain position in three years. This was not true, either. The junior varsity coach had seen him that summer in a game at the club team’s state championship. They also said he had not been seen at the position they needed. Also, not true. The junior varsity coach had seen this boy “stuff” the leading scorer on another team in a couple of games. The same scorer crushed the varsity team with three in a scrimmage for three goals.
                This is happening more than you realize. Attitudes developed from ego and self-worth are being enhanced for the coach instead of the player’s development. In the sectional championship game, another player on the varsity team was in that same position this young man played. He gave up another bad goal. Meanwhile, the wronged player led his junior varsity team with three goals and fifteen assists, and was the captain of the undefeated junior varsity team.
                No championships were won that year or in the following four years. Coaches need to realize that the children want to play. Some players follow the “party line” and say they play to win, but after their careers are over most of the ones I talk to regret not getting to play. We polled about a hundred kids from the age of fourteen to eighteen. I was shocked at the amount of kids who said the reason they played sports was to win. I was even more shocked when I was told most would rather sit on the bench and win a championship, than to play on a losing team. This bothered me for quite a while.
                 And then a strange thing happened. I started running into some of the players who I had polled. ALL wanted to change their answer after their season had finished and they did not win a championship. They all said they now realize it would have been more fun to play. In one case we studied, a player who had rarely played refused to go into the game in the final minutes of a blow out in the last game of his high school career. This scenario plays out year after year, season after season, sport after sport.
                Playing ALL the kids on your roster during the season is a HUGE benefit to your team, not a hindrance. Inter team competition helps the WHOLE team get better. It may not seem like playing your most talented players is entitlement, but it is. They have to earn extended playing time, and keep earning it. If not they learn subconsciously that they don’t have to play their best and try their hardest to get playing time.
                Over and over in multiple sports we see coaches keeping their “best” players in games and losing without seeing the long term negative effect it has on their program. Players who do not get playing time start to lose interest and don’t play hard in practice. This falsely justifies the coaches’ thoughts that the player does not deserve playing time. The coach created this scenario by not allowing kids repeated chances to play and get better during games with real playing time, not just a few minutes at the end of a blowout. I have also seen kids get playing time at the end of a blowout and play really well. Then, during the next game, they are back on the bench. Most coaches do not realize the long term harmful effect this has on their program. The kids do not want to be on a team were they are stereo typed as a bench player or substitute. We followed a basketball team from freshmen to senior year. Only three kids who played on the freshmen team were on the varsity squad their senior year.
                 Post puberty it should be play by performance. That means when a player is not playing his best they are replaced by a player who may not be able to contribute as much as the more talented player in the short term. Both kinds of players should get repeated chances during games to play. The more talented player learns that they have to perform at a high level to keep their position and status, it is not a given.  They learn the benefits of getting better and being a good teammate. The benefit to the team, the coach, and the player are long lasting and beneficial, not harmful. The substitutes are rewarded for their efforts and try harder making themselves and all around them better. They also show anyone watching, that they have a chance to succeed.
                Now is the time to stop the tsunami.

Written by : VJS