Ask The Experts
By Ker’Shyra Myrick
Equal playing time is standard operating procedure in many youth sports programs nationwide.
But as we’ve seen, those policies can sometimes get overlooked – or ignored – amid the game day action.
We spoke with Amanda Myhrberg, owner and head consultant at A Game Sport Psychology Consulting in Sarasota, Fla., for her insights on managing those coveted game day minutes so everyone’s experience can be a positive one. Check out what she had to say:
SPORTINGKID LIVE: When games are tight there can be a tendency to put the best players in, so what’s the best way for coaches to avoid that trap when the program has an equal playing time policy?
MYHRBERG: The hardest part about equal playing time is when the games are close. Coaches should not let their competitive side get in the way and should have the mindset of ‘no matter what the score is, we are going to stick to the rules.’ Coaches should be proactive with parents and let them know where you stand up front. Give them a scenario and say, ‘Even if we are down by one point I am still going through with my rotation and equal playing time.’ Let them know so the expectation is there. Some parents might not agree with it, but if you know what you’ve set up it makes the transition a lot easier without anyone questioning or guessing your actions as a coach.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How should coaches approach these policies at the start of the season?
MYHRBERG: Coaches should explain the rule to parents before the start of the season so that everyone is on the same page. Coaches can then have a separate meeting with kids so they can understand the rule and ask questions. This should be done away from the game. Sometimes we talk over kids instead of to the kids. Older kids will be able to comprehend the rule whereas younger athletes might need more of an explanation. Practice is a great time to practice the rule. Coaches should develop drills where kids learn during practice whose turn it is to play and to sit out.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: Why is equal playing time a policy that seems to cause a lot of headaches?
MYHRBERG: Most of the time, this issue is adult driven because adults may be in the young athlete’s ear telling them they are the best person on the team and should be playing more. Playing is seen as a reward. Youth level athletes have this notion of ‘if they are playing more they are better’ implanted in their brains. This type of thinking can be eliminated by having parents and coaches on the same page as far as equal playing time is concerned. Coaches need to be proactive and explain that everyone will have a chance to play in the game. A lot of kids do not understand these rules and they need to be explained.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How can coaches handle kids who don’t want to sit on the bench?
MYHRBERG: Coaches should come up with a way for kids to have fun on the bench. For example, coaches can teach them silly cheers they can do while they are waiting to play. A great example is college basketball. Players do funny things when there is a blocked shot, or they cheer with their towels. It’s okay for kids to be silly; they are kids. The important key is to find ways to have fun! If they have fun they will do it longer and enjoy it more.
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