Using Player Assessments to Address Who Plays


We recently talked about what is the most uncomfortable question in youth sports, “why isn’t my child playing more?” No parent likes to see their child sitting on the sidelines and more often than not they’ll go to bat (pun intended) to get their son/daughter on the field. Good youth sports coaches will do their best to ensure that everyone gets equal playing time, but even the best intentions can go unrealized. However, the less-than-great coaches might intentionally be benching certain players simply because they want to win at all costs.

One hockey dad recently removed his son from his travel team because his son felt unsafe (a describe the imagepretty valid reason to let your child quit sports!) and that he couldn’t earn his spot on the ice no matter how hard he tried. The director of the program apparently called this hockey dad a whiner “and that my son should play house league instead. I was also told that since I am not a hockey coach by profession, I do not deserve to voice or hold any opinions about anything the coach does. I think one of the reasons that the “Why Isn’t My Child Playing?” question is so bothersome is that far too many coaches do not have a good, legitimate reason to offer the parent or the child.”

We think this hockey dad has a great point. If a coach is benching a player they need to have a real reason why and they need to be able to back up their decision (other than they want to win more games). Especially at a young age, when the kids are just starting to get the hang of the fundamentals, benching the same kids over and over means they never get the chance to prove they are growing as athletes. Obviously the game changes a little when you move onto a travel team, but even then if a player can’t earn their time on the field/ice and is benched for every game why did the coach bother adding them to the roster?

Rita Harrel, an athletic director at Spartanburg Day School, came up with a way to (hopefully) keep coaches aware of their decisions and  have an answer for the parents when their child isn’t playing. She said;

I now have all of my coaches do periodic assessments in practice so that when a parents asks the question we have the paperwork to backup our decisions. It creates a little more work on the front end, but certainly saves a lot of hassle in the long run.

Her idea means that coaches have to show exactly why Timmy is getting more time at shortstop than Tommy. Did he make it to more practices? Does he pay better attention during drills? Does he show better leadership skills on the field? It’s hard to quantify talent sometimes, especially if one player gets more time on the field than another, the stats will inevitably be skewed, but the more concrete examples a coach has the easier it is to justify their decision. Having those assessments also gives the player a road map to success. If they know the coach is looking for them to improve on a certain skill it’s simply a matter of working on that at home! Having some guidelines helps a player grow in the right direction and puts some control back in their hands.