This is a tough subject. We received an email from sports mom a few weeks ago as a response to the blog post “Is the Cost of Youth Sports Too High?” and she had so many good points that we just had to share her questions and comments here,
My son has played on a soccer team for sever[al] years & the Coach cheated players’ game time (to win?). My son was not one of these “cheated players” but definitely saw it happening & commented on it to me many times. He felt it so unfair for certain players to sit on the bench too long & sometimes not get any game time at all (division 2 teams & lower are required to play all players a minimum of half the game. This was not happening). What do you do? Please don’t respond with “report it” ’cause that has already proven to be a waste of time which results in retaliation to the player & parent. Just want to keep life fair to the players & most of all, teach them sportsmanship! Win or lose…if you play fair & play hard…you should be proud! Why isn’t that message getting across?
Our sports Mom makes some very good points. There are plenty of blog posts and articles (and we’ve written a few ourselves) about sports parents needing to not usurp the coach’s authority by coaching from the sidelines, but what can a sports parent do when a coach is obviously abusing their authority? Yes, they could report the coach to the league, but so many youth sports organizations are strapped for volunteers and coaches as is, can they really afford to dismiss a coach who isn’t giving each athlete their due time on the field? Perhaps if enough complaints are raised against a particular coach they’ll be forced to take action, but there is still no guarantee of anything coming from it. And as our Mom points out, what if the coach finds out who blew the whistle on them and decides to take it out on that player? Obviously you hope no youth sports coach would be that vindictive but plenty of coaches and parents take youth sports extremely seriously and might get carried away.
It’s easy to dismiss this issue and say that youth sports is competitive, so each athlete needs to earn their time on the field, and while that may work for high-powered travel teams can you really justify it on a U7 soccer team? Youth sports is supposed to be about learning the fundamentals and growing as an athlete, how is a young soccer player supposed to get any better if they only get 10 minutes on the field each game? While practices are where you hone your sports skills, game time is where you have to put it all to good use and use what you learned in a real game-time situation.
It’s hard to say what a sports parent should do in a situation like the one our sports Mom outlines because the specifics are going to vary from team to team, coach to coach. Maybe the coach is new and hasn’t quite figured out how to ensure how a dozen kids get equal playing time or maybe they really are trying to stack the deck in their favor and cheat to win, especially if they know the other coach will stick to the minimum field time rules. A good first step is always to bring it up with the coach, but be careful to not accuse them of playing favorites right off the bat. Putting someone on the defensive, regardless of the situation, almost always makes it harder to work things out.
We’d love to hear from other sports parents that have found themselves in a similar situation. What did you do when a coach was “stacking the deck” and continually benching the same kids just in the interest of winning?