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Emily Cohen
Emily Cohen
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Do Players On High School Varsity Deserve At Least Some Playing Time?


I'm writing this blog under the protestations of my 15-year-old son. He would prefer that I don't write this at all, or that I write it anonymously, so that he doesn't suffer the playing-time repercussions from his coach, but it can't get any worse than it is. And, frankly, I will be completely quiet if someone - anyone - can explain to me the benefits - to the coaching staff, the team record, AND the kids - of having an entire group of players (say, 5 or 6) ride the bench the entire season and see no playing time.

Granted, I'm a sports mom. But I'm not writing this blog as my son's mom. I writing it as the mom of all those players selected to a high-level team, in this case a high school varsity baseball team, who never see playing time. Even when the score is 16-0. Or when the score is 9-2, as it was tonight.

I don't understand the benefit of selecting these kids - with a lot of anticipation and hope - only to have them ride the bench, even in mercy rule situations. No subs for any games. Why not just leave them at JV as starters? They'd get their reps in real games. The JV team would be stronger. What's better than that?

I've seen one or two of these bench players get a spot at-bat, after not facing live pitching for weeks. Surprise! He whiffs. The coach is validated ('that player is not varsity-caliber') and the player is relegated to the bench again.  What is the point? Of COURSE he's going to whiff! But is that really your goal, as a coach, to prove yourself right that the player is only bench-worthy?

Why not use your subs, let them get their playing time when you're in a mercy-rule situation, and let them HELP the team when the chips are down? Isn't that a better overall plan for everyone?

If I'm wrong, please tell me. I want to know. If you have a valid argument for selecting talented kids to the Varsity team and making them ride the bench instead of playing, please let me know. I want to hear it.



Playing Time

Yes & No.
Yes for players like your son, who can also play on JV. I'm assuming that he's a sophomore. Coach should be smart enough to develop a rotation so that bench players can be valued and also develop. Inexcusable not to find time for reserves in blow out games. Baseball is so different from other sports in that players, except the pitcher, do not need to be substituted because they're tired.
No for Seniors because Junior Varsity is not an option for them & some seniors make varsity in high school because of their class status & not their talent. Some just want to be part of the team & they should be made aware by the coach before the season that playing time in games will be limited. They should know the score before committing themselves to the team.
That said, key is how you or your son should proceed. Sounds like your son is not the type that is willing to ask the coach for a meeting to discuss playing time. Would suggest that you encourage him to ask the coach what he has to do to earn playing time.
Found a blog on the subject & copied the following response from a reader - All I can offer are some tips to approaching it in a respectful and productive manner.
1. Attend A Practice – Do not tell your daughter your are going to be there. Try to watch the practice without your daughter knowing you are there. Is she in the proper position for the drills? Does she pay attention to the coach? Is she distracting? Do the coaches have to instruct her on the same point, multiple times? I have found most playing time concerns resolved, once the parents sees how their child is practicing.
2. Ask Your Daughter Why She Doesn’t Play More – If she doesn’t know, that is half the issue. Either she hasn’t asked or she doesn’t want to tell you.
3. Tell Your Daughter To Ask The Coach – By your daughter asking, it enables her to learn independence and accountability. Parents too often “fix” everything for their children. They also learn that if they ‘whine’ to their parents, then they’ll get what they want. Get her to ask. Before hand, go over the proper way to listen and ensuring the question is direct to the issue. Why does Sarah get to play more than me?, is not the way to phrase the question. It comes across as whiny and detrimental to the team/team atmosphere. What areas to I need to improve on, that will increase my role on the team? Phrasing it this way stays away from keywords that put a coach on defence. Keywords such as “minutes” or “playing time”, infer that the player is only interested in themselves.
4. Unsatisfactory Coaches Response – If the coach doesn’t give your daughter an answer that you are satisfied with: vague or non-informative, ask for a meeting. Ensure that you request that an unbiased third-party be there for mediation (school administrator), as well as ensure that your daughter is present. Often times, children do not properly communicate or listen. I have told players what areas to improve upon and they communicated to their parents that I mentioned a skill that they were proficient at. Thus, creating a defensive response from their parents. Having the child in the meeting creates accountability for their actions. Eliminates the “Telephone Effect” (A child’s game, demonstrating the difference between listening and hearing).
The most important point to remember and by far the hardest, is to try and maintain an open mind. Your daughter may not be a good as you think her to be. Individual skills, alone with a ball, doesn’t always correlate to being a good basketball player, or team player. I have coached many kids, where I have had to bench them, because they did not play as part of a team. They were wonderfully skilled individual players, but could not operate on a team. This made the team weaker. Benching them motivated them to develop team aspects to their game.
You are looking out for your child’s goals. The coach is required to lookout for all of the children’s goals. Sometimes an individual’s goals conflict or do not work with the goals of the team. The coaches job is to do what is best for the team and not just for your daughter.
Good Luck!

Free Substitution/Re-entry?

This is a great topic. Does your state allow free substitution/re-entry for high school baseball? I think one thing that could/would help with this issue is if every high school baseball league instituted a free substitution/re-entry rule. One factor that causes baseball coaches to put in their backup/subs is that once a starter comes out of the lineup, he's out for the rest of the game. In basketball or soccer a coach can always return his starters back into the game if the opposing team begins to mount a comeback. In baseball, coaches don't have that option if their league has a re-entry restriction. As a result, most coaches will opt to leave their best players in the game until the end.

Playing Time

You asked for reasons,and here we go. A lot of this depends on what year your son is and honestly how talented he is.
If he is a sophomore it makes less sense to have a player on varsity who does not play much. My rule of thumb is that if they are not going to play a substantial portion of the game we do not pull a kid up.
On the other hand, you might pull a kid so that they are going up against better competition in practice every day. Kids get better in practice, by having those hundreds of repetitions, not by a few dozen during games. Another reason could be simple numbers. I coach at a very small school so at times to make a team that can withstand injuries or illnesses we have underclassmen pulled up who might not see a lot of time.
If he is a junior it makes more sense. If a kid is not good enough to play varsity as a junior he most likely would simply be cut. There is little sense in sending a junior or senior to the JV and have them take playing time away from younger players (There are exceptions, for example a very large talented group of seniors). A junior in this situation is probably just not good enough to play much on varsity, and it would not make sense to bump a younger player who is as good or just a bit behind. The younger player has a better chance of improving and helping the team as a junior and a senior.
We had a situation like this in basketball this year. We had a junior who just was not very talented. There were a couple of younger kids who were better then him, but they played JV because they would have been the 7th man at best. It was better for the program if they stayed on JV and the older player was on varsity, even though he did not play in many games.
Players who are on the bench have chances all week in practice to impress the coaching staff. If a kid is tearing the cover off the ball in practice they will get a chance, now if they blow that chance it is on them. We tell are players that playing time is earned by performance in practice and production in games.

Let your son do the talking

I agree with Coach Brandon about talent level. You always want your child to play at the highest level where they can play everyday and not sit on the bench. Sometimes it isn't possible due to injuries, etc. However, I would recommend that your son talk to the coach about any concerns in regard to playing time. That way the coach is hearing the concerns from him versus you as a parent. Coaches like it when the players take the initiative.

Playing time

First of all...I have been so upset thinking that we are only ones going through this...football is his life...he is one of those kids who slept with his football..lol..my son has played football since he was 10...for league, middle school, jr and now high school and he always played first string til this year..which is his varsity year...he comes to me and says he is quitting football..of course I am devestated..he was planning college football and going into sports medicine...I ask why...he says he is not good enough anymore, he is too short and not big enough...WHAT!!!...I asked him if he wanted me to say something...of course he said no...I don't see this fair at all...this is his last year of high school..varsity is a big thing...letterman jacket and all...he was placed on 3rd string with a POSSIBLE chance on the field...how can coaches do this??? My son has played hurt and never hesitated and trusted his coaches 100%....help me understand???

Devestated and heartbroken mom

Playing time

While I sympathize with you as a mom, you have to remember coaches have  to perform also and that means being objective and putting the best team on the field regardless of whether the player is a senior.  Sadly in football especially, since it typically is one of the better athletic money makers coaches don't keep their jobs long if they don't show results.

I would encourage your son to go ahead and play and support his team mates. Regardless of which string he is on. Life doesn't always go the way we hope it does. If he doesn't want to play maybe he should approach the coach and see if he can assist the trainer or team doctor if u have one. If he is interested in sports medicine would certainly look good on college applications.  

Either way tell him you love him and support his decision. Football doesn't define him it is just an activity that has given him valuable skills for the rest of his life. He will be a better collaborator and will understand the concept of working together for a common goal. Good luck to u and your son! 

playing time

I am a mother of a junior who was on jv softball both freshmen and sophmore yr. She is now a jr who went to every practice,was never late,went to the weight room,etc. She put everything she had into it as she wanted to make varsity. Along comes a jr who did not play jv and goes to practice and makes varsity. My daughter was devastated to say the least. When I went to the coach she of course told me the other girl was picked due to her ability, when I asked her where my daughters ability was in relation to the other one she couldnt answer me. My thought is if one player has played for past two years,given it her all and is an avg player shouldnt she get the position, unless the other player is an exceptional player who is going to go far with baseball? What does this say to the kids, doesnt matter how hard you tried, beware someone else might just waltz in and steal the day?? As you can tell Im livid that this happened, especially since I think the other girls father was involved with the decision but I cant prove it.



I'm sorry that your daughter was disappointed. Have gotten to live through that with my son most recently at a National Showcase where he wasn't named to the top or honorable mention list even though his written evaluation was much better than kids who were.
With that said the only thing that you can do is tell your daughter that you are proud of all the hard work and encourage her to follow up with the coach and ask what she can work on to help her make varsity. Is there a possibility she can get moved up mid-season? I ask just because at our high school the teams are not final until playoffs.
Another thing to keep in mind is it's always dangerous to try to compare one kid's ability to another because in the end there will always be one who comes out on the losing end. It also puts the coach in an awkward position. Sadly life isn't fair and in sports especially politics come into play all the time. I have found that the best thing to do is stay out of it as much as possible and let my son and his ability/work ethic do the talking. You can talk to the coach, but many times it's like talking to an umpire...the chance of them reversing a decision is slim to none.
Tell your daughter to hang in there!

It does not sound like this

It does not sound like this happened in pam's case, but in many communities/schools, and in certain sports, it is fairly common for kids who play on club/travel teams to make varsity teams at younger ages. That can catch some parents by surprise although usually the kids are aware of who plays club/travel.

A couple of other things to keep in mind:

1. It is ultimately not much fun to sit on the bench -- thus the initial topic of this thread. If your daughter was the last kid cut on a softball team that may have 16-18 kids on the roster you have to ask, "how much playing time would she really get?" Would it be better to get a lot of playing time on JV?

2. Based on the original post, the "competing" player who did not play JV is also a Junior. The obviousl question is, how did that player gain softball experience? Is this the kid's first experience picking up a bat and glove, or has this kid been playing in summer softball leagues for years?

I would suggest doing a little digging into what the best players on the varsity team are doing for training, and decide if that is something that makes sense for your daughter. Are those kids playing in summer/fall travel leagues? Are they doing individual skills training with a private instructor? Is it worth it to your daughter (and workable for your family) to do those kinds of things or not?

Playing time

Player participation starts when players start out at the earliest of ages. where at that time its important as they grow and learn to play sports. When those folks get to high school , life changes. No longer player participation. We are all not the best or greatest. Nothing wrong with being average or normal. In high school the better will play more or all. If this is not agreeing with you there are other roads to take to play. Sure, every parent wants their child to be the next Mike Jordan, but not going to be or happen. Find another road for high school sports team if they are not the star, and get over it. Why dont you do the same when they get to college, no different in high school, coaches know who can help them win. Thats life, no matter how you want to change it. Good luck.