High school volleyball is now over for my daughter for another year. The team she was “on” actually did very well coming just short of the state championship game. My daughter shared absolutely NO joy, sadness, excitement . . . whatever, in the team because her coaches chose that for her by playing her at a level DRAMATICALLY below what she deserved, essentially making her feel as though she was NOT part of the team. No young athlete feels like their part of the team unless they PLAY in meaningful games – at meaningful times of the game – and no attempts at brainwashing (either the coach trying it on the unfairly benched athlete, or trying it on him/herself) by stating how much this child “helps the team in practice” can EVER change that in the mind of a person who’s willing to be intellectually honest with the situation.
The need for a coach to carry more on the team than he or she can play on the field/court creates this situation for the coach that choses NOT to develop fully (meaning in the stressors of REAL games) ALL of the athletes selected for the team. Not all coaches make this choice to selectively emotionally abuse some players for the true reason of trying to bring glory to THEMSELVES through ,what must be their perception, that only certain, select players give THEM the best chance to win. But many, many do, and more and more who get involved with youth sports these days join the ranks of the “morally –challenged” coaches we’ve run into in our experience with team sports. It’s sad and is 100% correlated to the high drop out rate of young people from sports. They just can’t take the abuse from these adults with misplaced values and I’m more than 100% certain that MOST of that problem could be resolved with something as simple as just a little meaningful playing time. The benefits are just immeasurable FOR ALL ON THE TEAM except for only the most selfish of players. A player who had never stepped off the court/field and now has to sit for just a little bit has the budding “diva –ism” halted inside of them, and that helps EVERY coach. If you as the coach, selected this player to the team, you’ll find playing this non-starter won’t cost you the game . . . you’ll still win it, but now you’ll have another player used to the stressors of real games. He/she won’t be like a “deer in the head-lights” when you find that you might be forced to play him/her due to an injury or sickness with your formally “anointed” starter. The biggest gain, which I’ve mentioned (it seems like) a million times on the board is that you should be able to sleep just a little better knowing who’ve been part of making a child REALLY feel like they’re part of the team and that you’re NO LONGER the person responsible for destroying a young person’s spirit and self-esteem. Those HAVE to be good things . . . .wouldn’t you say, coaches!?!?! Why does it just seem like I’m the ONLY person in the world who sees it this way!? It just shouldn’t be like this!
If your child is athletic and has developing strength in his/her arms and legs I really, really suggest that you get your kid involved in team sports like cross-country, track and field, swimming, tennis (and I know there are more) where you child is performing/competing in a solo role. They’re still on a team and their performance contributes to the success of that team, but you child is ALL alone on that “field of competition”. Yes, there are other competitors there, but it’s just your child . . .no team-mates!
Why do I say this?
The essence of team sports where there truly is a “team” out on the field does allow for unethical coaches to approach the game in a way that damages some children, if they’re so pre-disposed, due to the sheer mechanics of a team sport. Let’s take volleyball as an example. There are six players out on the court at a time. Each player relies on the other players. In that regard, volleyball is a GREAT team sport! But the dynamics of the play is that, due to having so many players on the court at one time, a coach can actually play a mediocre or even poor player and the slack will be picked up by the others. This makes the situation very, very ripe for favoritism and that’s why you’ll see, more and more these days, certain players PLAYING in a game, while another sits, and it just makes NO SENSE at all based upon the talent level being displayed. If you happen to be able to view PRACTICE and see the talent levels displayed, the shock and dismay can get even WORSE! A coach who, in volleyball, choses to play six poor players will lose. And, generally speaking, a coach won’t do that. A volleyball coach can win with 3-4 good players and 3-2 mediocre /poor players. The essence of the problem is that a coach who’s only going to play, and play for the entire game, the same six players is really announcing to the world that he/she thinks they can ONLY win if these players play ALL the minutes. And truly, that’s never the case. The coach can sub in the other players and still win because the talent levels are really that close . .which, then of course, BEGS the question . . .”why does THIS player get 99.9% of the playing minutes to this players 00.1% of the playing minutes?” Seeing talent levels, there’s no earthly explanation the coach can give other than “I just simply chose to play these players.” Even while everyone knows that the wins-losses WOULD NOT CHANGE . . .God forbid (if you have a benched child on the team) if the coach DOES win, because he/she’s absolutely going to interpret that success totally upon THEIR coaching strategy . . .of which a BIG part is who starts and who plays how much. They’ll be extremely reluctant to change anything about how they’re coaching. Remember, these types of folks are coaching for PERSONAL glory, there’s very little going on inside of them about mentoring young people.
Another way of stating that quote I gave above is that a coach can say “I favor THESE players over those players.” That’s truly what they mean. When EVERYONE watching the team play and practice KNOWS that the talent levels being displayed between starter and benched child are extremely close, then everyone also knows that favoritism is really in action if you have an extreme disparity in playing time. Is this unfair, immoral, unethical? . . . .absolutely! And more people involved in youth sports should be saying just as much.
The favoritism and immorality reaches astronomic levels when EVERYONE knows that the benched child is actually better – demonstrably so – over the starter and “never-come-out-of-the-gamer” . You don’t see this too much except in cases where the coach has a child on the team. I’m NOT making a universal statement that coach’s kids are bad players. Sometimes they’re very good, even the best on the team, but, if you’re going to see that level of favoritism, generally it’s because the coach is playing his/her kid. In fact the coach got involved with the team to ensure that talent levels, at least concerning THEIR kid, doesn’t enter into the picture when it comes to “who plays” decisions.
On my daughter’s team every intellectually honest person who saw the players play knew my daughter was as good as the starters, and in a couple of case, better than the starter, and they told me as much. The coach just made a choice to play other girls and was reasonably successful. She took her success as a vindication of her playing selections and allowed herself to become frozen in any ability to think about other playing schemes . . .no matter what she saw (and everyone else saw) in practice!! I can’t say, based upon displayed talents, why my daughter wasn’t the lucky one chosen to play, so all I’m left with is biased favoritism, and while that flaw in a coach’s character is bad enough, when you consider that my daughter wasn’t asking for a total reversal of fortunes (where SHE now played 99.9% of the minutes and the other girl play next to none) but rather was just asking for a little playing time . . . .it makes the coach’s behavior on my daughter’s team all the MORE morally reprehensible.
When a young person is all alone (team-wise) on a track with just seven/eight competitors from other clubs/schools then, in that race, the focus is entirely on them. It’s them against those other runners from other schools/clubs and the stop watch. If the child runs well, runs fast, then that performance is ENTIRELY their own. If the child achieves times that show he/she is faster than another runner of the team then NO COACH can take that away from the child. In track, the slower “heats” in an event like the 100M go first, ultimately culminating in the fastest heat. A runner who’s running a 15.0 sec 100M CANNOT demand to run in the fastest heat for the school/club . . .because THEIR PERFORMANCE DOES NOT WARRANT THAT KIND OF TREATMENT!! The child can’t demand this because they’re the coach’s kid, or because their parent works for the school, or because, in the off season, he/she runs for that coach’s club team, or because that kid’s parent got him/herself INVOLVED in the track team (maybe offering themselves up to “stretch” the team in pre-meet warm-ups!) or because that runner’s parent’s made a significant financial contribution to the club’s/school’s “facility fund”. No. . . .if that runner wants to run in the fastest heat over another runner . . . they have only one thing to do. . . . be FASTER than the runner who’s IN that heat. Oh . . .you can’t be faster? Then SHUT UP and run in YOUR designated heat!
Yet . . .all the “or because” phrases I just used above are distinct reasons why some volleyball players start and play more than others in clubs and schools I’ve been associated with when those organizations use morally bankrupt people as coaches. You can consistently show yourself to be an extremely good volleyball player, yet, if hit with some of these forces I just mentioned, combined with a coach of questionable character , you can find yourself on the bench, for no EARTHLY reason, with very little hope that your displayed talent will get you off. After all, if talent dictated who got to play, you WOULDN’T be on the bench in the first place.
That factors I describe above related to track apply in swimming and cross country and some other sports; and knowing that there are folks like I describe in above that are deeply involved in team sports like volleyball, I CANNOT recommend enough that you get your child involved in sports like track or swimming. These sports can absolutely salvage your child’s self-esteem when a reprehensible coach ravages it in a sport like volleyball. My daughter knows that in track no coach can just chose to screw her over simply because he/she wants to. . . as a coach can (and has) in volleyball. Her performance speaks for itself, and NO coach can alter that ! ! So please, while I’m not saying to abandon all team sports like volleyball, because there are some decent people who truly do care about young people who are involved . . . DO get your child involved in these other sports because the types of coaches that my daughter has run into in her experiences with team sports like volleyball, are becoming more and more common these days. Protect your child’s self esteem!