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Minimum Playing Time Rule: Enforce It Across the Board


I have done years of research in the field of youth sports. Probably as much as some researchers have. I have also coached football for many years with great success. What I mean by success is that I have winning teams with happy parents for what I accomplished with their kids and every kid gets to play the entire game.

The local youth rec. football league in our town has a minimum playing time rule that each kid will play the whole game on either offense or defense. It's a good rule and it works. I have yet to hear one kid or parent ever complain about this rule.  Having coached in this league. I have come to realize that to be competitive, you have to:

  1. Know your sport and be knowledgeable. 
  2. Have your kids playing  in a position that fits their skill; and
  3. Most importantly, spend the majority of your time working with and coaching up your less talented  or less-skilled kids.  That's where the skill as a coach comes in to play.

In this type of system it doesn't take long to spot a bad coach. It takes patience and  creativity - which are the most important qualities that a coach should possess if they are to be around kids. There is no chance of convincing me that minimum playing time for all sports doesn't benefit sports as a whole but also creates a  culture that says - We care about  kids - we care about their emotional needs - they are only young once and it doesn't last long so they should be able to enjoy playing competitive sports even if they aren't the best athletes. They will remember it - and when we get old and bound to a wheelchair they won't take it out on us for benching them 40 years ago. 

I have recently written an article advocating minimum playing time for all sports from rec. leagues through high school and challenged the Indiana High School Athletic Association (ISHAA)  as to (who would not benefit from such a rule and why would they not benefit ?)  I know I will never get an answer from them, but if anyone disagrees with me on this one, go ahead, throw yourself out there.

If every team in a rec.league or school sports program had minimum playing time rules such as this league does, then all teams should be on an equal playing field. Right?  Few people see it that way.  But I don't mind fighting for it. I think of like this - Its like being Rocky in the late rounds of a heavy weight title fight and my eyes are swollen shut- I can't hardly see and I'm taking the beat down of a life time but I still come out swinging.

Greg - Could NOT agree with you more

I feel bad that for something that could benefit so many children who want to play that it would have to take a RULE to get some (vast majority) of coaches to break out of their "gotta - play -the - same - players - over -and - over - again - all - the time = because - that - gives - ME - the - greatest - chance - for - MY - personal - glory" mindset. These coaches with this focus truly don't care one wit about (depending on the sport) the 3-4-5 . . . .10 players that they emotionally devastate, and publically humiliate, when - through THEIR decisions and actions have these athletes receive no, or extremely little (usually meaningless) playing time.

I'm utterly stunned that I write and speak about the same issue over and over again and these coaches and the parents of the lucky few who these people are using for their own glory by playing them, look at me like I have two heads! It's really seems like they're shocked to learn that a young person's self esteem and self worth are just ripped to shreds when they're so unfairly benched. It's like they believe that the young person should just be exploding with joy that he/she just simply had a chance to PRACTICE with the coach-annointed super-stars who receive ALL the playing time. It just leaves me speechless!

You should know that these types of coaches, if subjected to such a rule, are VERY capable of further humiliating and deeply hurting a child that they're mandated to play, by saying saying words to the entire team during a time-out like "ok . . .Joe, I need you to come out now because the state says I have to play guys like Steve, or else we'll receive sanctions." I can see that happening and see the player like Steve just wanting to kill himself.

I support you idea though.

Playing time

I agree all kids should get the opportunity to play especially in those sports where safety is not the concern. Youth tackle football however presents a different challenge when it comes to playing time. Safety, life lessons, learning to play as a team, effort, etc. kids should be in a position to help the team, and a position the kids can succeed.
I think you can be on the wrong side of this if you chose to make the statement everyone plays the whole game without consideration for important things like team, effort, discipline, and attitude. Sports provide young boys and girls the opportunity to learn things they can take with them their entire life. The skills of the game are short lived, and by making a blanket statement that everybody plays - without any bounderies - doesn't do our children any good. So i think if you chose to just play your best skilled players the team may win but the kids will lose. But i also think that if the rule is to play everybody equally no matter what, then the team loses and the kids lose. So the right answer is, you should provide kids the guidelines for what it takes to make the starting lineup, and include things like EFFORT, not skill. You then provide kids an opportunity to learn to "make the team". And those kids that really do want playing time(not their parents), will learn to make choices that increases their playing time. The coaches obligation is to ensure he sticks to his guidelines and rewards all kids to work hard to follow them.