Posts Tagged ‘equitable playing time’

All High School Freshman and Junior Varsity Players Should Play

December 19, 2009

I recently refereed a boy’s Junior Varsity high school game. As a referee, you are encouraged to look toward the benches during every dead ball should the teams want to substitute a player or players. During the entire game, I don’t recall the coaches making more than two substitutions each. During warm-ups and on the game cards, each team had over 20 players. I could not help but wonder why so few players played?

I talked to the other referee about this after the game. He was not surprised. He has refereed high school soccer for many years and he assured me that this is not a rare occurrence. He believes that this is due to the short soccer season in which games start to count immediately and the simple fact that greater emphasis is placed on winning, even at the non-varsity level. To corroborate the other referee’s statement, it was a close game so perhaps both coaches were going for the win (the game ended in a tie).

In addition, I don’t know if there were extenuating circumstances that precluded the other players from playing. There could have been issues with grades, injuries, illness, or red card suspensions. Or perhaps each team was dealing with some disciplinary measures that were being meted out. I’m not sure and I did not inquire.

In the other Freshman (Frosh) and Junior Varsity (JV) games I refereed, I saw much more substituting. So perhaps it may just be a few coaches who place winning ahead of development.

Regardless of the possible reasons, I strongly believe that all Frosh and JV players, unless for any of the reasons listed above, should get playing time in each match. There are many reasons for this some of which are listed below:

  • The Frosh and JV teams should be viewed as feeder teams to the varsity program. These teams will not fulfill their purpose if talent is not being developed.
  • High school is all about learning, growing, developing, and maturing not just in the classrooms but on the soccer field as well. Playing in games plays an integral part.
  • Working hard at practice and being a good team player who is not rewarded with playing time certainly can’t help build a player’s self-esteem. If a player is not playing, he/she should either be moved down to a younger team or not have been selected in the first place.
  • Frosh and JV final scores simply do not and should not matter. Even if there is a post-season tournament for these teams (there is not one in my area), I would still question the importance of the final score over having everyone play.
  • You never know how a player will respond in a game situation. Perhaps a player may surprise the coaching staff if given an opportunity.

If every player gets playing time and the Frosh and JV teams go 0-12 or 0-16, so what. As long as they have improved individually and collectively, the coach has done his/her job. Unless they are unable to, each Frosh and JV player should play in each game, PERIOD!


Effort and Playing Time

September 29, 2009

One of the most difficult parts of coaching youth soccer is allocating playing time. As a coach you want to be as equitable with the playing time as possible. For house (or non-competitive, non-traveling) teams, this was always easy. My philosophy was to give each player the same amount of playing time, regardless of skill. Only disciplinary issues would result in less playing time.

With competitive teams, playing time became much more difficult to manage. I still tried to be as equitable as possible but now skill level, attitude, score, and effort also contributed to or resulted in a lack of playing time.

For me, the most important trait in a competitive youth player is effort—the more effort put forth in a game and the more energy expended during game, the more playing time the player receives. I’m a strong believer that at the end of every game, a player should be very tired and have very little energy left over.

To illustrate how effort impacted the allocation of playing time with two charts.  The first chart illustrates the playing time during a game for Players A and B early in the season (x-axis). Both players start the game (green line). Player A puts forth much more effort and expends much more energy that Player B (y-axis). Both are taken out at the same time to recuperate (yellow double line). Because I like Player A’s effort, I put her in after a short rest. Even though Player B has completely recovered her energy, she remains on the bench because of the lack of effort exhibited on the field (red double line). Player B does make it back into the game but if the effort is not there, her playing time remains less than Player A’s playing time.

Early Season Playing Time

It is important for Player A to understand that she needs to be taken out of the game. If she did not come out, all of her energy would be used up before the end of the game (green dashed line). As a coach, I would much rather have her on the field at the end of the game. In addition, by taking her out, others get a chance to play.

The second chart illustrates what the playing time may look like midway through the season for Players A and B. Player A is still getting the same amount of playing time. However, Player B is getting less playing time because the effort is still not there.

Midway Season Playing Time

Player B should not lose hope. If I see more effort and energy during the game (and during practice … what they say is true, “you play the way you practice”), playing time would increase.

If you are a coach or a parent, show these charts to your players/child so they understand that effort can make all the difference in the world … and not just in soccer.