Equal Playing Time For All

(Excerpt from “Coaching Youth Sports”)
by Dr. Richard K. Stratton

“CYS received a question asking about our feelings on the emotional impact on a child who consistently plays 1/4 of a game while the other teammates play the entire game. This question raises a broader issue. What is the fundamental purpose of youth sports? How should this purpose be reflected in practices and games? Granted we are raising somewhat of a philosophical issue here, and probably a controversial one at that!

As has been reflected in some of our previous articles, we believe that the primary purpose of youth sports should be to teach fundamental sports skills in a non threatening environment. That is, children should have the opportunity to learn new skills and improve previously learned skills and have fun doing it.

Coaches must create an environment both in practices and games where children are not afraid to make mistakes. Using fear of failure as a motivational technique is unacceptable. Mistakes happen as part of the learning process. Children who hope to become better skilled so they can move on to more advanced levels of competition have to be willing to take risks and experiment with more advanced skill techniques and strategies. They will not do this if they are afraid of making mistakes.

All members of any team come to the team expecting equal opportunities. They have the right to expect equal quality and quantity of coaching in practice. They all must be given the same opportunity to try out what they learn in practices in game situations. In fact, games should be considered an extension of practices, another opportunity to learn. An athlete can not learn much by sitting on the bench. Sports involve movement, physical skills. They are best learned by doing, not watching.”

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