It's Just a Game. Or Is It? Do You Believe in Equal Playing Time? MomTalk

What if your kid isn't as good as the other kids on the team and doesn't get as much playing time? Youth sports highlight issues of fairness and entitlement.

"It's just a game."

"It's not about winning and losing."

"Why doesn't my child get the same amount of playing time as her child?"

"Practice makes perfect."

But what if it doesn't? What if your child, after hours and hours of practice, doesn't improve at the rate of the other kids on the team and, as a result, doesn't receive the same amount of playing time?

I've attended countless sporting events, both as a former athlete and parent, and have witnessed the frustration of parents at every level who compare their child's total playing time to another's as though the contest isn't between the teams as much as it is among the players.

Age does make a difference and benching a 5-year-old soccer neophyte is quite different from the high school junior who rides the bench for the majority of the season. Many parents contend that unequal playing time is a major blow to a child's self esteem, and it is if it occurs among youngsters new to the game. But for those children who haven't reached the same caliber of play at the higher levels, there's a life lesson there. As hard as it may be for parents, it's time to recognize that your child may not be the next Beckham or Rose.

I've been told that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. If that's the case, preventing a youngster from experiencing the same amount of playing time early on is to his detriment. As children get older, it's important that they learn to work for what they want. Instilling this idea that they will receive equal treatment conveys  a sense of entitlement. If you believe a mediocre high school softball player is entitled to the same amount of playing time as a gifted player than you're part of the problem.

And sometimes, no matter how hard the child works, he won't be better than his teammate. And that's OK. At least you will have instilled him with a strong work ethic and the knowledge that life isn't always fair.

Do you believe in equal playing time? At what level would you expect coaches to award positions and playing time based on ability?

N Yan October 13, 2011 at 02:18 PM
There is a reason some people are CEOs and some are not. People are NOT created equal. But in today's day and age, we are teaching our children that everyone should be treated equally and everyone gets a piece of a pie. When I was young, if I didn't do well on my school's Olympic Day, I didn't get a medal. When I was having a slump during softball, the coach sat me out. That's life. It isn't fair. But instead now we are teaching children that it should be fair and that everyone deserves their medal or their playing time. Again, that's not life. When I didn't get my medal, I worked harder at the next Olympics. When I was benched, I practiced and practiced and practiced again. It gave me something to STRIVE for. And when I got to where I wanted to be, I had a true sense of accomplishment. I earned it. Now, there were still times that I didn't get that medal and it sucked. And I cried. And my parent's helped console me. But again, that's life. And I would consider myself a well-rounded, successful person. Things need to change in today's school/sports...everything isn't "deserved", life isn't fair.
Megan James October 13, 2011 at 05:40 PM
I believe for younger children (especially 6th grade & below), it should be more about everyone just trying their best & equal playing time for all. Yes, we all want to win. However, younger children should first learn the game & that playing as a team, means EVERYONE needs to take their turn. Equal playing time helps them learn the game & determine where they play best for the team. Plus without equal time at the younger ages, some of the children who get to play all the time, develop over-sized egos & become not so nice kids to play with as they forget there is no "i" in team. My thought- If a younger kid's parent doesn't like letting everyone on a team play, then maybe they should consider putting their kid in solo sport, like golf. But by highschool, maybe even junior high, kids are old enough to know their sport & understand the true concept of playing on a team. Plus, older kids are more emotionally developed & understand the concept of teams better then younger kids. So if they have to sit on the bench a little longer then someone else, its ok to them. But I still think certain coaches could improve out there when it comes to deciding who gets to play longer. Especially if they're coaching their own child, who happens to be good too. I've seen too many times where other good players are forced to sit on bench for most of the game because the coach wants his son or daughter to have more playing time - It's unfair & shows poor sportsmanship.
Ryan Fitzpatrick October 13, 2011 at 08:48 PM
Thanks for all the very well thought out comments. We really appreciate the conversation!
CHRIS BBBOFF April 11, 2013 at 01:04 PM
larry pollock
CHRIS BBBOFF April 11, 2013 at 01:04 PM


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