I’m just gonna come out with this…. your child may not be the most talented athlete out there. Or maybe they have the most talent, but lack some maturity. Or emotional control. None of our kids is going to be the BEST at everything all the time. 

Therefore, there are going to be times when your child doesn’t play as much as you think (or hope) he/she should.

  • This does NOT mean we get to complain to the coach about playing time. Or instruct the coach on how that coach should do his/her job.
  • This does mean we can smile and be grateful for the opportunity that coach has granted our child. (Sorry – there really just isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room here. See my previous post about youth coaches.)

Your unintended message

Knowing as many coaches as I do, when you complain about playing time, it brings nothing but negative feelings onto a coach that is already stressed about developing kids into a team that can play. I have heard my coach friends say it feels disrespectful and demeaning. And it gives the message that we are ungrateful for the coach’s hard work.

And I don’t think any of us intend that message. (Hopefully).

A work in progress

We recently traveled about an hour away for a tournament with my oldest son. We had all the other kids there (which meant we paid a pretty penny to get in!) and it was on a Sunday afternoon – a day that I usually don’t like to be gone from the house.

Anyway – we sat through the first quarter and our son didn’t play at all. By the second quarter, my little boys were getting squirmy and we broke down and visited the concession stand. Still no playing time. He sat the bench the entire first half. I was less than thrilled. We drove all this way, the other kids were complaining much of the time, or arguing or squirming or needing some sort of redirection from me. I was stressed and disappointed. He played part of the second half and we were on our way back home.

When we got in the car, Mason was disappointed that he didn’t play as much as he thought he should have. And before I got a chance to share my similar disappointment, my husband shared wisdom about “Yeah. Sometimes that happens. Other kids get to play more, too.”  You see, Mason had missed a couple of team practices. We had other things going on. And I am so thankful for the realization that if my kid had put in the work/time/energy to be at practice each day, then he should get to play in the game more!

We also had a chance to talk about how it is still an important part of being on the team to cheer your friends on from the bench. How that’s an important role too.

So… if you have a scenario when your kid doesn’t get to play as much, here are a few things to keep in mind…
  • If she doesn’t play and she doesn’t care – this is great news. You get to have great conversations about how proud you are that they are a part of the team. That they are trying something new. That they are having fun.
  • If he doesn’t play and he does care – this gives you an opportunity to teach about disappointment and sadness. You can share your own experiences with feeling disappointed to help them see it is okay. You can connect with his vulnerability by showing your own vulnerability. 
  • If you traveled someplace far away and he didn’t play – this one can be tough. I am still working on this myself! In the past, I have framed this around the opportunity for adventure and family time. And honestly, that’s what matters most to me anyway. If you are able to stay grounded in remembering that what really matters is the time you get to spend with your family (OVER the time he gets to play), it can make it a little easier. See it as family time, not as a waste of time.
  • If you are the parent whose kid is killin it, sitting next to the parent whose kid isn’t playing – this can also be tough. We want to cheer and be proud of our kid. But it may also feel a bit uncomfortable around parents who aren’t feeling as much joy. Again, we can frame this around showing support and encouragement for every child – on both sides of the court. Also – simply building relationship with the person next to you about things other than sports could help you have more things to talk about besides the greatness of your child.

At the end of the day, keep in mind your overall goal for the day or activity. When we stay focused on those things, it is more likely that we avoid negative feelings at the end of the day.

Photo by Anton Belitskiy from Pexels

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