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How Coaches Think: Playing Time

So why doesn’t a player get playing time? Why do players get more playing time than others? This is the number one issue from parents. It is one of those issues that causes parents to email coaches immediately, sometimes not even waiting until the game ends. 

coach speaking to players

What is playing time? 

Playing time is when a player gets to play in the game. It is the total calculated time that a player is on the field, ice or court. No one would argue with this definition. Parents want their player to have more playing time. If their player isn’t getting enough, they will contact the coach. As a coach, not everyone can play all of the time so it is a fine balance to work to achieve the team’s goal.

Why may a player get more playing time than others? 

Skill level: players with higher skill level will usually get more playing time than others on the team. This is a basic concept. 

Game situation: if we are winning a game by a lot, I will put in players that may not get as much time. The goal here is to let these players be battle tested on the field. It is important that all players on a roster see the field when it is appropriate and help the team achieve their goal.

Confidence level: this is an interesting concept. Players with less confidence may sit out a bit more, maybe they are having a bad day and something else outside of the game isn’t going well. A coach may want to play them less because that player needs a break. I have coached players that have asked to not play in high pressure games or not start. Or in some cases players have made mistakes, come off the field for a break but as a coach, I want to make sure these players get the break, re-group and get back on the field. 

Having a good game: players can be in the moment. Maybe they are having a hot game and the coach wants to keep them in. This player has stood out but is really helping the team win while another player may not be having a great game and sees less time. This could be a game by game situation. 

lacrosse players

What is the goal of the team? 

It is important to know what the goal of the team is. Not every youth sports organization or team is about winning. For recreation sports, players get equal playing time or may get a ½ of a 1/2 . It is about the collective group and giving everyone a chance. For club and travel teams, players will likely not get equal time in certain situations. And in some cases, if the goal is to win, some players may be on the team but not see any game time. 

How do you speak to parents about playing time?

  1. Make sure parents know the team and game to game goals. 
  2. Be up front with parents about the team policy on playing time. 
  3. Have a team policy about time. 
  4. If parents complain, refer back to your policy and explain the certain situation on playing time. 
  5. Follow up with the player on specific feedback to earn more time.


A Three Part Series on How Coaches think About Making the Top Team, Playing Time and Being a Good Teammate. For more information on iSport360, click here. For other youth sports news, click here

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March 7, 2023

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