One year I coached with a guy who always wanted our sons to get the most playing time and at the key skill positions. In fact, he felt they deserved it because we were taking the time to coach the team. “Hey, we’re making the sacrifice and putting in the effort so why shouldn’t our boys get a little extra time?”
Our sons were good athletes and loved the game, so it wouldn’t have seemed unusual for them to be key players. Still, it didn’t seem fair. We had a number of conversations about our differing views on the subject. I felt that the sacrifices we made as coaches were just part of the role we had volunteered to fill. It didn’t come with perks. He felt I was being naive and that I was even short-changing our kids.
He was a good coach–dedicated and knowledgable–and our team did well. The kids had fun and learned a lot. But when the season ended and the boys moved on to basketball, I turned down his offer to help him coach the team. Another season of disagreement about the distribution of playing time didn’t sound at all appealing to me.
Coaches giving special treatment to their own kid and the friends of their kid is a common issue in youth sports. And the situation can be divisive. The coaches put their kids at quarterback and running back, giving them an inordinate amount of playing time, and other players–and especially the parents of those players–get aggravated. Team chemistry and unity slowly dissolve. If youth sports are mostly about teaching sportsmanship and teamwork, there must be a feeling of equality–that everyone on the team is equally valuable. As the kids get older, it becomes clearer which ones are best suited for certain positions. By then, the kids have been able to play most of the positions so they know at least the basics.
Here’s an article from Winning Youth Football that discusses this issue of favoritism in coaching. Given the tone of the comments on the article, the problem seems to be prevalent. Coaches are parents too, and we all want to see our kids do well and enjoy playing sports. Yes, we’re making an extra sacrifice in coaching the team, but that doesn’t entitle our kids to the starring roles if they haven’t earned them. In the long run, they’ll benefit more from learning how to be part of a team, with everyone contributing to a larger goal. It’s not likely that the sidelines at the game will be packed with college and NFL scouts anyway. Let all the kids on the team enjoy the experience.