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How To Balance Playing Time as a Youth Coach

A sports coat squats in from of three seated children and shows them a play-by-play on a clipboard.

When it comes to coaching youth sports, giving every player equal opportunities, time and attention is important. Practices provide dedicated time for everyone to get on the field or court and practice their individual and team skills. Playing time during practice isn’t usually a concern.

But when it comes to playing time during games, youth coaching can get a little bit more complicated. 

Before your team takes the field or court for their next game, take some time to create a strategy that helps encourage a fair balance of play while still being competitive and coaching for a win and solid teamwork. 

Follow the Rules

Many youth sports leagues will have guidelines and rules in place that are designed to help distribute playing time equally. This is helpful for youth coaches to create a plan at the start of every game. If you know that every athlete needs to play a certain number of minutes, innings, quarters or points, then you can begin to plan your lines and rosters based on that guidance. 

It is also important to remember that in some cases, not abiding by these rules can result in some type of disqualification, setback or other repercussions for your team. As a coach, it is your responsibility to read and understand the rules on playing time and to make sure your athletes each receive their fair share of time on the field or court. 

Balance Your Talent

It may be tempting to put a majority of your star players at the top of your batting order, lineup or in the first lines of the game. This isn’t always the best strategy for several reasons. First, you may want to reserve some players in the case of an extended game that goes into overtime. It is also good to give all players opportunities to play with each other and experience different styles of play. 

Always putting certain players at the front or end of a game may affect their performance. This can also help you ensure that every player receives equal playing time when they have opportunities to play early on, or throughout the entire game. Mix up your lines and encourage your team to get to know each other in different ways and in different game situations, to round out their abilities and experience during the season. 

Stick To Your Plan

As a youth sports coach, making a game plan before the game begins is key. Create a lineup and assign players to different parts of the game, whether it be positions, quarters, or whatever the case may be. Sticking with this plan throughout the game, no matter what happens, will remove any doubt that players may have unequal amounts of playing time. 

Even if the game changes or becomes dramatic toward the end, you can still focus on winning and being competitive while sticking with your plan. Show your athletes you have trust in them, and give them valuable experience by playing at all points in the game. In early, late, dramatic or blowout situations, players may perform differently and can succeed at any time. The experience while playing youth sports is valuable, and they won’t be able to prove themselves or get that experience if they aren’t given the opportunity. 

Make the Most of Youth Coaching This Season

When you can balance playing time in youth sports, everyone will have a better experience. Give your athletes opportunities to play in different situations and with different teammates. You may be surprised at how well they do! 

If you are coaching basketball, football or volleyball this fall, let Trusted Coaches help. We provide valuable coaching tips, background checks, concussion training and more to ensure youth sports coaches are equipped and informed with the tools and tips they need to succeed on and off the field or court. 
Browse our courses and training for a better coaching experience.