There is a video of Herm Edwards of ESPN making its rounds on Facebook today, and I felt compelled to address the comments. I want to address them because while they do have merit, they could easily be used as ammunition for the anti-youth-sports-parent attitude that permeates much of the demographic I currently belong to.
I tend to agree with a lot of what Coach Edwards has to say. We live in a society where showing up is often good enough and those who strive in their own time to be better are only rewarded marginally more than everyone else. Dedication to your craft becomes more about personal pride than public acclaim and while this is – in many ways – a good thing, it feeds an overwhelming negativity that blames this for the eventual downfall of Western Civilization. Here are the facts:
Players SHOULD have to earn the opportunities they receive.
Coaches SHOULD reward those who dedicate themselves to getting better.
Coaches SHOULD NOT have to defend their distribution of playing time to parents.
Parents SHOULD want to see their children succeed.
These things are not mutually exclusive.
As a coach it is my job to identify the players who give my team the best chance to succeed and that equation will not always include every member of the team. That said, it is ALSO my job to make sure each one of my players feels that they have been given an opportunity to help us be successful. Something as small as tasking a player with playing good defense and moving the ball for three or four minutes of a game can go a long way towards building a foundation on which that player takes on bigger challenges. By giving a player a goal that allows them to quantify their success, we give that player a lens through which to view their own play and a way to address areas of improvement.
As a parent, it is important that you trust us to put your child in a position where they will have a chance to be successful and contribute to the overall experience of the team. Complaints about playing time create an atmosphere where it feels like the player is pitted against the coach, instead of the player and coach working together for a common objective – in this case, athletic success. It is your job to support the coach and talk through frustrations with your child, all the while keeping in mind that the coach is doing what he feels is best for them. If you do not feel that you do that, find a team with a coach you feel you can trust and support.
Edwards is right, understanding that just because you are part of a team doesn’t mean you will get to play as much as everyone else. But that isn’t where the lesson ends. Being part of a team means challenging yourself to be better so you raise the level of those around you. Being part of a team means giving of yourself for the betterment of the whole. Being part of a team means playing your part to the best of your ability. These values build a culture of sacrifice, trust, and camaraderie and it is in those cultures that success flourishes.
Notice that, throughout this entire piece, I have not mentioned winning? Not once.
Framing success in youth sports is an incredibly important job that parents and coaches share. If the two are not working towards the same end, both are doing the athlete a disservice. Find a common ground on which you, your child, and your child’s coach can stand. It is in that space that growth takes place and kids truly fall in love with the game.