So your child is not a starter, Oh NO!

A blog comment today about how one youth football league’s players must all be starters lifted me on to my soap box and my mind is stirring about minimum play players, favoritism, and starting positions.   The Favoritism topic is the most read topic on my blog.  I have written only a few articles on the subject, but because the subject is not sport specific the articles are heavily read.  I am sure this blog post about starting will generate similar interest and comments / email.   I hope I do not offend anyone.  Forgive me if I do.

Can we all be starters?  I am sure if we want to lower the expectations of the team, game, league and sport, we can all be starters.  At what point does dumbing down a team, league, game or sport start hurting the long term development of the players, not only as athletes but competitors in a world market were Chinese children are being unfairly manipulated and mutated to compete against our children which are being softened by everyone gets a trophy and no one gets left behind programs.  We in the US continually lower the standards so everyone can pass or play.  When has been being not as good as someone else in a sport or topic been an error or crime not of that person but on the teacher, coach or boss.  Why is blame for poor performance continually redirected at someone other than the low performing person?  And should any blame be directed or redirected.  Maybe a person is not good at football but a Pele at Soccer.  Is not being good or the best at a subject or a starter a real problem to be address be society or governments?

I just posed this question on my Twitter account @CoachParker_org, “Because I am not a F1000 CEO, Sr VP, VP, or Director, a starter in business, should my mom call GE, Apple, MS and ask why I am not the starting CEO or Sr VP?”

I know that sounds so strange for a 47 year old man to ask that question, but the average age for a CEO in the US is around 55 years old.  In the 1970’s it was close to 60 years old.  So in terms of CEO experience I am at Pee Wee CEO age.  I do have 7 years experience as a Sr. Manager at EDS, now part of HP, as a strategic marketing manager preparing strategic marketing and business plans presented to the CEO and Executive Board, and I have 4 years experience as a CEO of a small sporting goods company.  I have played the business game as an eager utility manager, but my dream has always been to become a F1000 CEO or Sr VP or a NFL starting linebacker or fullback.  I know now through experience I will become neither, my performance at critical times did not warrant an invite to the Select teams with GE, MS, Apple or the Dallas Cowboys.  I am not complaining. I am just being realistic.

Ok, so my mother is still upset that I did not live up to my potential and become the CEO of Ford or Intel.  Maybe she should have realized when I was not accepted to Harvard but Texas A&M that my F1000 CEO talent maybe lacking.  She never did.  I am sure if the Ford Executive board was 10 yards away from her 3 to 4 days a week, she would let them know how great I was when I was at EDS and when I won my 2nd grade business project and that she still has the 1st place ribbon.  I am sure her heckles from the sidelines will influence Ford to hire me.  But I digress.

OK, so your child is not a starter either.  Well, is that the end of the world?  What is your child really good at?  Maybe you should determine 5 to 10 things that your child is interested in doing and find out if they are good at it any of them.  If they are NOT good at a few mark them off your list. Don’t allow your child to join a team if they are not good at the sport, it’s unfair for everyone involved.  If you want your child to try out a sport, enroll them in a camp before signing them up for a league team.  A week long camp will tell your child and you if they are able to become proficient at the sport or topic.

I’m not sure why parents have decided to let children try everything.  Help your child find their special niche based on their unique individual abilities not yours.  I recently found out my youngest son is a pretty good Soccer player maybe even better at Soccer than Football.  Yes, that hurts my feelings a bit, but I love watching him play Soccer.  He is really that good.  Maybe my football dreams got in his way for a few years.  We will soon see.

Would you push your child to play Chess everyday and attend Chess tournaments if they continually lost every match at the chess tournaments?  I know I eventually quit the Chess team after getting spanked at a few 6th grade tournaments.  My dad loves Chess, but I am not a tournament Chess player.  I can beat my friends but not “real” competition.  My dad was not as upset with me, because dad and I began playing Racquetball together.  We found a new interest and sport to enjoy.  Not Chess.

Parents, please do everyone coaching and teaching a favor.  If you know your child cannot sing, please do not sign them up for American Idol.

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  1. there is so much garbage here about sports. How com teachers are supposed to spend so much of their class room time on learning challenged kids but coaches are only allowed to develop their personel favotites!

    1. ask classroom teachers if they have favorites and which kids they consider their favorites. we as coaches teach everyone fundamentals at practice. everyone has equal opportunities in practice to show us how good they are. At least thats the way I coach. please stop transferring your situation to me, i am not your child’s coach. thanks

  2. Hello, i’am a high school parent and my son is playing football. Last month he was a starter in the varsity team until he got a sprained ankle three weeks ago during practice. Two weeks ago the Dr. cleared him to practice but now he is not a starter anymore, in fact, now they want him to play JV and Varsity. Is that a normal situation or is the coach been unfair ? Thanks for your honest response!

    1. Yes, this happens many times. Players get hurt and another player steps up and looks better than the starter. The new player got a chance to get in font of the coach and showed him he was the starter. Your son just needs to work hard and do the same now.

  3. A middle school age or younger child should at least get to play in every game. Of course not everyone can be a starter – but keep in mind, sports is about the kids (at least at this age) and if it is about the kids – then EVERY kid should play. My son recently did not get to play in even one play in two straight games and he was heartbroken and wants to stop playing football. While I readily understand the coaches want to win – they should not sacrifice the dignity of the lesser players in the process. Otherwise it is no longer about the kids it is about their own egos.

    1. I would disagree with your statement that middle school age kids should play in every game unless you are playing in a recreation league that requires minimum plays per player. Sports is not about upsetting kids because they do not play in the games but teaching them how to play the sport, how to work hard, sacrifice, be a team player, learn to become an adult, learn how to win, learn how to lose, learn how not to get what you want every five seconds, cut the cord from mom and dad, become an individual, learn how not to be a cry baby and I could go on etc, etc , etc.

      Its not just the coaches that want to win but the players, and the parents. I do not mind losing but I love winning and so does most people. If your child was playing in each game and was happy, you wold not have sought out this site and posted your note. Trust me, losing parents are worse than the one or two parents that are upset about their child not playing in the games. Coaches must weigh the good of the team over the good of the few.

      I am not sure about your son’s situation but we play most kids in our recreation league at least 15 to 20 plays a game and many of our players have a starting position even if they do not play more than the 15 plays a game. Some coaches in Select leagues and middle school do not have this philosophy because their leagues are very competitive.

      Most parents do not understand that its not a player’s right to play the sport or a certain position but an earned privilege. One must earn the right to play. Coaches aren’t just going to give a player a starting position because mom and dad signed them up to play. The player must show some promise in practice and earn the spot to play, especially with middle school players.

      Players that do not earn the right to play and make mistakes in practice and games are not respected by the other players on the team. These players resent the fact that this less skilled player causes penalties, misses blocks, misses tackles, cant catch the ball but gets to play and take time away from them in the game. Most people never talk about the good players that must sit out of the game so these other less skilled players get a chance to learn the game, especially when they goof off in practice. I’ve had players cry on the sideline because we substituted them out and called it a “rest” so we could sub in the less skilled players.

      I personally wish everyone was good at football, but not everyone is meant to play football. I wanted to start on my middle school 8th grade basketball team but I could not dribble with my left hand, so I was on B team and played 15 minutes the entire season. I was happy I made B Team and got to play those few minutes. I did not make a basketball after the 8th grade. I stuck it out and got better and had great fun playing basketball with my friends in HS and College in pick up games.

      I would have your son stick out the season and if he decides not to play at the end of the season he shold try another sport or continue to become a better football player. Quitters never play in the games nor become starters because they quit. You must try and learn to become a better player and not every minute is exciting and most of the time it just sucks when you are learning a new sport and skill.

      Instant gratification is not a Champions attitude. Work makes Champions and hard work in the off-season makes a true Champion. Adversity builds character.

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