Game Play and Practice Play

Coaching Youth Football Playbooks and MoreI have been receiving a ton feedback about how many plays in a game is fair vs starters or Coach’s children playing most of the game.  Here is my take on what’s fair from my viewpoint.  First let me say, life is inherently unfair so our starting point is already unfair.  Plus nothing in life is free, one must work for what they want.

Perfect practice play equals game play is what a good / fair coach is looking for in a player.  If you desire your child to be on a team with a fair and knowledgeable coach then you must prepare to find this coach prior to the football season.  Ask around and find two or three coaches that are recommended.  Call them and speak with them in detail about your needs and desires.  You should also go watch their games and practices.  They may invite your child to a practice and give you feedback about where they see your son on the their team.  You may not like the answers from a few or all of the coaches but at least you know what is going on and have some control over the situation.  By doing your homework prior to the season, you will give your child a head start on the team.  If you are in a league that just places your child on a team, check out the league and make sure a majority of parents are happy.   I would also make sure the league has a 8 to 20  minimum play rule per game otherwise your child may sit on the bench if they are not a starter.

Now that your child is on a team.  The most important time on a team is practice not the games.  Practice time is more important than game time.  Players learn the sport and how to play the game during PRACTICE.  If you are late or missing practices, do not expect your child to play in the games beyond the minimum amount.  Also, usually there is 4 to 6 hours of practice a week and only about an hour long game.  So there is more time to learn the game during practice than during the game.  Yes, we all want our children to play during the games, but if they are not, make sure they are getting reps in practice and understanding the concepts.  I know many parents are upset because they have very athletic kids but they are not playing a lot.  Then there is another group of parents that their children are not that athletic but have smart kids.  To play football you must be both, smart and physical, not one.  These attributes will come out at practice and determine who plays in the game.

Most coaches want to win and will play the best players to win.  Sometimes, a coach’s son may get to play QB or MLB but if you child is good enough to help the team win, your child will play a majority of the game.  Yes, your child should get at least 8 to 15 plays a game but make sure they are doing well at practice.  Make sure your child understands the concepts presented at practice and are performing the drills properly.  Coaches find starters during practice.  We also find starters during the game.  So when your child goes into the game for their 8 plays tell them to make the most of it.  Shine.  If they are not shining during the game then they will probably never be a starter.

Game time is like a report card from practice.  If your grades in practice are B+ and above you will probably be a starter or game time player.  If you are below a B+ player then you will be second or third string.  Parents you must remember your registration fee did not guarantee you child a starting position on the team.  Your fee pays for them to learn the game and have fun and your child can do this in practice too not just the game.

If you and your child are not having fun on a team, You can always quit.  You can quit during the season or after its over.  There is nothing wrong with getting out of a bad situation.  I started coaching t-ball because of a bad situation with my oldest son’s coach.  I am not a big baseball fan but I decided enough was enough.  So if you feel the same way about this season, then get involved and pay the price to make the system work, because nothing is Free.

One last thing, I know there are bad coaches out there that play only their children, favorites and never anyone else.  Hopefully these coaches are in the minority.  I advocate that coaches should not coach their own children.  I actually have more fun coaching when my son’s do  not play on my teams.  The stress of not trying to play favorites and dealing with parents is mush easier when your child is not involved.

Perfect practice equals a perfect game which almost always leads to a Win.  Everything starts at practice not in the game.

Play for Fun and Winning is Funner.

Coach Parker
Fort Worth, Texas / Keller

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  1. “Practice time is more important than game time.”
    Agreed! No player is ever going to see the field during a game if they don’t put in the time during a practice. It doesn’t matter how “gifted” your child is, they have to practice to get better and be part of the team!

  2. “Life is unfair.” You’re right on the money here. Unfortunately too many in today’s society are trying to promote fairness to the extent that their activities bear little resemblance to life in the real world.

    My 10yr old’s coach apologized profusely for some of the kids not getting enough playing time, but at the same time allowed that they were trying to win games, many of which were very close. There was a fairly large talent disparity between the first and 2nd units on the team.

    Fortunately, the issue did not affect my son very much, because he started on O and D, plus ST, and played in most of the plays the entire season. Since he was a 1st year player, that was unusual, and I was glad he got to experience so much playing time. I was not expecting him to.

    The team made the playoffs, and lost in the league championship game, so he was fortunate to get significant playing time in 10 games.

    Our league has what the call “silver Bullet Games” to give the other kids playing time. These are conducted at half time of the regular games, in addition to several times throughout the season. It is great for the kids that don’t get to play very much.

    It valuable for the coaches, because they get to evaluate the talent in a playing situation to see if there is something they’re missing, and get a head start on the roster for the next season. They also get to develop those players who otherwise would have spent their seasons watching much of the action from the sidelines.

  3. For some of us coaches, we often short change our own child to keep a certain perception from popping up, but that really isn’t fair to our kids. I have often pulled my sons first when a game was pretty much decided. They would get mad at me about playing less than others, but I would always explain the politics on the way home. It was a great learning experience for them.

    1. I totally agree. It is hard to be a coach’s kid. Similar to PKs, preacher’s kids.

      I’ve had to often explain to my son’s why they did not receive the practice stickers, game MVPs or team captain appointments due to the possibility of perceptions. My oldest son would have never played QB for my teams if not for my offensive coordinator demanding it be so, because I did not want the headache. Now how unfair would that have been for my oldest son?

      Thanks for your post.

  4. Life may not be fair, but it sometimes can be just. Sure the coach who plays the favorites may win this game, or this season…but that kind of stuff catches up to one in life. One way or another. Practice doesn’t mean anything. We have kids that don’t show up to practice who are playing the entire game. What kind of tone does that set for the team? And this coach is considered one of the best in the league. I was a coach’s kid and my dad went out of his way to not show me favoritism. And if I didn’t go to practice, I didn’t play. There was no room for primadonnas on my dad’s team. And guess what, people got the message. And it was fair and to this day people talk about what a good coach he was-for that team, for life.

    1. I’m not sure that your statement, “practice doesn’t mean anything” is correct. I am not sure about your current coach or how your dad coached his team. Look there are good coaches and what we consider bad coaches just like there are good Doctors and bad Doctors, such is life.

      It sounds like your current coach is allowing a kids that do not show up to practice to play in games. I know some leagues have rules about play time and practice so this could be a issues for them. Until you have coached for several years and had losing and winning seasons, its hard to judge other coaches. As a matter of fact, its hard to judging anyone unless you know the whole situation. I’ve eaten my words over the years, as I experience something and change my views on certain aspects of life, coaching and youth football.

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