If you are coaching a team, any team, the natural inclination is to allow the strongest players to take up the bulk of your team’s presence in any game or match. It also tends to be one of the cardinal rules that many newer coaches make. It can be difficult to balance the desire to win with the desire to help your players develop their skills and their love of the game. However that, as a coach, is exactly what you need to do.

Methods to give equal playing time depend mainly on the level of team you are coaching. If you are coaching very young players it can actually be much easier to give equal playing time to all of your players since they will probably more or less be on an even level of skill or expertise. With very young players, you may find that the level of discrepancy between the weakest and strongest players is not that extreme. Then, it is simply a matter of logistics and recording the amount of time each player has had on the court or the field.

Once you get into dealing with older players, this goal becomes somewhat more difficult. You may find that exceptional players begin to resent being left on the sidelines in order to allow weaker team members to have equal playing time. It becomes less a matter of simple logistics and more about dealing with attitudes.

You may find that not only are you dealing with attitude from stronger players who are being sidelined but you may find that the weaker players are also expressing negative emotions. These, however, may be directed at themselves rather than at their fellow team members. They may be hesitant to play because they are worried about costing the team the victory or they may be worried that if they make a mistake they will be treated poorly by the other team members. This is where it is critical to balance fostering their love of the game with getting equal playing time.

You have several approaches to this issue. You can go with a straightforward approach where you continue to record the total minutes each player has had in the game and work toward making sure that the numbers even out. You can also take the time to catalogue each player’s strengths and weakness and find their niche within the team dynamic as a whole. In theory, your team roster should at least be filled with players who possess a similar level of general competence in over all game skills.

However, by running drills you can find out where their individual strengths lie and brainstorm circumstances where they will excel and help propel your team to victory. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing a player who lacks confidence in their abilities being used effectively in order to lead their team to victory. If you make notes about these competencies and the circumstances in which they can be used best when it comes to game time you will find that calling in the right players takes very little thought indeed.

Effective coaching is about more than victory. The trust and respect of your team is what it’s really all about.

How do you share the playing time among your players?

Picture credit: Ilan’s PhotosCreative Commons Attribution

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