The Issue of Playing Time

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA

There is little doubt that as a parent, you love your child and want the best for him or her. However, the amount of playing time he or she receives in a game is not an issue you should be involved with.

Sure, the natural reaction is to be an advocate. You want to make sure that your child is being treated fairly. But it really isn’t your place to question playing time and here’s why.

Being a member of a team is your child’s experience. If an athlete isn’t playing as much as he would like, it is the responsibility of the player to approach the coach. The player could start the conversation with, “Hey coach, what can I do to play more?”

Most likely the answer will have something to do with, “If you work hard in practice sessions and improve, you may be able to earn a few more minutes.” But playing time is determined by what coaches see daily during practice and what works best for the team. And the key phrase is “earn.” It isn’t given or divided equally, and most coaches aren’t going to “experiment” or “give chances” in a game.

Also remember, the player who is in front of your child on the depth chart is better in the opinion of the coaching staff. Sometimes increased effort and some improvement in practice may still not be enough. And this is a life lesson. Yes, practice hard and keep trying. But there isn’t and there shouldn’t be a guarantee that it will automatically result in more time or starting.

But do allow your son or daughter to approach the coach and to get an answer. It is their relationship with the coach as a member of the team. And don’t take the approach, “Well, Johnny finds it difficult to go to the coach. He just can’t talk to him.” Learning to talk to adults is part of growing up and fighting one’s own battles. Playing time is an issue and discussion between an athlete and the coach. It does not involve a parent.

The only time that you should ever get involved is if the coach is unwilling to respond to your child with a satisfactory answer. Then calmly and politely, ask for a meeting with the coach.

But 98 percent of the time, stay out of the conversation and allow the coach-player relationship to function. By doing so, you are allowing your child to grow and develop.


David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach.  In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the Nastional Association for Sport and Physical Education.  He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association's Athletic Director of the Year.  Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country.