New 8 week series-Being a great gameday coach- Part 1 - Playing Time

Published: Fri, 01/08/16

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Being a great gameday coach
If you're like me - this time of year you spend a bunch of time attending a plethora of youth basketball and volleyball games and tournaments. And the contrast in the quality of coaches is absolutely striking. So this week we'll launch an 8 week series on what it looks like to be one of the great ones.  It's not that hard, but it takes being intentional and taking the time to plan.

Part 1 - Playing Time and Substitutions

Let's start this series talking about the elephant in the room, as 90+% of all frustrations of players and parents stem from playing time decisions.

How you handle playing time and substitutions will make or break the morale of your team.   No matter how many kids you have on your team, if only a select few are playing in the games – this will lead to disunity and ‘hoping one of the starters play bad so I can get into the game.’  Here are 5 things I see in common with the great coaches I watch:
  1. Get as many kids as possible involved early in games. Have a well thought-out plan coming into the game on how you're going to try to leverage the strengths of each player and put them each in positions to succeed.
  2. Every player has an equal shot to demonstrate skills that each position requires – not just at the beginning of the season but throughout – to motivate improvement and working for a position.  A ‘challenge ladder’ environment should be established so everyone has the ability to move up a spot if they are improving.
  3. Over-communicate with EVERY player about his or her playing time.  Especially if there any change in their position or playing time – be crystal clear to the player why the change was made and what they need to do to increase playing time
  4. You need an assistant coach to track playing time.  This should be compiled and evaluated for each player after each game.  The question to ask yourself as you evaluate this data for each player: ‘If this was my son/daughter – did he/she get an opportunity to play in accordance with his/her work in practice?’
  5. Put kids in positions to succeed. If you only have 2 good ballhandlers on the team – be strategic in how you substitute, don’t take them both out at the same time and then be frustrated with the 2nd stringers when they keep turning the ball over.  
We could write a book on playing-time alone, but start with these basic steps and build a great team environment. The next logical coaching question is how to handle player mistakes during the game and when do you substitute a player out after a mistake - we'll tackle that next week.

Concussion - the movie

The movie Concussion brings up a plethora of questions around safety in sports - I hosted a roundtable discussion with Emily Cohen from Teamsnap and Janis Meredith from JBMThinks Positive Sports Parenting Tribe - I think you'll be surprised by the takeaways and conclusions made.  Check it out on the most recent WYC podcast:

Not satisfied with your kid's sports season?
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If you looking for tips on how to stand out in a tryout, or looking for long-term alternatives that produce superior results to travel sports teams - there are great free tools to help you at:
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Make winning the right way your habit starting today,
Craig Haworth is the founder of Winning Youth Coaching, a site dedicated to helping coaches and parents make youth sports an awesome experience for the youth and the parents.  He interviews coaches from around the world and posts them on his podcast, which currently has over 65 interviews and has been downloaded over 50,000 times. He writes a weekly note to coaches and parents. He is married to his high-school sweetheart and they share the blessing of 3 children and live in Franklin, TN. You can sign-up for his weekly note here, find him on twitter at @craighaworth1, or visit his website
"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men"
- Frederick Douglass