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Apr 30, 201207:49 AMPlain Jane

Because Moms Can't Be Afraid to Tell it Like it is

The Benchwarmers

Apr 30, 2012 - 07:49 AM

Both of my boys play soccer in Hershey. It's not cheap. At $85 per child, plus cleats, balls, shin guards and shorts, I had certain expectations.

And, because it's a recreational league, I also reasoned my kids would have fun while learning the rules of the game. We didn't even have soccer when I was a kid, so the rules and regulations are entirely foreign to me.

Thankfully the organization’s website promised me everything I wanted: “The goal is to instill a love of soccer, teach teamwork, respect for opponents and have fun.”

“How perfect.” I thought. Oh, and this year the teams are "small-sided" so the players get more time on the field and more action during games. Even better!

One problem though—my oldest child was the lucky recipient of my athletic gene pool. I kept hoping he would defy the odds and become an agile superstar.

Flash forward. It was his third game of the season and my little guy spent a whole lot of time on the bench. The awesome athletes never sat down once.

This didn't entirely break my heart. What tore my soul out of my chest was when he asked me, "Mom, why do you think I sit on the bench so much? Is it because I'm not that good?" And right there, in the middle of a green field, on a sunny April day, I choked back the tears.

As a mamma bear, my first impulse was to march over to the coach and tear his head off. I wanted to jump up and down and throw things at him. I wanted to tell my son to quit this stupid team and then storm off to our car in one grand, defiant gesture. But I didn't do any of those things. I will say, in his defense, the coach is a nice guy. He volunteers his precious time on Saturdays and for weekday practices. The man gives back, and I admire his winning spirit. Heck, I want to win too! On the other hand, I don't want my son to feel singled out and have his soul crushed. 

So I need you help. What should I do? 

Old to new | New to old
Apr 30, 2012 09:30 am
 Posted by  moops

Hello Jane,

This sounds so familiar. I have two boys 6 and 8 and they love to play sports. This is a situation that happens all the time. I would recommend to approach the coach after a practice and ask what your son can do to get more playing time. If the next game the situation has not improved I would approach the coach and be more direct that your expectations are that it is a learning environment and not just competitive to WIN!! If your son is at the practice, showing interest in the game he should be playing as much as any other player. It really should be about love of soccer, teaching teamwork, respect for opponents and have fun, lots of fun. It is important for the other children on the team to support their teammates (regardless of the level of play).

Hope your son will be playing so much he will ask for a break next game!!!

Apr 30, 2012 09:53 am
 Posted by  rochelle13x

You approach it as diplomatically as you can. Check the website for the "handbook." Our local club has rules in the handbook for this sort of situation. In a rec league, all players get equal playing time. Travel league at upper ages is when unequal playing time comes into play, not rec leagues. Present your situation to the coach, reiterate the quote from the website. Explain what you expected and why. If he doesn't agree, move up to the Coordinator. For example, if your guy plays at U8, there is probably a U8 Coordinator who coordinates all of the coaches for this level. This is the coordinator's job. They are likely volunteers, too. Check the club website for as much data to support your concerns. I'll bet it's there. This guy just isn't performing in the best interest of the soccer club, or the kids. It's all about the kids. Not the coach or anybody else winning. It's about having fun. IF they're not having fun, nobody's going to want to play. can you tell I'm passionate about this? LOLOL I hope this isn't too much of a ramble!

Apr 30, 2012 10:26 am
 Posted by  HoltzmanG

I would say something to the coach. As children grow, they get better and they then can go to the "elite" travel teams or school leagues. But, in the recreational leagues, that is exactly what it is, recreational. A chance for children to expand their abilities, accept losing along with winning, and realize that with hard work and dedication they can become a better player and team member. Bring it to the coach's attention that while you understand the boys desire to win, its also some of the boys desire to just get on the field, and that is more important than winning. I know we all love to win, I was an avid softball player and swimmer and know the desire of wanting to win. But at what cost? Our children have time to "win" as they get older and I truly believe that a great game is one in which all players came, cheered for each other and gave it their all. Sometimes there are others that are better than us, and that is something we need to teach our children, there will always be someone better, that is why we have to work hard and do the best we can. I will always be proud of my children if they worked hard and gave it their all, regardless of who the winner is at the end.

Apr 30, 2012 10:35 am
 Posted by  Jill

Jane - That is a tough one and I feel so bad for you and your son. I have been there.

At some level, coaches want to win, and they keep the best players in. But the league is there to help train all the players and to get the kids to have some physical activity. Sitting on the bench does neither of these things. I would try to have a word in private with the coach. Find out what your expectations should be for playing time in the games. I think this lets the coach know that you are watching...and gets your expectations in line with reality.

Good luck!!

Apr 30, 2012 04:57 pm
 Posted by  Josette Plank


Law 3 "Playing time: Each player SHALL play a minimum of 50% of the total playing time. Teams and matches may be coed. "

Is this your league? If so, this is developmental recreational league.

Bring a timer. Stand there the entire game and time how long your kids are in where coach can see you. When coach asks you what you are doing, say your kids are concerned they aren't getting as much playing time. You told them that you know the rules say they have to play 50% of the game and you know the coach is following that rule; you're going to time the amount of time they are playing and prove it to them.

If your kids aren't playing 50%, ask the coach why he/she is not following the rules for recreational/developmental league. If coach doesn't have a good answer, say you know he/she will fix the problem by next game. Where you will bring a timer again. If things don't change, work your way up the chain.

If this isn't your league and there is no rule about 50% play at this level, leave. There is no good reason to make kids at this level feel bad about themselves for some adult's ego. There is plenty of time later on for competitive leagues. No kid is David Beckham at this age, no matter how much the coaches or other adults seem to think so.

Apr 30, 2012 11:05 pm
 Posted by  MommyBear

This is unfortunate. I've watched my daughter grow in soccer over the years and we have seen this happen. Coaches loose their perspective on why they are really there. Their role is more than just about the outcome of a game. As a coach they are given the opportunity to mold our children. Most clubs will have a parent code of conduct but they also have a coaches code of conduct as well. These are created to help us all stay in balance for the good of our youth. You should also know that soccer is one of those sports that isn't territorial. You can select a club/coach just like when they were little and in daycare. My daughter plays at the HS premier level but over the years we are have selected teams based on the coaches and the clubs support. We have went through tryouts and while they evaluated her, we also evaluated them and their programs/coaches/players.

May 1, 2012 09:38 am
 Posted by  aa t.

No one has suggested telling your son that coaches, even professional coaches, are often wrong about which players should be on the field to give the team the best chance at winning. Also, even when a coach thinks that a player should be on the field to give the team the best chance at winning, the coach may not put that player on the field for reasons such as a perceived lack of effort, perceived goofing off, or perceived lack of respect shown to the coach during practice or a perceived lack of effort during games. There may in fact be no real lack of effort, goofing off, or lack of respect by the player, but the coach perceives one or more of these things, and does not want to reward them with playing time, even if it means that the team is less likely to win a given game. Of course, if the league represents that all players will play equal time, regardless of skill, then the coach should be playing all players equal time. If the coach perceives a lack of effort, goofing off, or lack of respect by a player, then he should approach the child's parents about his perceptions, not limit playing time with no explanation to the player or his parents. Be aware that some children do not want their parents to talk to a coach in this situation. Be sure that your child is OK with you talking to the coach about the lack of playing time.

May 2, 2012 01:51 pm
 Posted by  plain jane

Thank you for your amazing insights and brilliant advice! You are all such amazing parents!! I will let you know what happens. xo jane

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