Playing Time?

In the many Positive Coaching Alliance Workshops I present, the topic of the Coach-Parent Partnership is discussed. This is not always the smoothest of relationships, yet should be. As my friend , Brian McCormick always says, "they both want the same thing - for the player to play well!" We know that when Teachers and Parents work together, students do better in school, but often that lesson is ignored when it comes to sports.

I rarely (if ever) hear teachers complain about parents waiting outside their door to complain about how often the teacher called on their son or daughter to answer a question…yet it is probably a daily occurrence that a parent waits for a coach after a game or practice to discuss their child’s playing time.

I think it’s best to set the expectation before the season that a discussion of “playing time” is not something the coach will engage in. That discussion usually leads to involving another player who might be getting time instead – and it’s never appropriate to discuss another player with any parent.

However, I do believe that it is appropriate to have a discussion about how a player can improve in order to earn more playing time. A subtle, but distinct difference.

I thought I would share an e-mail exchange that my Principal sent to a high school parent who had complaints over his son's playing time. The parent responded to the Principals first email, offering *videotape proof*, which precipitated a follow up message by the Principal to make his position clear.

It is really good stuff, so I hope you follow closely. I really appreciated the administrative support on this issue. Names have been deleted to protect the ***guilty***!:?)

Here goes:
Email #1 – from Principal to Parent

Dear Mr. ********:

Thank you for the email with follow-up
information following our telephone
conversation of yesterday. As I suspected, and
your email confirmed, the
"problem" that you wanted to discuss is a matter
of playing time and/or role
on the team for a particular student-athlete,
your son ********.

You need to be aware that our policy is that it
is totally the coach's
decision as to whom and how much an individual
student-athlete should play.
Since yesterday I did have the opportunity to
discuss your call with Coach
Lokar. In discussing the matter, I am comfortable
that Coach Lokar even took
the time to discuss the matter with you. He
indicated that he even outlined
specific areas in which he felt that ****** needed
to improve to increase his
role with the team.

Coach Lokar pointed out to me that with regard to
the area of playing time,
when he checked the book before Christmas, *******
had actually participated
in 45 of the first 48 quarters the team played.
As of today, he feels that
he has played probably fifty-five of the sixty
quarters the team has played.
In the times I have been able to attend the boys'
games I recalled ********* as
one of the first off the bench.

Thank you for sharing your concerns with me, but
it is not appropriate for
me to review matters of student-athlete playing
time. I hope that *********,
with your continued support, will further develop
as a student-athlete and
have a collegiate career that makes us all proud.
I trust that with all the
video you have taken of his playing time, you
will be able to develop a
"*********" highlight film that will make
him continue to feel proud
of his overall contribution to the team.


*******, Ph.D.

Email #2 From Principal to Parent

Mr. *********:
Although I do not plan to get into a further
discussion about the matter,
after reading your email I felt that I just need
to make my position clear.

Coaches coach, players play, and parents parent.

The coach's role is to decide who plays and in
what situations they play.

Players have the responsibility to listen to
their coach and perform to the
best of their ability when called upon to do so
for the TEAM. They need to
be adequately prepared especially physically and
mentally ready for their

Parents need to support the coach and when they
disagree with their
decisions, they need to encourage their child
through the disappointing
times. Keep in mind that there will always be a
brighter future. Students
don't always see the long range future that
parents can see. It is NOT the
prerogative of the parent to decide that a
particular player should play a
different role than what the coach has determined
fits best for the TEAM for
that game or situation.

Taking the time to review your video tapes would
be irrelevant, because the
decision as to ********'s role on the TEAM is a
coach's decision.

(the AD)'s role is to supervise the coach.
In that regard, we were both
impressed that Coach Lokar took the time to
listen to your concern and
explain his position to you. We cannot ask more
of him. As coach, it is HIS

My role is to supervise (the AD). He took
the time to meet with Coach
Lokar and to speak with you. I cannot ask more of
him in this situation.

You disagree with a coach's decision on playing
opportunities for ********.
That is your right. Let the matter close and
encourage ******** to continue to
seek to excel in his role as it is determined by
Coach Lokar.

Thank you,

**********, Ph.D

It’s not always that a coach gets the administrative support they need. And they should.
If anything, this should serve as “best practices” for how a principal could handle a similar situation.


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  • Ray, I am in awe of this post. Simply phenomenal!!! You hit that nail on the head with a "sledge hammer." Yes, the idea of a parent asking how their son or daughter can improve their abilities as an athlete, a question centering on support, is very, very different from a parent trying to justify more playing time for their athlete.

    And your principals letter to the parent demonstrates a the type of support, and justification for that support, coaches should have. It makes a good coach’s job much easier.

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