competition3What does Earning Playing Time mean?  What does it mean to your daughter's coach or to your daughter or you?  I think it’s something that is often misinterpreted and causes unnecessary drama.  Therefore when a coach states something like, “Players must earn their playing time,” it is important for you to be clear about what exactly he means.

She's put her time in over the years and deserves a starting spot.

Varsity Softball Questions

Does the coach believe that upper classmen have the right to be starters or play more regardless of their abilities?  Does he always play the older girl if he thinks her talent level is equal to a younger player?  What if the younger player is far more talented?  Does he tend to favor stronger defensive players or better hitters?  Is winning a priority to him or does he sacrifice winning to be fair or to stick with his biases?

Travel Softball Questions

Does the coach have a daughter on the team and if so, what position does she play?  Does she have old friends on the team and if so, what positions do they play?  Is your daughter one of the new girls on the team and if so, does that matter to the coach?  How does the coach make his lineups for pool play and bracket play?  How does he handle the lineups in exposure tournaments?  How does he manage the lineups one-sided games?

Thinking It Through

Hopefully those questions got you thinking.  They’re not the only questions you or your daughter might ask her coach, but they should make for a good start.  A coach could also be guilty of favoritism, not equally applying the rules, making exceptions for bad grades or missing practices, etc.  If you’re around the game long enough you’ll see and hear it all.

You and your daughter may not agree with the opinion of the coach, but that’s life.

The word Earn is defined as: To gain or get in return for one’s service or labor.  However, it also means: To acquire through merit.  And Merit is: Something that justifies or deserves a reward.  Do you see now why there could be much confusion of any statements concerning players earning playing time?
Your daughter’s varsity coach might have the philosophy built around the first definition of the word Earn.  If a senior has attended every practice, does well in school and has a good attitude, then she deserves to play even if she’s not as talented as a freshman who has also done all the right things.  In this scenario the coach has a belief in entitlements and might think, “She’s put her time in over the years and deserves a starting spot.”  

Her travel coach may have philosophy that he’s going to put his best players in the lineup every game.  Who are his best players?  That’s his judgment based on his experience, biases and feelings.  In this scenario each player had their opportunities to prove themselves to the coach in practices and games.  You and your daughter may not agree with the opinion of the coach, but that’s life.  At least in this case your daughter had a chance to compete for playing time.

Those were just a couple examples with varsity and travel coaches, but hopefully you’ll see why it’s a good idea to attempt to understand how your daughter’s coach defines Earn.  As a coach I am becoming more aware of these types of things.  I know that some of my players that are working very hard are not going to get a lot of playing time.  So, I try to be as clear as possible when communicating with them and their parents. I hope the coaches out there will think about this before repeating old cliches like, "Players earn their playing time."

A Little Inspiration

In softball and in life we may work our tails off towards a goal that we never meet.  While that may be defined in the literal sense as failing, I choose to look it as leaving it all on the field.  Albert Einstein said, “You never fail until you stop trying.”  If your daughter has worked hard, but failed to reach her goals in softball, encourage her to find another passion to pursue.  That’s what Einstein’s quote means to me.