If you feel like the coach simply dislikes your child, and he isn’t being given a fair opportunity out of spite, and if you would rather complain to other parents in the stands, then this article is not for you. If you really want your kid to have more playing time because you’re mostly interested in him having fun and getting the most out of what the sport has to offer, keep reading…
95% of all coaches are going to have a valid reason for not playing your kid. Perhaps your child was struggling, and another kid stepped in to take that position away from him, or maybe your kid isn't taking practice seriously enough. The point is, you don’t always have all the information because you’re not able to attend practice. Therefore, the first step to getting your kid more playing time is always having your kid approach the coach first. This is definitely the most overlooked step when approaching a coach about playing time. You never want to approach a coach who has no idea that you or your child is unhappy with the current amount of playing time. If you catch the coach off guard, you’re more likely to get a defensive response as opposed to the actual reasons as to why your kid isn’t playing as much as you think he should be.
Having your kid approach them before you do does a couple of things that are advantageous: first, it will put the idea in the coach's head that the player is unhappy with his current playing time. Next, it will build respect for your kid from the coach’s point of view because he didn’t have his Mommy or Daddy do his dirty work for him. Lastly, and most importantly, it will teach your kid how to approach difficult conversations.
Make sure that your kid knows what he or she is going to say beforehand. A good way to phrase a question about playing time to a coach, coming from a player, would be: “Hey Coach, I was wondering if I could talk to you for a second about playing time. I’m wondering what extra work I can do to put myself in a position to get on the field more? What are the areas that you see as my weaknesses and what drills can I use to turn those weaknesses into strengths?"
Since the coach won’t be intimidated by the player coming up to him and asking this question you’ll likely get a very honest answer. It is very important to not only ask for the assessment, but to make sure you ask for a specific plan as to how to improve that assessment. Then be ready to implement what the coach recommends, and employ the plan that the coach outlines.
Be prepared for the truth. This could be the hardest step to getting your kid in the game. Having a coach open up the book and read stats off to you or you child can be a serious wake-up call. To avoid getting angry, make sure you and your kid have all possible objections that a coach may put out there already thought out with reasonable responses ready to go before approaching the coach. It’s always good to do a little “pre-work” before having this conversation. That means staying late and working on hitting or fielding or whatever is necessary. It’s not so much about what the player is working on as much as it is about simply putting in the time. If you do this for a week or two before approaching the coach, you'll have a little ammo and be able to say something to the effect of, “I’ve really been trying to put in extra work outside of practice to get a shot at some more playing time.”
Now that your child has approached the coach, it's important to give it at least a week or so that the coach has a chance to put your kid in the game. If there's still no change, it your turn. Go in prepared. You now have the info that the coach brought to your child's attention, and hopefully he has been working on improving those trouble areas. Next, make sure that you don’t approach a coach after loss, in front of other players, or in front of other parents. You want to do all you can to keep him off of the defensive. A polite phone call is usually enough.
We recommend opening with something along the lines of, “Hey coach, I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time, do you have a brief moment to talk about my son? I know he had approached you about a week ago wondering how he can get a little more time on the field, and I wanted to check in to see how he’s progressing?” This is the way to go because it makes the coach feel like you’re asking for his advice rather than threatening his ego. He’ll be reminded of his previous conversation with your child, and that he's doing what he had asked of him. He’ll know that you’re serious about helping your young player get more time, and that you genuinely care about your child’s progress as opposed to just yelling at him for not doing what you want. Try this method and I believe that you’ll see very quick and positive results.
J.T. Putt played professional baseball in the United States, Australia, and Europe. He is a former NCBWA All-American, and general manager of Catalyst Sports. For more great drills visit infieldfundamentals.com.