Another letter from a coach about playing time

We get these from time-to-time and they’re all remarkably similar. Here’s the latest from a flag-football coach, and our response below:

I really enjoyed your article.  I’m in my fourth year as a volunteer flag football coach (Matt Leinart Flag in Newport Beach, California).  We have a good team and have made the playoffs each of the past four seasons.

For the first three seasons, it was a dream.  All of my kids go to the same school, so they are teammates and friends.  The kids have a great time and I got no complaints of any kind.  However, last season two separate parents complained about playing time – one of them during a game.

I dedicate about 10 hours/week to coaching, which includes providing drinks, ice, etc., at practices because so many of my parents don’t send that along with their kids and I don’t want our players to suffer because of lack of planning (by parents).  I realize I’m enabling the situation, but it does get hot and I don’t want to risk the kids’ health.

I wasn’t exactly sure how to handle the complaints, other than I did not bend to them and play the kids more due to the complaints.  The complaints were about playing time, which was a result of their sons not putting in effort in practice, despite being given every opportunity to succeed.  I don’t ask a lot, but I do ask that they hustle and give 100% effort, which is something (as you said) they are in control of.

One of the parents actually “kept time” on the sidelines and then informed me of the exact amount of minutes their son was in the game.

I’d be interested in any advice you can provide on how to handle this, as I suspect more of this may come as the kids get older and as the parents take more liberties expressing themselves (now that we’re in our fourth season together)?

Thanks.  Again, I really enjoyed your article.


Thanks for  your note and for your volunteering to coach these kids. It is a shame that you are being pressured about playing time. There are several approaches you could take and not being there myself to see the situation, I’m not sure which is best. You could just ignore the whole thing and do what you think is best regardless of what the parents say. They can either complain to the league or pull their kids off the team. If you don’t believe that would be the best fix, you can have a conversation with the parents (either just the problem parents or the whole team), and explain that you are not obligated to play everyone equally and that your playing time decisions come as a result of what happens in practice regarding effort and hustle. You could probably do this via email or in person. Finally, you can tell them that unless they attend every practice, you’d appreciate it if they’d let you determine who is playing and how much as you are more aware than they of each player’s capabilities and of who has been trying the most and earning minutes.

Also, I’m not sure if this is the article you read, but in the future, you may want to consider preventative action by sending out a letter such as the one here before the season begins.

I hope this helps. Thank you again for reaching out and if there is anything else I can do for you, please let me know.