Another comment on Parents and Playing Time

One of the most-read articles we’ve published through the years is, understandably, our piece, Parents and Playing Time. Below is a recent question we received, and our response:

I saw a letter you wrote online about Parents and Playing Time.Can you give me a suggestion on how to handle a situation?

I am a 1st year little league coach. I stepped up to coach because there was not enough coaches. Instead of having 8 teams with 12 kids we would have had 6 teams with 16 kids. So I stepped up.. We are in the intermediate division; real baseball now. 9 outfields instead of 10, 70 feet bases instead of 60 and the pitchers mound pushed back as well and pitchers throwing 50/60 mph.I have two parents that are complaining about playing time for their sons.

Each of the sons have never picked up a baseball until this year. Can’t hit, field, throw and do not pay attention during a practice and many times not in the game.

I play the kids that can field in the infield. I play the kids who can’t in the OF. I rotate the 6 in and out each inning. I also will move on of the guys who can field to CF and will sit him as well. BTW my son is also an OF I rotate as his is not very good. I do occasionally move a player who can not field to 2B as well to give then a chance to show if they can play the position. I have put each of their sons at 2b. One did not move any time as ball was hit his way. The other one the coaches had to ask him to stop dancing and play the position. When we put him in the OF he does not pay attention. He throws his hat in the air and chases it.

I don’t want to put a kid who can’t catch at a IF position when he could get injured.

Greatly would appreciate your insight?

Our response:

Thank you for your note. I would need some more information before really being able to help. I’d need to know what age these players are, how much emphasis is there on winning, etc. From what I can glean, you are sort of in the transition stage between the level where everyone plays and where it gets more competitive.

I do find it odd that you have exactly six players who can’t field and then the rest of the team can. And clearly, your job as a coach at this level is to try to improve players so that they are able to make plays in the field. With your being a first year coach, I can tell you that having one of our CoachDecks would definitely help you in that regard.

As for the two kids’ parents, if the way you portray them is true, then I recommend you suggest that their parents come to practice and help out. You can have the extra helpers rolling ground balls and tossing pop-ups to the less-skilled players giving them much-need repetition. The other benefit to this is that, hopefully, these parents will see that their kids don’t pay attention and will understand their limitations. If they say they can’t or won’t come out to practice then you can let them know that things probably won’t change much because their kids need extra attention you aren’t able to provide yourself, and it isn’t fair to the players who do focus and try to improve at practice to have them lose their playing time just so that everyone else gets equal treatment, regardless of merit. (By the way, I wouldn’t recommend you use the “we are not playing a kid in the infield because we are afraid he’ll get hurt” excuse. They may make errors and cost you the game, but they aren’t any more likely to be hurt by a batted ball than a player who is skilled).

But the bottom line is this: At this age you are not there to win games, but to help players improve and have a positive experience. The way to grade yourself at the end of the season is not in wins and losses but in how many players come back to play again next season. Whatever you can do to help every kid enjoy practices and games enough to want to do it again next year would be what I’d recommend.