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Take Star Players Out of the Game When it's a Blowout

The Sporting Dad says this is his biggest pet peeve, but coaches don't always agree.

Your child’s team is on its way to an easy victory. It’s late in the game — the last couple of innings, the last quarter, or the final period.

There’s no way the other team is going to come back and win. Yet the best players are all still in the game.

I don’t know about you, but this is very likely my biggest pet peeve of them all. So in a recent questionnaire, I asked local coaches their thoughts on the subject.

Many parents complain that even when the outcome of a game has been determined, some coaches will still keep their stars in the game rather than clearing the bench in favor of the lesser-skilled players.

Coach A (Football): I can totally understand a parent’s frustration and they have every right to be angry. I know that we do not do this as a coaching staff. We try to build a true team. In these situations, it is always good to see the more skilled players cheering on the lesser skilled players when they get their chance — just like the lesser-skilled players do when the roles are reversed. On our team they are giving high fives, etc. Both (groups of) kids have huge smiles on their faces. We have had parents thank us for getting their kids more plays when the game situation allows it.

Coach B (Hockey): Depending upon the sport, I would prefer to see the kids with less playing time get more time to develop. The team will only go as far as the weakest players in the long run. On our team, we just keep rotating lines in order and give the kids on the next line a chance on the power play or when short handed.

Coach C (Baseball): Encourage coaches not to do this and show them how they can make it work. Change the substitution rules to allow coaches to bring their best players back into the game if the score narrows (this is what many coaches fear). Call the game at a certain point and then play the rest of the game as an exhibition.

Coach D (Football): The reasons for it are a coach wants to try some new plays; he wants to try kids in different positions to see if they will be stars there, too. If the team had been losing all year you don't want the score to get real lopsided. All not good reasons and I certainly understand the frustration.  As a parent you get tired of seeing the same kid in the same position for the whole game and the score is 30-0. If a week 6 game has no bearing on seeding for the playoffs, the minimum play rule doubles. Or maybe the coaches should agree before the game that they will play their starters in the first half and the second team in the second half.

Coach E (Lacrosse): I have had to tell an opposing coach that his team already had the game in hand and to call off the dogs. He understood and substituted for his better players. It happens. Sometimes you have the better team and other times you take a whipping.

Coach F (Football): I understand the frustration, but not every boy can play every position. Parents don’t always recognize that. In football our rules are very specific about who can play where and at what position. Furthermore, I cannot put a boy in at a skill position if he hasn’t had any repetitions at that position. He’ll get creamed. I mean, is the other team on the same page? Do they know that we’re not playing for real now because the game is out of hand? No way. They are out there playing and playing hard.

 Coach G (Football, Lacrosse): I don't know the reasoning because that is the best time to get players experience (the other time is when you are getting blown out). Some kids are left out because they are an injury risk to themselves and in some sports to their teammates. But ideally as a coach you try to get your players time to get better. It pans out in the long run. 

Coach H (Football, Baseball): Some of these parents need to realize that the lesser-skilled players may not want to be there in the first place.  I had several kids that wanted no part of playing, yet we still had to play them and make the kids who wanted to play sit.

Coach I (Football, Lacrosse, and Basketball): I can only assume that (the reasons) coaches keep their studs in when the outcome of a game has been determined are for promoting his coaching and star players. I can certainly understand why parents would be frustrated with this scenario ... you don't want to demoralize the opponent and you also want to elevate the growth of the players who typically don't get much playing time.

Local Youth Sportswriter (Not Me): Because life is so good at smacking people down, they yearn for something in their lives that can prop them up and keep them on top. We must be able to draw the line between winning and the real reason why youth sports are played — to teach them about the value of communication and about working together with their peers toward a common goal. If I was a parent of a kid whose skill set is limited, I would be angry if my kid didn’t get more time when the game got out of hand. It also serves as a natural counterbalance as opposed to stupid score management policies.

Ron Goralski April 15, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Ok Tom. So back on topic. During a blowout, clear the benches. I don't care what sport or what level. I just watched it done to perfection at a LAX game on Saturday.
Darrell Lucas April 15, 2012 at 08:58 PM
No Ron you didn't misunderstand me. I am with you. And I am commenting on the right story. Read it twice.
paula April 16, 2012 at 06:58 AM
ok so i read it. not bad. i guess your are a good writer! good job
ksav April 16, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Allright Ron, back on topic. Quite honestly, from little league, through Pop Warner, Babe Ruth, AAU, & high school, I never had a coach who kept starters in during blowouts. The main reason we kids heard was "no reason to risk getting hurt". Next was "I want to see what the rest of the team can do".....Pretty basic, and always a foregone conclusion.
Ron Goralski April 16, 2012 at 03:26 PM
It's far from a foregone conclusion ksav. I'm not sure of your involvement as a coach or parent - but this subject is a major issue with many parents. I've witnessed it at all levels over my 24 years as a coach, parent, board member, and spectator. It's not as basic as you would think it should be. You obviously had coaches that "got it".

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