It’s such a common conversation that in each instance, I really need to work to not get fired up. A player (or a parent) will complain to me about the fact that their coach is not playing them for __insert reason here____. Usually it is some combination of “playing favorites” or “doesn’t know what he/she is doing”. The reason why these conversations are so difficult is that the player almost invariably refuses to see that they are choosing the bench. That sentence and the title of this post must sound ridiculous but I’ll do my best to make my argument for its accuracy.
The player who is complaining about playing time is almost always ignoring the fact that they have control over the key component to their PT, themselves. When people don’t get what they want, the easiest thing to do is blame someone else or circumstances. While this is the easiest thing to do, it rarely has positive results. In these situations of complaint, I usually direct the player’s attention to how much extra time they’re putting into their skills, fitness, tactical awareness, relationship with key players, etc. Upon asking about these things, I usually get a blank stare or a halfhearted explanation of their “extra” work.
In all of my years of playing and coaching, I’ve never met a coach who kept talent on the bench without a reason. Therefore the equation of playing time becomes quite a simple one. GET SO GOOD THAT YOU CAN’T BE IGNORED! The truth of most of these situations is that the player only wants to do enough to get what they want. They do not truly want the playing time because if they did, they’d be doing all of the work to get it and a ton extra. The obstacle of the coach is just an excuse for them not to do the work.
“Thumbs before fingers!” has been a mantra of mine for years. It simply states that you need to acknowledge your contribution to any challenge before you blame someone else. By seeing your faults first, you have the power to change them. If you ignore the fact that you have any fault, you become powerless. You are completely at the mercy of the person or situation. So I implore you! Don’t put yourself on the bench! Become so good that you can’t be ignored! Give so much effort that the coach has to feel guilty about taking you off the field! Then other people can talk about you being “the coach’s favorite” but you’ll know the truth of how hard you worked to get there.
Go get your goal today!
The discussion of the GOAT is always tough because it brings apples against oranges and people’s personal perspective weighs heavily on their arguments. The comparison of Messi vs Ronaldo could be a more objective conversation but adding Pele into the mix makes things much more difficult. Considering different eras and playing landscapes muddies the waters to the point where the argument says more about what the fan values rather than what the player meant in their own time. With all of those points well established from the outset, I am not at all bashful about nominating my mom as the Youth Soccer Fan GOAT! This is not a son’s love for his mother taken to the extreme. In fact, I thought my mother was one of the worst fans at the time but given years to evaluate and compare, she truly was the best.
She didn’t know the game! Some people might view this as a negative but it was a huge positive. Her best things to say from the sideline were “Kick the ball!” and “Go!” She didn’t know enough about the game to yell at the referee or opposing parents. I’m not sure that she even really took them into account. She was supremely focused on our (my brother and my) team. Despite being our parent, she cheered “Kick the ball!” for anyone on our team. Her support never wavered, even in the season where we lost every single game.
She told everyone except the coaches! I’m being serious. Everyone knew about my brother and I. Toll booth operators, people working at Wendy’s, cute girls at tournaments and many more complete strangers heard about how her sons played for the “Taygers”. We played for the “Tigers” but she always seemed to have this special pronunciation when talking about it. She sang our praises up and down the east coast even out of season. However this overwhelming promotion of her kids never reached the coaches. It was before the internet was pervasive but it didn’t happen by phone, letter or fax either. She knew better.
She always clapped at the end! Now this is not an individual thing. It was a team effort. I was lucky enough to play together with a lot of the same guys through my youth and into high school. That collective group of parents would always clap for my teammates and I upon leaving the field. The result didn’t matter. I’d like to believe that they were clapping our effort because I think we always gave that, even in the lean years.
At the time I probably took all of this for granted but now as a coach and a parent, I don’t. My view may be skewed and my mother is not actually the GOAT but she definitely was great for my time. My time as a player was better because of her. She reflected only her love for me as her son. The result of every single game was the same whether we won or lost, my mom was still my biggest fan. I think that’s something that we’re missing today. I’ve heard the words “My mom/dad is going to be so ___________.” far too often from players. Parents need to be the North Star to a child, not a feather in the wind. Even if a parent is trying to raise an elite athlete, their love should not be on the line every match. There are more than enough people around to show a child how to play the game. Parents are the first ones that can show the child how much they matter regardless of the game.