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Scott Baker’s Walkin’ The Sidelines: Get in the Game

By SCOTT BAKER

sbaker@lockhaven.com

Earning what one gets most often results in a major sense of accomplishment for the recipient. Earning playing time is what we will discuss in this edition of Walkin’ The Sidelines.

Emphasis is to be placed on earning. Why is this an important topic for discussion? Simple, everybody wants to play. At least they say that is their desire. Getting into the game is the goal of all players. If it is not, it should be. Getting into the game though can only happen after much time and effort is put forth so that getting into the game is actually deserved. That is in actuality the only type of playing time that we should be concerned about. Playing time that is not earned or deserved is fake anyway. Athletic ability is likely to get most players into the game very quickly.

However, it doesn’t guarantee anyone that they will stay there. What will guarantee that a player stays there is their effort and performance. How hard they play when they are in the game will go a long way in determining the amount of playing time that they receive and ultimately how successful that they will be.

Now what about that not-so athletic or naturally-talented individual? How do they find a way into the game?

Again, hard work is the simple answer. They must work hard to earn their way into the game. Once they get there, they must continue to put forth the effort necessary to keep them there. Playing time is the desire of both players and their parents. Of course, a player wants to play and their parents want to see them in the game as well. Unfortunately, an all too common perception and well used argument is that if the coach would just give the athlete a chance, they would be successful. Let me pose this question to both athletes and parents. What have you or your son/daughter done to deserve getting into the game?

Again, I emphasize deserve. I recognize that this is a pretty direct question and may hurt some to consider but seriously in order to get into the game, that question deserves a legitimate answer. Players should not expect to be put into the game just because they are on the team. They should not expect to be put into the game just because they attend every practice.

Players should deserve to be in the game. The reason is that when one player enters the game, they do so in place of someone else. The question which must then be asked is, do they deserve to be in place of the other player?

I’ve always strongly believed that playing time is something that is controlled not by coaches as most people think but rather by players. Let me say that again, playing time is something that players themselves control.

Say what?

Yes, while the common perception is that coaches control a player’s playing time, it is in fact the player who does so. How do they do it…by forcing the coach to play them? I’ve long told my players to make me play them. Players should force coaches to play them.

No, I don’t mean by whining and complaining until the coach puts them in to appease them or their parents but rather through their work and performance.

Likewise, I don’t mean by reacting to a parent complaint or meeting. Rather, coaches want players who force them to play them. Players do so by performing at a level that makes it difficult for the coach not to play them. In other words, coaches need to be made to find a reason not to play a player rather than to have to find a reason why they should play them. The ball is squarely in the player’s court when it comes to playing time.

Again, I recognize that there are often many reasons offered by players and their parents when a player does not receive the playing time that they feel they deserve. Those reasons range from the coach doesn’t like them, the coach has and plays favorites, the other player’s parents serve more hot dogs in the concession stand, the other player has the right last name, blah, blah, blah. Excuse, excuse, excuse.

Players and parents alike, please hear me out. Coaches want to win. If they feel that your kid can help them do so, they will play them… a lot. So again players, the ball is in your court. Parents, the ball is in your child’s court. Players, make your coach play you… a lot.

Parents, encourage your child to make their coach play them, a lot. Players, do this by your work in practice and then your work in games. Set yourself apart from your teammates. Parents, encourage and even expect your child to be the hardest working player on the team. Not the hardest working by their standard but by that of the coaches and in relation to others on the team.

Don’t settle for a half- hearted approach to attempting to get playing time. Playing time is either deserved or it is not. Playing time when deserved is obvious. Don’t put the onus on the coach to try to figure out a justification for playing time. Earn it and make it obvious beyond anyone’s doubt that you deserve it. Don’t just try to show the coach that you deserve to play. Rather, stop the trying and just show them.

Make them play you.

Make it so clear that everyone can see it. Remember as well that much goes into this. When wondering why playing time is not being realized, ask the following questions: Where was I when the off-season work was taking place? Have I sacrificed for the team? Have I put everything into earning playing time? Am I the hardest working player on the team? Most importantly, do I deserve to play? After all, that is the question of the utmost importance

. Deserving to play is what it is really all about. When one truly deserves to play, they will and when they do, it will truly mean something to them because ultimately, they will know full well that they earned it. Earn yours. Seriously, earn it. Your coach will be more than happy to notice and play you…a lot.

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