Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Should All High School Team Members Get Playing Time?

Today's question is posed and discussed by Lindsay from the site That Mutt. She's contributed here before with an introduction to rugby and has let me babble on her site about my silly bloodhound and cats. The recent high school basketball game that ended up with a score of 100-0 inspired her to share her experiences as a player for today's guest post.

I played basketball in ninth grade, and I scored two points that season.

I knew I was terrible at basketball. But even at age 14, I was bothered by the fact that my coach never invested any time in helping me or the other players who were not stars. I was a hard worker, willing to learn and athletic. I showed up to practice just like everyone else, but my coach spent his time teaching new drills to the best players while the rest of us shot free throws.

I got maybe 10 minutes of playing time that season, always for seconds at a time within the last minute of the game when our team was way ahead. We won most games by 20 or 30 points, but our best players rarely got a rest. The most memorable game was when a few of our starters got sick. Instead of letting the bench players step up, our coach brought down several ninth-grade varsity players to play in our C-squad game. Our team won by 40 points.

When a high school girls' basketball coach in Texas was fired recently after his team won by 100 points, the story made national news, sparking a debate about how big is too big for a winning margin. That Texas game is one instance, but games like that happen every week in high school sports.

The coach of the Dallas-area Covenant School basketball team apparently began playing his bench players in the first quarter of the shutout that resulted in his firing, according to the Dallas Morning News. After three minutes, the score was already 25-0.

When you only have eight players total on your team, I would hope everyone gets playing time! But should that be the case in all instances?

Looking back to my basketball days, I absolutely believe all high school athletes should get playing time when they participate in a sport, especially when it's a ninth-grade or junior varsity team. Those years are about developing skills and learning what it means to work together. Let the best players have more time, but give every willing kid a chance, even if it's three minutes per half.

What if the school's policy is everyone who trys out will make at least the junior varsity team? Some teams could end up with 60 or more players. Wouldn't it be fair to give them each a few minutes on the court?

Some high schools provide extra playing time by allowing a scrimmage during halftime, where bench players play for 10 minutes or so. Although it's demeaning if it's the same players every time, it's also a good chance for skill development and experience in front of a crowd.

It's hard for high school and middle school coaches to make these decisions. Many of them are volunteers showing up every day just so kids can get out there and have fun. It's hard to satisfy the kids, the parents and the administration.

If I were a coach I would lay out my expectations right away at the first practice. I'd send a sheet home to the parents explaining that every kid will get playing time under certain conditions. Then I'd list those conditions, things like showing up to practice on time, showing good sportsmanship and representing the team positively at all times.

Besides basketball, I participated in softball, rugby and swimming. All the many coaches I had for these other sports gave every kid playing time. Sure, softball is a little different because everyone goes through the batting order, and rugby involves 30 people on the field at once, not 10. But when I played for good coaches who cared about everyone, it benefited the whole team. The more experienced players helped the newbies. The captains taught drills. Scrimmages involved everyone. Different people started every game so egos didn't escalate. Players learned different positions so we could all fill in anywhere. We did things together as a team outside of practices and games. We learned that if our team was going to be successful, we all had to be successful.

Winning involves more than five players scoring a bunch of points.

How do you think playing time should be handled? If you are a high school coach, how do you handle playing time?


Lindsay said...

Good choice for a video! Thanks for the opportunity to write for your blog!

Apryl DeLancey said...

Thank you for contributing! You are welcome to any time.

Becky Leetch said...

Interesting topic. A winning team will bring in sponsors to a team/school at time when funds are already being cut to the schools. Parents of kids on the team also bring in money. But if their kid doesn't play, then they pull their kid and you then lose their dollars.

There's this philosophy that the best 5, 11, or however many it make to field a team, play. But when it gets out of control, you rest your starters so the 'bench' players get a chance to play. I feel that this is especially true for incoming freshmen. This should not be true for Varsity teams or for Juniors or Seniors in High School. By then, they should already know what sport they want to play, and what they're good at. A Senior Basketball player should not be trying out for the JV tennis team. Just my opinion.

I'm glad this coach got fired. He should NOT have brought down 9th grade Varsity players to play the game. It's like having Pro MLB players playing on an AA (cactus league) team. It's not right nor is it fair to the other team. The other team still needs to bring in their own money, and losing 100-0 does not bring confidence to their sponsors.

Apryl DeLancey said...

Good points, Becky.

I am wondering about "mercy" rules. I know there is such a rule in baseball at the high school level in some states. If I recall correctly, if one team had a certain amount of points by the 6th inning and the other had not scored they called the game. I'll have to look that up. the point is - does one exist in other sports? Sounds like another post is in order...

Becky Leetch said...

A mercy rule should be in place for High School sports. IE: Football or Basketball, if there is an "X" point spread at half time, then call the game.

Or another option which we use in our football league is to keep the clock running (even on time-outs). The game clock will keep going, but the play clock is then stopped. This allows for the full 4 quarters to be played while shortening the game. The winning team usually has more sportsmanship to then run the ball instead of passing it, thus resulting in fewer TD's after the blow-out.

Apryl DeLancey said...

That is a good idea also, Becky. I'm going to look into the one that I mentioned and see if any others exist.