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‘Hey coach, put my kid in the game!’ Parents have been complaining that their child doesn’t get enough playing time since organized sports were invented. Fielding a sports team requires having enough subs to take the field when kids are missing, which inevitably translates into too many players and not enough positions.

Some coaches are good about ensuring all the kids get comparable playing time. Others have a tendency to play their best players (or at least whom they favor or perceive to be the best players), which leads to certain kids consistently riding the bench. If you’re the parent of a kid who finds yourself in this position, before you get upset at the coach, try some the following:

1. Voice your concerns
In a polite way, let the coach know you’re disappointed in the amount of playing time your child receives, and would like to see him or her more involved in the game. Parents often assume that a coach knows this already, but it isn’t always the case. When occupied with the game, it’s easy to overlook discrepancies or be ignorant of an imbalance in playing time, especially if regularly rotating players is part of normal operation.

2. Ask for pointers
If your child is riding the bench because a coach feels they have better players, ask him specifically what it is your child needs to work on: “What skills do we need to improve to get Johnny more playing time? Are there any drills I could do with him?” Then follow through with your commitment, and periodically (without being too annoying about it) tell the coach all you’ve been working on. Even if the training doesn’t turn your kid into a superstar, it lets the coach know you’re putting in effort, and they may be more willing to put him out there.

3. Reconsider the team
If talking with the coach fails to rectify the problem, you might want to consider transferring to a different team. Your child would have more fun and gain more from the experience being on a bad team where they play more than they would being on a good team where they barely play at all.

4. Ride the bench in style
Just because kids aren’t playing, that doesn’t mean they can’t be included in the game. Encourage your child to be a good sport regardless, cheering on their teammates and riding the bench in style. You might also ask the coach if there are supportive tasks they can perform during the game that will get them more involved.

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