Koa Sports

How to Keep Your Non-Starters Motivated

At Koa Sports, our core values include being positive and dedicated, thinking team-first, and most importantly, having fun. This means that we approach our teams with a constructive mindset, demonstrating solutions to tough problems, and instilling confidence in our young athletes that can help improve their game. Our coaches are dedicated to our sports community and support a team-first attitude. In learning through practice, players will have fun and learn to appreciate the team dynamic. As a parent, one can read and understand this as a set of core values from an objective perspective, but come game time, some often forget Koa’s ultimate goal and become frustrated if their child is not starting on the field.

In the Detroit Free Press Newspaper, Ellen Creager wrote an article about children in youth sports aptly entitledBenched!, which discusses the negative effect that putting a kid on the bench generates in both them and their parents. In Creager’s article, she mentions that “Because parents and children don’t really separate emotionally until the mid-teen years, everything that happens to a young athlete may feel as if it’s happening to the parent—including feelings of rejection and anger when a child regularly sits on the bench”.  As many of us know, anger can truly impair one’s judgment in trusting a coach to do what is best for the players and the team. Parents want success for their child, lamentably however, many parents associate playing time with achievement. Instead, achievement should be measured by their child’s improvement in skills and in their ever-growing confidence on the field.

Chuck Gordon, one of the coaches interviewed in Creager’s article, states that ”So many people put pressure on these kids—family, people in the halls at school saying that you must not be very good since you’re not playing. But the kid is helping his team and he is successful.” Coaches believe that these players are successful because they are getting involved and learning the game both in playing firsthand and through the power of observation.

Parents should encourage their child who might be sitting on the sidelines to watch the game being played and to communicate with their team as if they were in the game. Our youth players need to understand the importance of seeing the game from another angle.  Emphasizing this integral part of the game will benefit the players’ attitude and their game. Players on the field can only see a small portion of the playing field. Any player who is on the sideline can give their team a fresh perspective of the entire field and give constructive criticism to their teammates in each position. Our nonstarter should recognize this role as critical and extremely important.

As a parent, if you are discouraged because your child has not gotten much playing time, listen to teenage athletes as they were in your child’s position not long ago.  They probably have more insight on the subject than you might think!  In the Benched! article, Creager asserts “If teens have any advice for younger athletes, it is this: Do what you love, and never play just to please a parent or coach. Parents should remind their child of this advice often, because at the end of the day, what matters in youth sports is that our child is having fun doing something that they love.”

What this means to Koa field hockey athletes:

Our club teams can be very competitive. Our girls have signed up to gain experience in the competitive field hockey world. These players are preparing for high school and college where playing time is not guaranteed. Parents should support the decisions of the coach as well as encourage their child in the ways described in this article: by reminding them that they do have a very important role on the sidelines. As for our rec league, we try our hardest to include every girl in each game, but it is the inevitable that there is at least one player who will not start. This nonstarter is on the sidelines because there are more than 7 players at the game. The coaches in this league would play all of the athletes if they could but, as we mentioned above, everyone on the team has a role including the ones on the sidelines. Every player is learning and growing in each position.