put me in coach photoPlaying time is undoubtably one of the biggest reasons for conflict in youth sports. In high school, and even middle school, it can get downright ugly when parents and players push the issue.

Parents want their kids to play. Players want to play. I get that. I wanted my kids to play just as much as any other sports parent. And quite honestly, there is no easy answers. Every team, every situation is different.

As a parent, it is your job to help your child learn a healthy perspective of the playing-time battle. Start teaching them the importance of TEAM–Together Everyone Achieves More–while they are small, even before they even encounter unequal playing time problems.

Ask the right questions.
Your kids will know what is important to you by the questions you ask them after practice or a game.

Who were the starters in practice?

How much did you play?

Questions like these are very subtle reminders that starting and playing-time are very important to you. If you are trying to help your child appreciate the importance of TEAM try asking questions like: How do you feel about your performance in the game today? Or What are you working on to improve in practice? Or How’s the team looking?

Stress effort, results, and team play over playing time and starting.

Express unconditional pride. Whether your child starts, plays a little or plays a lot, or none at all, you must always convey that you are proud of their hard work and good attitude. If your child feels that the only way to make you proud is to be a starter or to have a lot of playing time, then he is growing up with an understanding that he must perform well to make you proud.

Start Early. It’s never too early to start helping young children learn the importance of TEAM, Even when your kids are little and hopefully play on teams who let all kids play equally. They need to learn it before it becomes an issue, because believe me, at some point, it definitely will.

Teaching them to have a healthy team perspective is the same as teaching them any other good habit you want them to learn. You model it, you talk about it, you believe it. And you start young, continuing as they grow.

Janis B. Meredith writes a sportsparenting blog, http://jbmthinks.com. She’s been a sports mom for 20 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter.