This week my friend and colleague Molly Grisham published a well-written article entitled, “Coach, can I talk to you about my playing time?” As a coach and communications specialist what I love about this article are the quality questions that Molly suggests coaches ask of a player who wants to talk about their playing time.
In the workshops that I do with teams, the closing exercise involves each player receiving a communication notecard. It’s a blank card on which players are asked to write down a communication issue they are currently experiencing. I tell them these questions will be kept confidential, and within a week I respond to each individual with suggestions and resources to aid them in resolving their issue.
Without fail, in every workshop there is at least one player who writes, “How can I talk to coach about my playing time?” In service of this, what follows is my response to athletes – ask this, and you’ll never have to question your playing time.
The best advice I can offer in regards to this issue is to keep the conversation about you and your development. I can tell you as a former coach that playing time can be difficult to determine. Even if it doesn't seem like it, as coaches we are acutely aware of who doesn't get to play but our responsibility is always to do what we feel is best for the team in the moment.
Instead of asking coach about why someone is playing instead of you, ask instead what you can do to improve and develop into someone who makes consistent contributions to the success of the team.
From there, own the heck out of your role, whatever it may be. I'll be completely honest - everyone wants to play, there are never enough minutes to make everyone happy, and players constantly want to talk about why they're not playing.
What a breath of fresh air it is to have a player come in and say "Coach, how can I improve to help our team improve?" then watch them work their butt off to develop in those areas and observe them being genuinely enthusiastic and supportive of their teammates during games.
THAT is a player I start looking for opportunities to play.
You never have to ask about playing time. Ask instead what you can contribute, work towards that end, and be a positive team player throughout. You may soon find yourself with the exact opportunities you're looking for.
[Thanks for reading! If you'd like to get articles like this regularly or chat about the work I do with coaches and teams let's connect!]