#127: Playing Time Issues? Do This First To Help Your Athlete!

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Is your daughter not getting the playing time she wants? Are you torn on how to go about helping her through this situation as her mom?

Play time can be a tricky subject. This issue can also be experienced differently across different sports and skills levels. That’s why in today’s episode we’re talking about all things play time. We’re sharing what you can do to support and empower your daughter and how you both can use this situation to build her confidence.

Step 1: Keep the big picture in mind 

As parents, it’s tempting to jump to conclusions. When we do this, we only make the situation worse. 

It’s important to ask yourself – why is your daughter playing spots in the first place?

Likely, it’s more than just the sport for you as her mom. You want her to develop good work habits, learn how to be a good teammate, gain confidence, and learn skills to help her navigate disappointments. At the end of the day, these are the core reasons why she’s playing her sport and why she enjoys it in the first place.

Too often, parents are tempted to allow their child to fall into a victim mindset around the topic of play time. Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking things like, 

  • “The coach must have favorites” 
  • “That girl isn’t as good as you are”
  • “You always do it right, and she always does it wrong” 

When we do this, we’re perpetuating a mindset that says, “it’s someone else’s fault”. Therefore, your daughter could start to believe that she’s a victim, and then, she might believe that there’s nothing she can do to change her circumstances. This could leave her feeling stuck.

If your daughter falls into this mindset, she’ll feel powerless. She loses confidence because she’s not getting what she wants, and this can become an endless spiral if we don’t address it. 

But it’s these situations, when she’s disappointed or not getting what she wants, that turn into great teaching opportunities. As her mom, you get to help her develop her long term confidence by teaching her how to navigate a tough circumstance. For her to navigate this, it’s important to teach her how to focus on the things that are in her control instead of the things that are out of her control. 

Be sure to check in on yourself, too. Is the issue really about the play time, or is her play time pointing to a different issue? 

Ask yourself, is your daughter still:

  • Developing good work habits 
  • Setting goals for herself 
  • Working towards improving at her sport 
  • Navigating challenging situations 

At the end of the day, these are the big picture reasons why our daughters are in athletics. If she’s still experiencing these things while not getting as much play time as you’d like to see her have, it might not be so much of an issue. 

The most important question we can ask ourselves is, does she actually want more playing time? Or do you, as her mom, want her to have more playing time? Is this her issue, or your issue?

Now hear me out, I know these questions can bring up feelings inside of us! Our daughter being involved in athletics can have us experiencing emotions that we didn’t anticipate feeling. But it’s better to be aware of the emotions we’re experiencing instead of projecting them. It’s possible that we’re creating an issue for our daughter that might not actually be an issue for her. 

Step 2: Know how playing time is distributed on your daughter’s team

This is a more tangible, but very important, step to handling a lack of play time. If you don’t already know, ask more questions about how play time is distributed on your daughter’s team.

Play time is an expectation that should be laid out by your daughter’s coach. It’s important to note that play time will be distributed very differently depending on the sport, the skill level, and other factors. For that reason, play time can’t always be distributed the same way. But, to the best of your ability, you still want your daughter to be playing for a team that supports her goals.

If you have the opportunity, ask questions about play time before you join a team. It’s helpful to know, both for you and for your daughter, how play time is distributed and earned. 

Is play time…

  • Distributed 100% equally?
  • Earned in practice?
  • Related to things like attitude and attendance?

Additionally, it’s always helpful if your daughter has clarity on what her role is. Athletes can thrive with clarity, and knowing their specific “role” on their team can really allow your athlete to grow. 

Now, she might not know her role until she gets on her team and plays for a little while. But often, her coach will outline roles on the team, or can help define the roles if asked to do so

Step 3: Strengthen what is in her control

The biggest thing that will always be in your daughter’s control is her mindset, attitude, and her thought patterns. Helping our daughters strengthen the mental side of her game is the number one thing that will grow her confidence and help her in the long run.

When we help her focus on what is in her control instead of getting hung up on things she can’t control, then we’re helping her to navigate the situation with actionable steps. If she gets hung up on negative thoughts like, “coach just doesn’t like me”, then this mindset quickly becomes unproductive. 

If we can help her focus on productive thoughts around the situation, she’ll be empowered. Instead of letting things happen to her, she’ll realize that she can take action on her own. Helping her strengthen her own mindset is key!

She’ll be empowered to:

  • Talk to her coach 
  • Seek out solutions 
  • Work on weaknesses 
  • Ask for feedback 
  • Seek extra training 

Another thing that is in her control is her contribution to her TEAM. Don’t forget, she’s part of a bigger picture – the team! It’s important to help her see the bigger picture, and shift her mindset to the team. 

We can ask her questions such as:

  • How can you help make your team better?
  • What does your team need from you?
  • What role does your team need you to play to help the team have the most success possible?

Reminding her to think of someone or something outside of herself is important for her overall mindset. 

If a conversation would be helpful…

If your daughter wants the situation to change but she doesn’t know how, we find that it’s best if you empower your daughter to have the conversation with her coach herself. 

By empowering her to have the conversation, she has an opportunity to learn the skills to advocate for herself and to both initiate and navigate tough conversations.

You can certainly tell her that you’ll be there as support for the conversation, but helping her initiate on her own is key. 

If you find that she doesn’t want to have the conversation, you can frame some questions for her to ask her coach, such as:

  • Can you help clarify what my role is on the team?
  • What do you expect from me?
  • What do you see that I have an opportunity to improve on?
  • What can I be doing to help the team?
  • Is there an opportunity for me to earn more playing time?
  • Can you give me feedback in a certain area?

Empower your daughter with the strength to be able to navigate this tough conversation, to advocate for herself, and to continue to open that door with her coach. By encouraging her to have the conversation, her confidence has the opportunity to grow.

Let’s recap:

  1. Keep the big picture in mind
    1. Ask yourself, is this her problem? Or your problem?
    2. Check in with yourself often
  2. Know how playing time is distributed on your daughter’s team
    1. Seek clarity on what her role is 
    2. One you have a better idea of her role, support her in it
  3. Strengthen what is in her control
    1. Her mindset, attitude, and her thought patterns
    2. Is she focusing on only herself? Or is she focusing on her team, too?
  4. Empower her to have a conversation is needed
    1. Give her the opportunity to build her confidence 
    2. Help frame the conversation and support her along the way


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