There comes a time in youth sports when equal playing time is no longer the norm. For some, it may come early in elementary school; for others, not until high school.

It’s easy to assume that skilled athletes will get the most playing time. But it all depends on the athlete, the coach and the team.

For young athletes fighting a battle for playing time, it’s important to remember there is not just one thing they can do to make progress. There are many things they can do. It’s about the little things your child does. If he or she starts doing the little things consistently, don’t be surprised if someday the coach looks at your child and says, “I really want that kid on the field.”

If your young athlete is fighting for playing time, tell him or her to start doing the little things. The little things are not insignificant. Your child’s coach is watching, even if your child feels invisible.

Here are 20 tips that will help your child make progress in his or her battle for playing time:

  1. Be on time to practice.
  2. Take good care of your personal equipment. Don’t leave it lying around.
  3. Don’t complain about the hard work. No one likes Liners or Burpees. No one likes difficult drills. Accept them without whining.
  4. Listen when the coach talks to the team. Give your full attention.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something.
  6. Be eager to volunteer for things in practice. Kids who are ready to jump in definitely got noticed.
  7. Don’t look for ways to cut corners and do things the easy way in practice. You are only cheating yourself when you do that.
  8. Don’t bug your coach about whether you are starting or not.
  9. Focus on “we,” not “me.” In other words, be willing to play the position or the time that is best for the team, not for yourself.
  10. Look for ways to make good plays, not for ways to increase your stats.
  11. Don’t alienate a player in the game just because you don’t like him, he’s annoying, or even selfish. Treat all teammates equally.
  12. Never argue with or question officials. Let the coach do that.
  13. Have a short memory. Forget mistakes in the game quickly.
  14. Don’t blame other teammates for your mistakes.
  15. Let your game do the talking.
  16. Don’t gossip or talk down teammates or coaches behind their backs. It usually gets back to them.
  17. Learn how to increase your competitive vision. See the whole court, be aware of the whole field.
  18. After the game or at the next practice, remember your mistakes and seek help from a coach on how to overcome them.
  19. Ignore hecklers in the crowd. Your focus should be on the game.
  20. While on the bench, cheer and encourage your teammates who are in the game.

There are no quick fixes in youth sports. It’s a journey. But if your child follows these suggestions in his or her practice and performance, the coach will notice. Coaches don’t always look for the most skilled players; many times they look for the players with the most heart.

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